Before dinner this evening, I was chatting with someone at the conference–not my designated conference buddy–who was still grappling with cuts in her paper. Eventually, she came round to the view that, after all, no one in the room would know either 1) the Platonic ideal of her argument in its full, chapter-length form, or 2) what her abstract said she’d talk about.*
Wouldn’t that be hilarious?: Abstract Police, deputized to stroll the halls of conferences and check to be sure that the papers that are delivered closely match the abstracts as originally submitted. (“Wait–your abstract said you would focus on the “The Song of the Shirt,” but, in fact, you only glance at it en route to an account of Jane Eyre. 10 demerits for you.”)
I think I believed in the Abstract Police until about my 3rd or 4th conference.
*To be clear: She wasn’t changing her topic or anything drastic–just shifting emphasis a bit & cutting in order to provide a better presentation!