Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stage Fright

On Tuesday, I have to give my presentation to my research seminar. I'm really nervous. However, my nerves do not come from a lack of speaking skills (I was a nationally ranked debater) or a lack of preparation (my research is done, my talk will be done soon). So why the nerves? Well, it's the people.

When I gave parts of my thesis at conferences my senior year in college, I knew that some of the people in the audience would know my topic thoroughly, while others may have only had a passing acquaintance. In those circumstances, I tried to aim my talk directly at the middle; I included enough details to sound well-researched while providing enough background to make it interesting for everyone else. Here, I'm not so lucky. The audience is only about 15 people. They are all fellow students in various arenas of classics, but I have no idea what to expect in terms of their knowledge about Plato. If I assume too much knowledge, my Q&A will be embarrassingly silent. This is what happened when I gave a totally unrelated presentation in my Sallust class a few weeks ago [1]. Conversely, if I try to go to broad, my topic will look like a wild generalization rather than a careful and nuanced interpretation.

I'm just ranting, really. My topic is set...nothing I can do now except hope it goes well. And, at least, I get to run an interpretation of a couple of geometric art pieces past a couple of specialists (there are two girls who work on early Greek art in the seminar). And who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and someone will passionately disagree with my reading and we'll have a nice discussion.

I've got my fingers crossed...

  1. I gave a presentation on an article by R. Sklenár called "La République des Signes: Caesar, Cato, and the Language of Sallustian Morality" (JSTOR). The people in my class had read the article, and I assumed they had a passing familiarity with Saussure (I didn't want to talk down to anyone). Anyway, most of the class had been confused by the article so even when I dissected it more thoroughly (after asking if people had understood the portion about Cato to which I got a resounding "no"), my discussion questions still elicited silence from almost everyone except my professor. As everyone in the class is intelligent, I worked really hard to come up with complex and interesting perspectives so that I would bring something interesting to the table, but I didn't consider my audiences' lack of sleep, etc and it backfired.

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