I wasn’t planning to blog about my sabbatical, but my friend Bill suggested that I do so, and because my airline was so kind as to cancel my 1 pm flight to San Francisco (where I’m going to attend the annual meetings of the AIA) and rebook me on a 6 pm flight, I’m now sitting with a coffee in the Reno airport. I have some options: work on my AIA papers, gamble (I keep hearing “WHEEL! OF! FORTUNE!” from a nearby machine), listen to some podcasts, read Marshall Sahlins’ Apologies to Thucydides (2004), etc., but I figure now is a good time to write and reflect a bit.
This academic year has been the first real research leave/sabbatical that I’ve had. One semester, I think the spring of 2010, I had a course reduction from two courses to one, but otherwise I’ve always taught a 2/2 or a 3/3 teaching load, since the fall of 2006. So I was excited to go on sabbatical for the first time (as much fun as it was to tell people that only slackers went on sabbatical) and I had grand hopes of accomplishing a lot in the first half of my time off.
(1) Reading. I wanted to read a lot over the fall. I read all of Evi Karouzou’s excellent Les jardins de la Mediterrannée (2014), Antonia Foias’ Ancient Maya Political Dynamics (2013), Adam Smith’s The Political Machine (2015) and a parts of other books and articles that I can’t quite recall right now, but I can’t say that I read a lot, and I don’t really feel up to date in any of the fields that I claim to know well. It’s a frustrating fact of modern academia — or so I tell myself — that it’s rarely the case that anyone can really stay up to date across multiple academic sub-specialities. Maybe I can use the excuse of the diminishing returns in reading modern scholarship on any given subject (I’m ripping off Robin Osborne here).
(2) Writing. I absolutely needed to finish two small writing projects for edited companions in the fall: a chapter on the Greek economy from 1400-700 BC for a Blackwell companion edited by Irene Lemos and Antonis Kotsonas, and a chapter on Homeric geography for a Cambridge encyclopedia on Homer edited by Corinne Pache. I had planned to knock these out quickly (in September) so that I could start work on my book, which I planned (and still plan) to write about Mycenaean politics. I finished the chapters, but much later than I expected, and so I’ve hardly written anything on the book: about half of a detailed proposal and a handful of pages of the introduction. I’m well behind, so I really need to get cracking on the book this winter. I’ll be in Athens working at the American School’s fantastic Blegen Library, so I’m hopeful that it will be a good environment for getting lots and lots of work done. Much of the reading that I did in the fall also helped me to prepare for the theoretical sections of the book, so with any luck I’ll be able to write quickly, although generally speaking I’m a very slow writer.
(3) ‘Rithmatic. Nope.
(4) Moving around. I did a fair amount of travelling over the fall: I went to the Mycenological colloquium in Copenhagen in early September (which reminds me that Kevin Pluta and I need to write up our contribution to the proceedings this month) and did a little AIA public lecture tour to western Illinois (where I got to stay with friends) and Ann Arbor (at my alma mater, the University of Michigan) at the end of September. That was fun. But I got sick on the tail end of both trips, which was not fun, and it deprived me of a second trip to the Ny Carlsberg Gyptoteket and a first visit to the National Museum of Denmark in addition to the time I lost getting better.
All in all, I’d give myself a C. I didn’t accomplish what I planned to, so maybe I deserve a D, but I usually don’t accomplish what I plan to do. I also have a bunch of excuses. I got sick. I had to do a fair amount of writing for the survey project I co-direct. I was also named a MacArthur fellow, which was great, but it also distracted me a lot — mostly I spent a lot of time convincing myself that it was not an elaborate hoax and/or trying not to feel like an impostor. On the other hand, I did do what I needed to. So a C feels about right.
Also, isn’t sabbatical supposed to be a bit relaxing? This blog post doesn’t make it seem so. Am I not supposed to take it a little easy, catch up on sleep, and watch all the football games and footie matches that I can? On the other hand, the sabbaticals of archaeologists are abbreviated; we don’t get the summer to ourselves, but instead we’re running around in the field falling over and getting fleas. So I’d better get serious this winter… or start thinking of some more excuses.