November 03, 2005

History with a Colon Well,

History with a Colon

Well, dear reader, it’s getting to be that time of year again: Soon the college-goer’s fall semester will be over, and students will take a break from their inebriated fornicating at school, and enjoy some inebriated fornication at home, in the form of winter break. College professors, graduate students, and other ne’er-do-wells don’t get off so easy, however. (Come to think, they almost never get off as easily as undergrads.)

That’s because winter break is also home to most disciplines’ annual professional meeting, a festival of boredom at which the indigent beg for jobs and everyone who’s anyone prattles on endlessly about race, class, and gender in tofu-production.

Naturally, given our lofty position as journalists, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” will stay home from these lodestones of professorial horror. And yet this won’t stop our ill-informed commenting on them. After all, that’s what academics hate about journalists: They always discuss what they don’t fully understand.

Recently, we received a charming package from a charming devotee of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” who declined to be named, but whom we shall call Deborah DeLaney. This woman, who is not named Deborah DeLaney, sent us a copy of the American Historical Association’s official program for its upcoming meeting in January.

After a few hours of perusing this document, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” had the distinct sensation of vertigo. Every darn paper appeared to be called “Gender, Gender, Gender: Genderizing Gender in the Gender of Gender.” Or “Race, Racism, and Racists: Toward a Genderizing of Race in Western New York, 1804-1805.”

We know, we know: One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But these aren’t books; they’re academic talks. (Actually, we’re surprised you didn’t realize that.)

As such, dear reader, we have decided to devote a few humble “posts” to poking fun at the asinine titles we espied in our recently-received program. From what we can determine, academic papers—unlike the late, great Ronald Reagan—require a colon.

All right, you say: Enough with the “weblogging” throat-clearing; let’s get on with the titles. Okay, okay, okay—we’ll start. Stop being so darned pushy.

First, though, we should state that many of the conference papers are entirely inoffensive; they’re just your typical scholarly retreads of minutiae that matter to absolutely no one. May their presenters do well with them. Others, however, are distinctly more dubious.

For example, some are so nugatory as to make the other trifling papers seem positively groundbreaking. Savor Guillaume P. de Syon’s magisterial “How French Is She? Female Pilots and Flight Clothing in Interwar France.” Boy, that’s a must-see. Apparently, its question mark takes the place of the more typical colon. And then there’s Vanessa Taylor’s all-important “‘Smelling of the ale-vat’: Philanthropic London Brewers and the Mid-Victorian Drinking Fountain Movement.” Sponsored by Budweiser, we presume.

Other papers strike us as a bit more bizarre. How about the tellingly-named Anne Hardgrove’s tellingly-named “The Global Erotic: Post-Colonial Translations of the Kama Sutra”? How much do you want to bet that, despite her intellectual lasciviousness, you wouldn’t sleep with Anne Hardgrove?

But things get no better with the tellingly-named Jefferey Cox and his tellingly-named “Missionary Positions: Itinerant Women, Medical Professionals, and the Regulation of Sexuality in Colonial India.” How cheeky. But we still don’t want to hear it.

Or delight in Michele Morales’ “A Queer Explanation for Alcoholism: The Correlation of Homosexuality and Alcoholism in Psychoanalytic and Sexological Discourse, 1880-1935.” We know what you are thinking, dear reader: Why does she stop in 1935? Bring that one up to the present. When you happen upon a finding this crucial to the course of Western culture, you ought to give it the full-scale treatment.

To Be Continued

Posted at November 3, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack