Sunday, August 12, 2007

Intellectual audacity

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on an article. It is a cobbling together of material from several chapters of my dissertation - the elaboration of a theory, really - and some new writing that helps pull it into coherent article form. I'd thought I'd put my dissertation to bed, having published one article from it. The thing was so incredubly diffuse and oddly organized that I felt I didn't have the patience to make sense of it, to discipline it, so to speak.

Of course, in making that assumption I was deliberately overlooking the theoretical apparatus, which could, I knew, plausibly be turned into a nice, meaty article. I ignored it because the theory involves a juxtaposition that could be seen as scandalous by some. Absolutely wacky. You know, like using, I don't know, some chemical engineer's outre theory to theorize haiku. Or whatever. A hugely interdisciplinary - even "intergalactic" - move. The kind of thing that could be instantly, laughingly dismissed.

But it always nagged at me. After all, I earned my PhD - and even an award for my dissertation - on this scandalous juxtaposition, so it must make some sense. And I need publications while I work on a new book project, and this would work so nicely. I could envision it. Plus - and honestly this is what has become so important, lately - so much of the work has already been done. So in the last couple weeks, I've been working with the scandalous theory, and have gotten most of a draft of an article together, combining dissertation fragments with original writing. (It is going to require more rigorous revision than I've ever done, I'm afraid.)

But sending this article out to the biggest - well, the only - journal in my sub-subfield is an absolutely frightening experience. All I can imagine is laughter and incredulity. After all, my PhD committee didn't have anybody on it who was really expert in "haiku" - they were experts in "chemical engineering." The journal is for the haiku experts. This is, then, the first time I've put this material out to them. (The one time I presented on this scandalous connection, at a big international conference, where it was received well enough, there were no haiku experts present. When I've presented and published material on haiku, it's been not in haiku fora, but in chemical engineering spaces or spaces related to the third thing I triangulate with all of this, "agricultural history.")

I could either make a little name for myself in haiku studies, or I could be run out of the joint. I am really not at all an audacious person, and so I feel as if I'm inhabiting a very different plane here, with what is indubitably going to seem like an audacious theoretical move in this context.


Marcelle Proust said...

Well . . . you know I know from anxiety . . . I'm sorry you're feeling it too but it makes me feel better to read about yours. My diss was sort of like that, actually, and the haiku people turned out to be fine with it. I hope that's the case for you, as well. At any rate, you're right, you do have to try. Good luck!

Hilaire said...

Hey, thanks, Marcelle. Of course, I may have just chickened out. I was just completing the draft, and started thinking of a whole bunch of "chemical engineering" places to send it. Because I think they might be more hospitable to it. Hmmm...I don't know - on one level, I should pursue the audacity, but on another, I should perhaps publish something less ultimately controversial in the haiku journal. Something from my new work, for example.

I think it will take me reading it over, now that the draft is complete, to really get a sense of whether I should risk sending it to the haiku journal.

Marcelle Proust said...

Send it to the haiku journal, and if they don't like it, don't even read the comments, just send it straight to chemical engineering.

Hilaire said...

That is an excellent thought...Thx for the input!