Speak up, not loud

My weeks of silence due to an inflammation of the vocal chords – and the newly published research on loudness in novels – led me to think about scholarly loudness. What makes you hear a researcher more than another? There are a few persons who manage to publish so often that it feels like you cannot escape their publications, and by that, their discourse. At the Gent Conference on Historical Network Research, a presentation also showed the omnipresence of a few professors at a wide range of conferences: being invited to every major conference is obviously also a way of not being overheard.

Then there are the digital ways of making yourself heard: twitter and blogs for instance.When I don’t blog, I suffer from my own digital silence, from not being able to speak up. Of course, this was made worse in the past weeks because I was actually unable to speak and had limited social contacts. But more generally, fact is that sometimes you have to concentrate on activities that have a very low immediate academic decibel threshold. Two weeks long, I mainly gave my classes (4 classes for which I have to cross Germany every week), helped out for a grant application, wrote another grant application which somebody else will reach in because my contract is too short for me to be authorized to do so myself, worked on a call for papers, finished a long due paper and worked on reviews. In the end, this will add up to about one CV line: the locum professorship itself (“4 B.A./M.A. classes in the winter term 2014/15”) , the reviews (“reviewer for… since…”) – and I don’t make any predictions about grant applications in the CV any more since I saw the reviews my ERC proposal was awarded.

While CV and publications make you academically audible, actually getting to know people and talking to them is another way of hearing and being heard. Taking time for a coffee and let people talk about their research: strategically, it can very well turn to one’s disadvantage to be considered “a networker” in Academia. I suppose it is also a question of personality whether you engage or not in this kind of Academic sociality. I for one like to listen to people, I like to understand what they are looking for and how they are doing it. So while I am missing the one thing that would make me able to speak up in my community – the second monography that would allow me to climb the step from “junior” to “senior” – I appreciate arriving somehwere new, sitting down with people, listening and talking, and going out of the meeting with new ways of thinking in my head. I equally like to meet again and again with the people I then know for the pleasure of hearing and seeing how these questions we are asking ourselves together move towards new possible answers.

Of course, I am in an academically fragile situation, I have no fixed position. But socially and humanly, I feel like I have room to listen and to speak up, to legitimately ask questions and look for answers in dialogue with whomever. And that this is a gift that can be savored every single day that you can make use of it.

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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