13 April 2008

A report from academia

The lamentations of a pseud:
“When I was getting my B.A. in English, of my eight closest friends, five were either English or Comparative Literature majors; all had taken part in an intensive humanities program freshman year that included housing all the participants together. By senior year, there was absolutely no distinction between our academic work and the rest of our time...we were writing our own manifestos, poems, and really long emails; we were drinking cheap vodka (or sometimes some new thing purchased with fledgling credit cards, like cinnamon schnapps)...”

“I’d throw a party, my friend would sit cross-legged on the floor, soliloquizing about track 13 on Exile on Main Street and then disappearing home to write a story called “Rocket Queen.” A series of intensely heated arguments about Heidegger, conducted mostly at around three in the morning, led me to an independent study on Being and Time and my first real introduction to Continental philosophy and ‘theory.’”

“In the four years since then, things have gotten much worse. This is particularly true in California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger has continually sought to cut funding for higher education, but it is true everywhere in the United States. There are practical problems: increased fees and overhead costs, shrinking budgets for grants, less guaranteed teaching, fewer tenure-track jobs. This financial squeeze is one cause of a rash of damaging wars within literary studies, and academia more generally, that illustrate how desperate the situation has become.”

“The ideological differences between Badiou and Michaels, or Zizek and Michaels, are not trivial. (Neither are the differences between Zizek and Badiou.) I am not suggesting that the well-rehearsed disagreements between Lacanians and historicists can be easily overcome. Nonetheless, my belief in the projects of universalism and equality leave me out of patience with the refusal to recognize common ground.”

“I now believe that the kind of reconciliation I hoped for…will not arrive, at least not without significant clashes coming first...I’ve watched one conversation after another in which I participated, and which I thought were cordial dialogues about academia, quickly become bitter disputes. (I should add…it has become clear that Slavoj Zizek can’t replace Derrida. His fatuous and repetitive lists of political “ironies,” e.g. that Whole Foods is just another capitalist organ, have begun to alienate even his most devoted followers.)

“It is not merely that no major theoretical school has emerged since Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, as Deresiewicz writes—it is also that one can trace the decline of that work’s meaningfulness in Butler’s persistent effort afterwards to detach her queer studies from the lived experiences of alternative lifestyles, alternative communities, and drag. It is really any wonder that our private conversations come to linger more on the films of Pedro Almodovar or on camp films like Priscilla Queen of the Desert, where drag is not merely the subject, but is also allowed to be present? Yet that arc repeats itself everywhere in the profession.”

4 comments:

  1. This is why Ernest Hemmingway used to be popular among male English class students, even though his stories were pretty dull - it was nice to read literature written by a guy who probably didn't throw a baseball like a girl

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  2. It must have been nice to read actual literature, period.

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  3. I initially read it assuming it was copied from an Onion article.

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  4. It is my firm belief that the dreary Lazarus poem currently defacing the Statue of Liberty be completely removed and replaced with this post, in its entirety.

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