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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Workshops and Wine

Like many schools, we at BU have a weekly workshop in which someone from the faculty or someone invited from outside presents a work-in-progress, takes questions, defends their arguments, says "So . . ." and then reformulates the question to suit their purposes before responding, etc.  But one thing I've noticed over the past 8 years is that, while lunch is regularly provided, we never have any booze.  I've always wondered how the workshop would be different if people were drinking.  I remember in graduate school I took a workshop-like class that met at the professor's house and there was wine.  The class was still terrible, but I'm pretty sure the wine made it slightly less so.  I'm wondering whether workshops at other schools involve alcohol.  If so, what type?  Just wine and beer, or the hard stuff as well?  And if the latter, is it top shelf or rotgut?  How does the booze affect the discussion?  Does the speaker drink as well as the audience?  Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Jay Wexler on February 17, 2009 at 08:10 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink


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as to the alcohol -- I expect it would make things worse, not better.

as to the Question of So -- I'd never even noticed this, but the person who blamed it on New Haven sounds just about right. recalling my time in law school there, in the heady days at the very dawn of the present century, I can think of certain faculty members who delighted in that syllable, but only a limited number in fact (it was far from omnipresent).

Posted by: Peter | Feb 21, 2009 6:55:52 PM

According to my torts professor on the last day of torts class 3 years ago, his last day of torts class at Yale in the late '70s featured the passing around of a bottle of peach schnapps, in which many, including the professor (someone semi-famous, I think) partook. This led the prof to make some witty observation summing the whole class up, but I forget what it was.
Also, I'm pretty sure UVa features wine at faculty workshops. I've heard a couple of stories about post-presentation commentary this occassionally inspired from a particular (now retired) prof.

Posted by: Jay | Feb 18, 2009 12:15:27 PM

Slightly OT but related--When I was in college studying experimental film/video I had a prof who had been part of the New York experimental art scene in the 1960's/70's. She once told us that back then it was not uncommon to have installation art shows where everyone was required to take LSD upon entry.

Posted by: AK | Feb 18, 2009 5:22:00 AM

This isn't the same vein because it was when I was defending my undergrad thesis but our professor encouraged students to bring in treats AND alcohol. I swear, the expensive bottle of port helped me pull an A out of that class. That, and the Nanaimo bars.

Posted by: Christie | Feb 17, 2009 5:50:53 PM

The "So" question is interesting and may be worth a post of its own; I think I may actually have written about it here before. My sense, which others are welcome to rebut, is that we owe this substantially to the folks in New Haven.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Feb 17, 2009 5:49:25 PM

Matt, I'm merely offering a descriptive, rather than normative, commentary. And even were I doing the latter, I could only speak for myself.

Having said that, yeah, "Let's see" or "Hmmm" would have worked better for my admittedly aging ears. On the other hand, some things would be worse reply-starters than "so": e.g., "Oh fer Chrissakes. . . ."

Seriously, I don't really care, but I was genuinely struck by how common it has become, in our circles, to begin sentences with "so," even where that word was not performing its traditional function.

I stress, though, that I don't want to derail this thread from the more interesting questions involving drinking and discussing.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Feb 17, 2009 4:00:14 PM

Joe- would a "Let's see..." work better, or a "Hmmm..."? This is useful advice, after all.

Posted by: Matt | Feb 17, 2009 3:23:45 PM

We don't have wine, and it might improve things if we did. But I want to mention another point, the identification of the academic tic of beginning practically every sentence, "So, . . . ." I swear, when I was on the appointments committee of my school interviewing candidates in DC, I had never heard so many sentences begin, "So, . . . " packed so tightly together over two days in my life.

Now you may say, "so what?" Still, I'm glad somebody else pointed it out.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Feb 17, 2009 2:27:28 PM

Texas (Law) appeared to provide some liquor for its Friday afternoon colloquia when I presented there a few years ago, but as far as I could tell only one senior faculty member was actually drinking it.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 17, 2009 11:24:13 AM

In our philosophy colloquia series we have wine and beer but not until after the talks and it's on a friday afternoon. Too much before that makes work hard, I find. But, if you did have been you could claim have been "working through several drafts..."

Posted by: Matt | Feb 17, 2009 9:23:43 AM

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