Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mondays, High and Low

Advanced were the High Thursdays, awfully advanced for the Lows. I would ponder some of his conclusions for many a year. If Montague's method of discourse on such days threw the more inexperienced of us over such high hurdles as the Theater of Paranoia and the Cinema of Cynicism, he could on any Low Thursday return us the threading of a rusty nut to a dirt-grimed bolt. Indeed, the first day of the first Low had us working for two hours to construct a scenario on the basis of a torn receipt, a bent key, a stub of pencil, a book of matches, and a dried flower pressed into a cheap unmarked envelope.

Norman Mailer
(Harlot's Ghost, p. 411)

Next semester, Monday afternoons will be devoted to the craft of research. Each Monday afternoon will be divided into three one-hour sessions.

In the first, from 13.00 to 14.00, I will meet with a group of researchers under the rubric of my Writing Process Reengineering regimen, also known as the Sixteen Week Challenge (and code-named Palinurus). We will focus on the day-to-day problem of protecting one’s writing process, both in space and time, from disruptions that arise from other, equally—but not more—important aspects of academic life. We will also discuss motivational strategies, break-in tactics, and what Paul Silvia calls "specious" reasons for not writing, i.e., bad excuses. In the last hour, from 15.00 to 16.00, I will do the same thing with a group of PhD students.

This is something I have been doing for a while, except that the meetings have been back-to-back, one after the other. The new thing will be that hour in between, which is where I hope to bring the two groups together. This is will be an opportunity for faculty members to share their experiences, tricks of the trade, and philosophies of academic life with their future peers. It will be an explicit opportunity for apprenticeship.

Each week, we will have a theme that will (hopefully) entice the researchers in the first group to stay around for another hour and the PhD students in the second group to come an hour early. The theme may be something that I can talk about myself (like writing good English or good scholarship practices), or it might require me to invite a guest. The important thing is that the discussion be neither theoretical nor methodological, and certainly not meta-theoretical. Rather, it will be "inframethodological", it will address the everyday practices "beneath the method" that secures the quality of your research results.

I am looking forward to seeing how it goes.

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