Friday, April 16, 2010

Fans make better scholars

Reading Henry Jenkin's comments on "reducing the world's suck" on Boing Boing this morning, I liked his wrap up of fans: "a community of readers, who compare notes, pool knowledge, and thus can deal with the scope and complexity of rich television narratives." However much we try to fight it, academia in the Humanities is still largely a solo experience. Conferences and symposiums help. Collaborating on articles and books brings us together. Yet these activities have to constantly defy a system that frequently keeps us apart. Often, if a few colleagues are found in the staff room, we remark on how unusual it is now to have an opportunity to share coffee and talk. Competing teaching schedules, individual deadlines, supervision and administrative meetings etc conspire against communal scholarship.

Yet I've been running reading groups and I constantly find these intellectually stimulating and reviving. Academics can work like fans. In fact, if you look at our rich history, we often do. And I'm not even thinking simply of the Inklings, who'd meet up at the Bird and Baby for Beer and debate.

In particular, as I'm researching 'the book', it occurs more and more to me that there are simply too many tales, too many variations, for one individual. Fairy tale requires a communal approach. It always has.

Incidentally, there were a couple of other interesting pieces on Boing Boing today. I like the idea they may have discovered evidence of the Doctor (they say it's a hipster, but the costume design of the Doctor has always been a little odd like that). And, now that I'm actively counting down to getting an iPad, this made my day. It's the little things. And another cup of coffee.

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