I'm just grumbling my way through the latest issue of a literary journal, registering the usual complaints about the ubiquitous stiff and lifeless thesis statements following the "In this essay I will show" model and the prevalence of flat analyses and uninspiring writing, when suddenly the page lights up. I see my name--and not in a footnote! Right there at the start of a long paragraph that understands and engages with my ideas! Properly cited, too! Suddenly it seems there's hope for academic writing.
I suppose the slow pace of academic publishing heightens the pleasure produced when our work is finally noticed. Pour all your efforts into producing a worthy article, submit it to an appropriate journal, endure the inevitable wait period and perhaps a few rounds of "revise-and-resubmit," wait wait wait for the eventual publication, and then--silence. Is anyone reading? Does anyone care? Or is your brilliant work just another line on the vita?
So how delightful to discover that my ideas didn't just fall off the edge of the earth but instead inspired another scholar to advance the conversation. Let's see, the article he cited was published in 2008, but it had been submitted at least a year earlier and was based on a section of my dissertation that I'd been fiddling with since--oh, the late 1990s I suppose. That's a long time to spend throwing out a conversational bon mot and awaiting a reply. It's like communicating across the galaxy using only smoke signals and hoping someone out there will eventually understand and respond.
But when a response finally arrives--well, then it's time to give a little whoop and holler, even if I've long since moved on to composing the next message.