This semester, I am giving several talks each over the devil and creepiness, and I’m finding the experience of both very different. On the devil front, I’m also in the early stages of drafting the book itself, so the talks provide a good opportunity to try out material and experiment — in short, to present the argument of the chapter I’ve been working on and venture a little further. In the process, I’ve become more confident in the shape of my argument as a whole, and I think I’ve also hit upon something that could work as a framing for the introduction. Overall: very helpful.
Creepiness is paradoxically more challenging, precisely because I’ve already written a whole book on the topic. The project feels “done,” and I’m still figuring out the best way to open the thing back up and say something new (and, for practical reasons, something that doesn’t require deploying the full Freudian apparatus from the book). My initial attempt at Wayne State was very well-received and generated some good questions, but I worried about whether it really fell together into a coherent argument. Perhaps I should trust my audience and not stress out about it.
This is also a new experience for me in that I have the opportunity to give essentially the same talk in multiple locations. While I find that I need to do something at least partly new or exploratory when I’m writing the talks, so far I’m quite content with delivering the same material. The performance side of it becomes smoother with practice, and I find that I can improvise more fluently.
What about you, dear readers? How do you relate your speaking opportunities to your work? Do you have the same struggle with presenting over finished works vs. works in progress?