The Tempest

I think I just dropped the biggest bomb of my academic career.
I've been working on this presentation for a week; not really enough time to make something top-notch, but I felt that what I was saying had a significance for the discussions we've been having (about performance of Shakespeare) throughout the year.

After five minutes, I realized that people were avoiding eye contact. That's not a good sign.

Then I was asked to clarify a few of my terms. Then I was asked to clarify them in a different way. Then my whole understanding of the topic-at-hand seemed to collapse under the exasperation of everyone involved. The instructor tried to herd our discussion back to the film we were discussing, but the cat was out of the bag. Nobody seemed to understand my premise, and after explaining it five different ways I started to lose focus and slip into useless generalities. Then the response became somewhat hostile (I think I used the example of extremist feminism too much, extremist conservativism not enough, though strangely the ratio is 1:4 in my notes...)

Are my perspectives on critical theory really that different? I hope not. Maybe I didn't have enough examples. Maybe I used too many examples from the wrong source. Maybe I didn't really know what I was talking about, after all.
In the end, I only spent five minutes of my twenty minute presentation discussing the film, and our circular deliberation about what I was saying took nearly forty minutes altogether.

Good grief. I can only hope that my presentation at the MEMI conference on Thursday is a bit more successful. (At least there I'll be presenting with other medievalists on a topic I'm more familiar with...)

I still can't figure out what's going on. Writing something about the problem usually helps; this time it's not working.

Oh well. I've got other things to worry about.


Anonymous said...


so what exactly DID you speak about?

- techne

RB said...

Oi Dan!
Better luck with your other presentation. Sometimes people just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Sounds like you might have run afoul of the theory-heads--and there are lots of them in Shakespeare studies. And it takes a brave man to confront Feminism in any of its guises--especially if there are lots of women in your class.
Ouch! Well, we have all dropped the occasional scholarly bomb. I'm sure your MEMI paper will do better. Courage!
--Prof. E.

Daniel Jackson said...

I'm not sure if it was the theory heads or if we were (all of us) just running on fumes.
I tried to approach theory and _The Tempest_ from a post-structural POV and ask if post-colonial criticism has ridden the wagon off the edge-I didn't ask in that way, but that's the gist of it. I'm very much interested in _Radical_ (rooted, challenging) readings of the play, but I'm not interested in participating in any kind of academic/cultural hegemony or homogenization. The Tempest is about more than class/race power structures.
The "feminists" I referenced were a very small group who dismissed the play because it has no "interesting" female voices. I used them as an example of people who do bad things with Shakespeare in the opposite way of the "Shakespeare-as-universal-British-culture" types.
I don't think a single person could figure out what I was talking about. They kept asking me if I was a formalist. (I admitted at one point to something _like_ formalism being a big part of what I do, but I think that confused everyone even more.)
At least the presentation was only worth 20%... [shudders]
[shudders again when he realizes that this comment will only make sense to 5% of the people he knows.]