I remember in grad school having a raft of papers to write each week. But, unfortunately, one pestiferous British Social Anthropologist in our group of ne’er do well profs insisted that we consider each of his assignments to be either a mini-dissertation or an orals proposal. It was sterling preparation for our orals and dissertation work. Each a unique exposition in the corpus of anthropology – he maintained.
Over the year, I developed the thesis that each paper was both a lot of spilled ink and a salve to his vast ego, being that he rarely commented on or marked the pieces. The format was always the same between ten and sixteen pages of introduction, text, and conclusions. Annotations, tables, and bibliography followed this. He maintained that in less than ten pages, you couldn’t demonstrate an adequate grasp of the subject, and over sixteen, you were just padding and perhaps trying to hide your lack of understanding.
This was a good bit of work considering that we were conducting research, preparing other papers, attending lectures, and sometimes working in labs in addition to his course load.
My attitude about this professor’s take on anthropology was mellowed in my first job as a practicing anthropologist. I found that all that “idiocy” about Human Social Organization functioned in “advanced” societies. But the real change came a few years later when I found myself quoting his maxim of ten to sixteen pages and mini-thesis.
Of course, having produced so much verbiage over time, the result was an ability to blather about any topic extemporaneously.
Then I started this blog…thank you, professor S. You taught me better than you knew.