Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Academic Godfather

I am coming to realize the joy of having a member of the faculty here who knows me, likes me, and doesn't have any idea of what I'm working on in a concrete sense.

My director's husband is a twentieth-century Americanist; he works on Mark Twain and Langsten Hughes and...I don't know, Tennessee Williams? People I don't really care about, except in the abstract. I don't like him because he works on anything interesting or because I want something from him. (Not that I'm contractually obligated to like my directors; I picked them because I like them, but still, the fact that I need feedback and recommendations from them colors our relationship.)

I think of H. as my Academic Godfather—I tell him things that are happening to me in broad strokes, he offers comforting, nonspecific advice, and we both go away happy. My article got rejected for publication? The AG tells me that medievalists are notoroiously mean, that I am a good writer and that I have good ideas. He knows none of this firsthand; as far as I know he's never read a single sentence of my work. Nevertheless he asserts the stupidity of my reviewers and walks off whistling. I feel inexplicably better.

It's probably more accurate to say that he's my academic cheerleader, although he's not so positive that he stops being believable. He's nonchalant and matter-of-fact about it, and I'm sure he doesn't think twice about the things he says to me in passing. I did get informed that revisions suck and that yeah, I should probably come back from Christmas break early to work on them. But at least I feel like they're worth doing now. Just when I thought I was out...he pulled me back in.

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