Reflections on ‘How Soon Is Now’, by Rick Godden from modernmedieval.blogspot.co.uk.
Reblogging this fairly old post (from 2013), as I’m re reading Dinshaw’s book right now and struggling with the terminology amateur/ professional just as he, and, it would seem, Dinshaw, does.
Have medievalists decided what to call people who engage seriously with the medieval (in terms of time, energy, perhaps paid, perhaps not) but aren’t engaged in publishing ‘serious, scholarly’ work, or working within a university?
“If anything, I’d like to see more attention to the economic horizon for such amateur activities. Karl suggests the term “nerd” over “amateur,” and I think it’s a better term. For one, it somewhat sidesteps the messy conversations prompted by amateur and professional. As Dinshaw noted at the roundtable, she is more concerned with types of engagement as opposed to job titles. The sorts of engagement that she lets the past penetrate the now, rather than be kept at a cool, neutral or professional distance. This can cause discomfort and affection in equal measures, as any passion often does. As Karl suggests, “Nerdery, then, is a bit queer, a bit off, a bit unpleasant, and also, of course, unfortunately agonistic. It works well, then, to describe the overripeness of passionate attachment to what we do for love, where love, remember, is always a bit awry or repulsive.” To make an overly broad claim, though, many people that I know who display such “nerdery” are often those who derive little satisfaction of the “closed system” of professional time. They are in jobs that are not challenging, or that are going no where. Or, they’re fine enough but not stimulating in the ways our passions can be. I suspect, but can only provide anecdotal evidence, that there is a higher probability for such nerdic (yeah, I did that) engagement or creation among those not working, or holding jobs that aren’t satisfying or consuming in the ways I just mentioned.
Reading How Soon Is Now, it was a little difficult not to feel alienated at times by the celebrations of the amateur. On one hand I feel that my amatory intellectual work must be “amateur” because of complicated and changing economic conditions. On the other, I feel unable to identify (not that I need to) with the figure of an individual who has enough economic freedom to pursue their projects as they wish.
I do have to admit, again, that this response is unfair, since the current economic conditions of PhDs in the humanities is not Dinshaw’s subject. I just could not help but reflect on these issues by her choice of terms. And, I know that much of this post can seem bitter or frustrated, and yes at times that is what I feel, but my motivation to do this work still comes from an amatory impulse.”