Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Shared Experiences of Different Times: Academic Empathy and Recognition in Blogging

Academic bloggers write for all sorts of reasons. Many write to share their research with a wider diverse audience than is to be found in professional journals. Others do so to "test drive" ideas with familiar folks before they move into working with them in formal scholarship. Some write as an opportunity to respond to contemporary events and to interact with others. One feature that I have noticed though is writing as a mechanism for coping with and working through challenging problems we encounter when doing our research and analysis.

I recently wrote about my struggles with questions of morality in the subjects I work with in my research, and lo, it seems that particularly in these cold winter months, others are in a similar position.

Robert Greene II, in "When History Knocks You On Your Behind," describes how he stumbled across a historical figure who shares his name (sans an "e") and the questions, concerns, and opportunities this provided. Along the way, Robert shares his experience of interacting with, and finding, subjects of future scholarly or personal interest.

Over at S-USIH Blog (the blog for the Society for United States Intellectual History), Robin Marie shared her experiences with tackling her emotions while working on racial, gender, and other social iniquities in her post, "Writing Through Rage." Despite these issues, she continues to push through with both her research and writing. Also at S-USIH Blog, Ben Alpers discusses questions of pessimism and optimism in students today in his post, "The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned." Both of these posts are fascinating, and make sure to take a look at the comments as well.

Kathryn Hamilton Warren recounts working with of her students who was morally opposed to the literature that was a part of one of her first classes in "The Reluctant Reader." This encounter, she suggests, reminded her that there is more than one perspective on the value of encountering new material.

The bloggers over at Lingua Franca often infuse their discussions of grammar, linguistics, and vocabulary with analysis of contemporary society, their everyday lives, and the issues of being in the academy.

The common thread between all of these bloggers is the attempt to use their writing as a mechanism for coming to grasps with what they've encountered in their professional lives. While surely we turn to those in our homes, workplaces, and places of faith for issues we confront, academic bloggers take the chance to try to negotiate these questions in a way that is both cathartic and hopefully useful to our peers that might be experiencing similar circumstance. 

Despite the image of the floofy professor in the coffee shop smoking and quoting obscura, those in the humanities are individuals who passionately want to understand, challenge, preserve, and render the arts, history, and values of the world around us into a fashion that improves society. Often, though particularly as of late, these attempts are marginalized and challenged. Some of this criticism is warranted, there are excesses in every endeavor. This does not mean that we as a nation should turn our backs on this challenge. Rather, we should take advantage of the thing that makes us humanists, our humanity, and turn toward each other with understanding and try to learn from, and lean on, each other as we confront the world in front, behind, and around us.

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