Friday, March 01, 2013

Persona: Weekend Movie

"Without a sense of the big man who wrote the prose, all [Hemingway's] later work would be only skeletons of abstraction, the flesh gone. The Old Man and Sea is, for my opinion, a bad piece of work if one knows nothing about the author. Only when one feels, more or less subliminally, the face of Ernest on the body of a Cuban fisherman does the fraud of the tale take on its surrealist truth." (Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself)

The vodcasting team at the Copenhagen Business School recently asked me to make a video introducing myself to assistant professors, explaining what I can do for them through my seminars and workshops. I agreed to put my body to the cause and here's the result. I'm very interested to hear what readers of this blog think of it. Is this the person you've been imagining has been writing these blog posts? Does it make the writing more credible or less credible? Conversely, does the writing on this blog make the guy in this video more or less believable?

For those of you who are familiar with my approach, either through this blog, or by participating in my seminars and workshops: Is this a good advertisement for what I do? Does it leave the right impression? Will it repel people (like you) who you know would actually enjoy and benefit from my work? Will it attract people who won't then get what they thought they would get?

Obviously, if you know me personally, you'll recognize that I am here presenting a "persona", putting on a mask (as I also of course do when I run a seminar or facilitate a coaching session; I'm a professional after all), but I hope I don't reveal myself to be a complete fraud. Mailer once also said that "ego" is "that extraordinary state of the psyche which gives us authority to declare we are sure of ourselves when we are not." I certainly had to get into that state to make this video. I wonder if I pulled it off.

Note that this "authority" is also precisely what puts the "I" in your text, whether explicitly or implicitly, as an "author". You've got to have a healthy ego to write, a sense of yourself as an author. But since I mention Jonathan in this video (I cite this post), it's only fitting that we heed his warning too.

Anyway, though there's no need to be brutal (I don't need to have my illusions smashed), please be honest. As some of you know, I did once make videos of myself for this blog, but my vanity finally got the better of me and I had to stop. I like this guy (i.e., "Thomas Basbøll") enough to put him out there for your consideration, but I'm not entirely sure I want to commit myself to being him. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I immensely enjoy your blog posts about how to better come to grips with academic writing and think that your video persona nicely fits with the impression you give of yourself in your posts. Kudos!

Jonathan said...

Good post. I'm wondering about the 72 scholarly articles. I know you don't suggest that seriously, but another factor is the research / knowledge / experimentation that you would need to write each article, assuming that they are each separate pieces with only partial overlap among them. At what point does the limits of one's expertise and range come into play as a limiting factor? Most people know more than they write, but someone who wrote, say 30 articles before tenure would start to come up against the problem of "thinness."

Thomas said...

That's a very precise image. If you actually did write 72 articles in three years about things "knew" about, then that would say something about the "thickness" of your knowledge. (Let's assume you're not republishing old ideas, i.e., self-plagiarizing.)

Think about it this way: if you wrote for three hours everyday what you had read for three hours the day before. And never rewrote (or reread) anything then it's possible that you'd actually produce 72 scholarly articles. You could be reading both primary and secondary sources. But there can be little doubt that if you used the same of amount to time to write (and therefore rewrite) half that many articles, and read (and therefore reread) half as many sources, those 36 articles would be much better, but still quite thin. Getting it down to writing about 6 articles is probably about right, of which maybe 4 could be published within the allotted time (3 yrs).

Here I'm just thinking about the associated reading. Now add all the other stuff you mention. Finally, let's never forget that you'd bring about 12 times as much dreaming to each of 6 articles as you would to each of 72. I'm quite romantic about that source of quality in prose.