Study Leave Week 9

Preparing for conferences

A major part of academic life is sharing research at conferences. In most fields that means preparing a pithy and engaging paper to present under timed conditions to colleagues from around the world who work in the same field. The challenge is always to stick to time, be relevant, and not over-state or under-sell your research findings.

I am looking forward to presenting at a number of major international conferences this year, including the main subject-specialist conference in my field coming up in just a few days. I’m working to condense my ideas into a 20-minute paper on a panel focusing on ‘Conflicts with Societal and Stylistic Traditions’. I’ve opted to focus on a very specific time-period – the immediate aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 – and just one or two key composers who set Baudelaire’s poetry to music around this time (Duparc and Fauré) to tease out what was at stake socially and culturally at that time.

Whereas in the past I’ve often sought to frame my conference papers with multiple caveats (“it’s still work-in-progress”, “I’ll make some tentative conclusions for now”), I’m aiming to be more assertive with the papers I’m preparing this year, in recognition of the fact that all my research is always ‘in progress’, since I am constantly developing my arguments as I uncover new findings within my source material. And I relish the opportunity to share that process of discovery in the conference format.

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