Re-entry link post

Hello again, blogosphere! I'm back from my almost-two-weeks-in-the-UK mostly-vacation, having richly enjoyed nearly every minute of it.* There will be more of a travel narrative before long, with pictures; right now, I'm still catching up after a couple of mostly internet-less weeks. Which means it's time for a quick link-roundup post of things seen here, there, and yon.

[L]et's say that the author wants to use the theoretical system
developed by one thinker to read through the oeuvre of this one
particular band. Let's pretend it's Marxism (it's not) and Bow Wow Wow
(it's not). So we sit down to get a Marxist reading of Bow Wow Wow (oh
boy!), and the essay falls into two-and-one-half parts. The first, tiny
part—one short paragraph, actually—sets up the argument, and ends with a
sentence that says, in effect: "We'll return to Bow Wow Wow, but first,
we've got to look at Marx." The essay then spends fully half of its
pages in a fairly perfunctory and, as it turns out, entirely unnecessary
explication of Marx; then we get to Bow Wow Wow.

But here's the thing: what the writer has to say about "Bow Wow Wow"
doesn't require Marx. Not. In. The. Least. At least, no more than the
Marx that anyone with a high-school education already knows. The "Marx"
(who, again, ain't really Marx) is really there as the writer’s big
brother, as in, "You'd better shut up, or my big brother will beat the
snot out of you."

That last sentence is my favorite. And it reminded me why I'm very glad I no longer have to go around brandishing my big brothers every time I want to make an argument.

* With the exception of three hours of milling about at the Carlisle train station after my train from Edinburgh to Oxenholme was stopped and they had to hire buses at the last minute. But at least nothing like that happened with any of my flights.

** Speaking of pained recognition, I cannot resist quoting a paragraph from the title essay, "The Professor":

Thus the Crazed Good Student in me revved up to warp speed: she whose deepest, maddest wish was to astound her teachers with her unprecedented brilliance (and thus win their love) and stun fellow students into a state of admiring, if not joyful, subordination. Why I thought trouncing my classmates in every academic task set before us would prompt affection in them for me is beyond me. (True or False? The delusion that doing well in school will win me love has disfigured my life. Discuss in 5-7 pages.) (Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings, 209-210)

That, right there? Was me at age 22. I wasn't quite that competitive, but "The delusion that doing well in school will win me love has disfigured my life" could have been my motto all through grad school and for some time after. Which is why I was immensely grateful when I read that sentence: someone else had managed to put into words just how damaging certain assumptions (probably shared by every bright young thing heading off to an academic career) can be.

One Response to “Re-entry link post”

  1. dale says:

    At much-needed drinks after a day of my first and only MLA, I remember saying (boorishly, no doubt) that I wished these people would shut up and just silently hold up their two signs (say “Bakhtin” and “William Faulkner”) for five minutes and let the audience think it out. I didn’t need the summary of Bakhtin and I didn’t need the glib reading of Faulkner that supposedly used him either. I reckoned we could get through twelve papers an hour that way — much more efficient!