18.241 speaking well

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004 07:19:30 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 241.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004 07:11:11 +0100
         From: Norman Gray <norman_at_astro.gla.ac.uk>
         Subject: Re: 18.236 speaking well


On 2004 Sep 24 , at 12.30, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard
McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:

>the process I ran across a useful essay by Paul N. Edwards (Michigan), "How
>to give a talk: Changing the culture of academic speaking", online at
>http://www.si.umich.edu/~pne/acadtalk.htm. You may also wish to check out

Might the title not be a little parochial: ``Changing the culture of
humanities speaking'' might be better (if we can stretch the term to
include social sciences and theology, perhaps). I can't speak for the
other vices, but I'd think that in most of the rest of the academy, sitting
down and reading a talk would probably be extremely attention-grabbing,
through being so excitingly unorthodox.

There is no claim to virtue, here. A sit-down, read, talk is largely
impossible in much of the academy, since the necessary presence of
equations and diagrams cannot be communicated other than visually.
Thus one rather negative conclusion is that these talks persist in the
humanities simply because they are possible.

Edwards notes with surprise that ``Graduate students may actually learn it
from their professors.'' Graduate students have little authority of their
own; they can acquire authority by behaving as much like the other
conferees as possible, even if this means boring their audience into
submission; by the time they have enough authority to start being radical,
their style is fixed. This `ecological' explanation puts the blame
squarely on the community for permitting itself to be stunned by this, so
that a ban on reading aloud -- changing the ecology -- would possibly
change the high-status behaviour within an academic generation.

Best wishes,


Norman Gray  :  Physics & Astronomy, Glasgow University, UK
http://www.astro.gla.ac.uk/users/norman/  :  www.starlink.ac.uk
Received on Tue Sep 28 2004 - 02:26:45 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Tue Sep 28 2004 - 02:26:47 EDT