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March 26, 2007


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J. Maggio

As a young scholar, I am often bored by panels. And I think you nailed most of reasons.

The worst questions are the strange quirky ones that seem to be way more about the questioner than the panelist. This is akin to, in my opinion, a critic who asks a sci-fi director why he made a western. :-(

Dean writes: "Some people think the solution is alternative panel formats. This is not my view. I'm pretty conservative about such matters and like the boring tried and true reading of papers."

This is because you are really, really good at it. Most scholars are not.

This is not a loaded question, for I do not know the answer, but is the *reading* of papers common at Philosophy conferences too?

And damn you, now I have a new book--Lex Populi--to buy and read.

J. Maggio

On a side not, I recently saw Kennan Ferguson *read* a paper about seeing the world through the "eyes" of a handicapped person and/or lover. He was great.

Most "readers" however, are, imho, bad at it. (This is even true where their written work is amazing *and* where they seem like clever and entertaining people on a social level.)


Kennan Ferguson is truly wonderful--he is also a great person in the audience of any panel; he asks great, engaged, thoughtful, brilliant questions. Bill MacNeil is also fabulous in the audience--he can make one comment about each of 4 papers, link them together, and ask a smart question, all in about 3 minutes. Truly gifted.

Reading is standard practice among at the philosophy and political theory meetings/panels I've attended. Law people, in contrast, often don't read, although they might if they are legal theorists. But, yes, philosophers read. When I was in Frankfurt, we would get the paper a week in advance, and the speaker would still read it out loud to us the next week. And, it wasn't boring or tedious at all--it's like reading entered the words into the Symbolic so that we could now address the paper.

J. Maggio

So maybe the issue is some people are good at reading and some aren't. Maybe instead of "moving away" from reading, we should just make it more of an option. One should just then hope that people are wise enough to know which they should do.

Side note, how far is Geneva from Ithaca, and are you going to be in Ithaca this summer?


J. Maggio

"it's like reading entered the words into the Symbolic so that we could now address the paper."

I am curious to what extent it would be interesting to be able to gage my reaction to a written paper versus the same paper when read.



J--I will be in Geneva much, but not all, of the summer. Geneva is about 1 hour north of Ithaca.

Adam Kotsko

I agree that the reading of the paper "registers" it in the Symbolic. I didn't get a chance to write up a proposal for this year's AAR, but I had a great idea for a paper on the conference paper as a ritual practice -- that's right: a conference paper about conference papers.


hi Jodi,

This is both mad funny and mad annoying: "as you probably remember from my paper at conference X six years ago," holy crap.

I like your term 'Germanicisms' and that stile of responding to panels, I try to do the same.

As for alternative panel formats, as a panelist I like to do panels with people I know where everyone reads everyone else's paper in advance, then we present condensed version in order to maximize discussion time with each other and the audience. I've found that to be immensely productive, makes it much more like a mini-seminar. I find reading a paper of my own pretty boring - I already know what I wrote.

On the other hand, as an audience member I really really like to hear papers read in their entirety (provided they're good papers) as condensed presentation can leave out nuance. I don't get anything more from hearing a paper read than I would from reading it. Often I get less, I'm better with type than with speech. The ideal conference format as far as I'm concerned would be if all conference papers were online or something just before the conference, then I could read the papers before attend a panel and come prepared for discussion.



Hi Nate, but would you read them in advance? I know that I wouldn't. In fact, I feel extremely smug and self-satisfied when I do the bare minimum, that is, when, as a discussant, I read the papers in advance and think about what I will say. Why self-satisfied? Because there are some academics who 'write the paper on the plane' or wing it on the panel. I don't think I've ever let it get this bad--although I have parsed or finished the paper on the plane.


hi Jodi,
I would if I was excited about the panel, like when I do panels with friends or if it's work by someone/on a topic I find compelling. I wouldn't for everything, certainly not for panels I was casually popping in to listen to.
take care,

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