January 23, 2006

When Method Acting Meets Scholarship

Nothing good can come of it.

Here's a novel approach to historical research--become the thing you're researching! Which, okay, if you're doing a dissertation on the inner life of waiters, should be no big deal.

But if, like Professor Pluss, your topic is neo-nazism, well...do I even have to finish this sentence?

Alas, given the prevailing views of the day, I probably do.

See, Mr. Pluss thought that only by immersing himself in the neo-nazi experience could he understand it. Uta Hagen--the lady who put the "meth" in method acting--would weep with pride. But historians aren't thespians, and I would argue that pretending to be something you aren't (and I'm giving Mr. Pluss the benefit of the doubt here) doesn't get you any more "authentic" information than regular research would. It does, however, get the perpetrator a lot more press...not that I'm waxing cynical or anything.

I'm thinking that maybe the professor in question has spent a little too much time watching James Lipton fawn over celebrities who detail their Method-heavy "preparation" for roles in films like Dawn of the Dead ("Well, I had some steak tartare, and let the juice dribble down my chin and imagined myself as a flesh-eating zombie, hee hee!"), and too little time doing plain old boring research.

Although this could spawn a whole new genre of research--Xtreme Scholarship! Criminologists committing crimes! Psychologists self-inducing insanity! Sociologists forming primitive cannibalistic tribal groups on the Quad!

It would definitely put some oomph back in the humanities, that's for sure.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at January 23, 2006 02:11 PM

Maybe this is what Sami Al-Arian was doing at South Florida. Although apparently his field was computer engineering, not terrorist studies (a discipline coming to a university near you soon, I'm sure).

What about professors of Critical Theory? Since their true subject is mental/moral paralysis, what could they immerse themselves in? A catatonic state, maybe?

Posted by: Husband of BAW at January 23, 2006 03:42 PM

You know, I've thought of serial murder. Maybe I should get a grant?

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at January 23, 2006 07:20 PM

Husband of BAW: I thought their field was BS, and I have some relatives who can supply plenty for them to immerse themselves in. Well, technically, some of it will come from cows, too, but it's definitely bovine in origin.

I'm not so sure that a whole lot of Psychologists will have to induce insanity. Maybe just stop taking their meds.

Posted by: John at January 24, 2006 06:15 AM

More on Dr. Jacques Pluss with an interview on on my blog.

Posted by: historymike at January 27, 2006 06:03 PM