Daniel Franke:

Excellent advice from Kathleen Neal. And, I have to say, not just for first-time conference presenters!

Originally posted on In Thirteenth Century England:

I’ve been handing out a lot of this of late, so I thought I would centralize it here. Maybe you’re presenting at your first conference, or maybe it’s not your first time but it’s a really major meeting and you lack confidence. Either way, perhaps you should consider these points. Don’t be one of those people who give dire conference papers that everyone remembers for the wrong reasons .

1. It’s a conference paper, not a journal article

These two genres are very different, yet many people – especially in the humanities – treat them as if they are the same. In other words, to prepare a conference paper, many humanities students/academics sit down and write. They produce elegantly phrased sentences of complex construction. They delay the moments of ‘big reveal’, maybe by opening with an evocative quotation or posing a puzzling question that won’t be answered until the…

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After seeing some startling scenes of German fortresses in the 2008 The Red Baron, I developed a curiosity about what the Hindenburg Line, the Siegfriedstellung, really looked like. So, here are a few pictures that turned up after a simple image search.

The line near Arras in 1917:

A bunker, keeping a weary watch over the landscape after everyone has forgotten:

The line, west of Wancourt, March 1917:

And an outpost bunker. The picture is part of a really stunning photo essay on Neuve-Chapelle and Richebourg, which can be found here.

And finally, this little guy, forgotten in the Bourlon Wood for years:

Oh, and before I forget, Operation Michael, the first of the German 1918 Spring offensives, began on March 21.  As of April 1, it is running out of steam, and German attacks are repulsed along the line. See FirstWorldWar.com “On This Day” for these kind of updates.

(That’s the royal “we,” man, of course.) Life (almost) post-dissertation is actually fairly satisfying. That it coincides with spring break probably doesn’t hurt. At last, I can get back in shape, get caught up on sleep, get caught up on my courses and grading, and actually catch up on reading that I’ve been wanting to do but couldn’t, as I was feverishly writing and revising while shot-gunning 5HourEnergy. But that phase is past, thanks mostly to my wife letting me work in near-isolation while periodically shoving food under my nose.

Moral: kids, don’t let this happen to you.

I’ll do the apparently mandatory “post-dissertation retrospective” later. Right now, I’m actually reading, as opposed to skimming, the following eclectic books:

Norman Housley, The Later Crusades: From Lyons to Alcazar, 1274-1580. Still the classic, though I’ve also read more recent offerings such as his studies on religious war and crusade, and the Ottoman wars.

Rodney Hilton, Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381. Reject Marxist conclusions all you want (and I do), but we owe the Marxist medievalists a debt for teaching us how to ask questions of the voiceless multitude.

Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation, trans. Raymond Bernard Blakney. Apparently I’m Meister Eckhart, according to one of those stupid internet quizzes.  Here’s a link to a better edition of his works.

Jim Bradbury, The Medieval Archer. I’ve read the relevant chapters for the dissertation, of course, but it’s nice to get the full scope of the analysis.

Michel Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: An Essay in Social History, trans, Arthur Goldhammer. I’ve had this book for a long time, but haven’t had a chance to actually read it before.

Hew Strachan, European Armies and the Conduct of War. Continuing this from last semester, when it proved very useful in class.

Belton Y. Cooper, Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II. Classic account of American armor in Europe, 1944-5. Arguably the best memoir on the topic.

Laurence Stallings, The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918. An old study of the American Expeditionary Force, from the 1960s. Stallings, a Marine veteran of the Great War himself and very accomplished writer, does history in the old style, with flair and an eye for detailed narrative and the telling anecdote.

And for good measure, I’m re-reading, or browsing, R. R. Davies’ Domination and Conquest: The Experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1100-1300, which first made me realize that, yes, medieval societies could and did practice their own form of colonialism.

That’s about it for now. I’m also writing about half a dozen smaller pieces, and finishing revisions on my crusades article. So, there’s plenty to keep one busy.  Now as long as we don’t get into a major conflict in the next few months…2014…1914.

Pax vobiscum.

Interesting array of articles, this time drawn heavily from InsideHigherEd.

–Could this be a “game-changer,” as they say?  Not sure: Academics Launch Torrent Site to Share Papers and Datasets.  Could definitely lead to some interesting legal situations.

–Perhaps THE most interesting and read article from this past week: “Keep the ‘Research,’ Ditch the ‘Paper,” by Marc Bousquet, from Feb 10.  He makes a lot of valid points, including some that I’ve noticed over the years in teaching history-based writing courses. If I had more leeway in terms of assigning homework and making demands on my students’ time, I would try more of his and Rebecca Schuman’s suggestions for making students’ efforts worth their while.

–Interesting article about issues in Canada’s newspaper digitzation initiatives.

–Great article, as always, from the Dean: if you see a search is running again, after you’ve already been rejected once, don’t hesitate, apply to the job: When Searches Fail.

–Purdue University’s IMPACT site, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) page and resources.

–Really good article by Elizabeth H. Simmons from Friday the 14th, “A Scholarly Approach to Your Career.”  I think the bottom line of the article is “figure out what you need to be successful, and then go make it happen.”  Common sense, but still, you’d be surprised how many people go to grad school without realizing they’re responsible for their own professional development.

“Let’s Scramble, Not Flip, the Classroom,” by Pamela E. Barnett. We shouldn’t make every class a discussion-based, interactive format.  Lecture has a place as well.  Good to hear that–there is a tendency among pedagogy folks (including SoTL enthusiasts, I’ve sensed) to roll the eyes at the thought that lecture could be an effective teaching/learning tool.  Given that a lot of schools do not have the luxury of making every section a seminar-sized one, I’m glad there’s recently been a push to show that lectures are effective learning tools.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is dropping “grades” and moving to “proficiencies” in its curriculum. Look forward to seeing how this works.

–Post from GradHacker: “Maximizing Methods Courses.”  Good advice: you don’t want to come out of these feeling that you lost time.

“How Should Big-Time College Sports Change?”  Good grief, don’t get me started…

–Thoughtful article, “There Is No Demand for Higher Education.” Key quote toward the start of the article, about the assumption that there is a huge demand for education (and hence the need for MOOCs, etc.):

[T]he more I think about MOOCs and consider the nature of this demand, the more I come to believe that there is no inherent demand for education, and definitely not for the education they’re peddling as a possible substitute for the traditional system of higher education.

Because the demand isn’t for education, per se. It’s for what we believe education can provide: a secure, stable life. This narrative may not even be true, as Freddie DeBoer argues in a recent post, but we cling to it anyway, because what choice do we have? If we instead believed that painting ourselves purple from head to toe had the same effect, we’d all be walking around looking like Barney the dinosaur.

Have a great week, everyone.