04w49:1 Academia

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 49 number 1 (academia)

As Steven Pinker said in the Edge interview I sent out in the 04w47:1 posting, “…graduate students are grumbling in emails and in conference hallways about being locked out of the job market unless they perpetuate postmodernist gobbledygook, and how they’re eager for new ideas from the sciences that could invigorate the humanities within universities, which are, by anyone’s account, in trouble.” My recent experiences attending public lectures at the University of Toronto have been memorable but also remind me of how I’m glad to not be in school at the moment. While I’ve anticipated returning to academy to do a Master’s degree for sometime, an hour or so among the mediocrity of the elites reminds me how I’d rather develop ideas over pints than seminar tables. All of which reminds me of Helena Echlin’s article, “How Yale Strangles Literature”, which I first read four years ago when it was first published. At that time I e-mailed it to a couple of friends. I re-finding it for this posting, I came across Erin O’Connor’s blog and I should really thank her, since her posting from last February led me to the other articles below. Rounding off these links, is the article by Scott Smallwood on last spring’s demise of the Invisible Adjunct, a blog now a classic on the subject. – Timothy


How Yale Strangles Literature | Helena Echlin
“In general, students and faculty at Yale do not explicitly espouse theory, or particular theorists. But high theory, whatever its merits or demerits, has validated the use of jargon. People who talk nonsense are now looked upon not as sloppy thinkers, but as sages. The ode must traverse the problem of solipsism … And it is literary theory that has made us see writers as fallible, blinkered creatures, unaware of what they write. The critic’s job is to expose their blind spots and expound their contradictions. This goes some way to explaining the scorn for writers that I encountered.” Commentary by Erin O’ConnorArticle Date, Autumn 2000

The Seminar has no clothes | Erin O’Connor

Belated Apologies | Dorothea Salo
“Which brings me back, in a roundabout sort of way, to Wilf Cude. […] He?s mad at the waste of people?s lives. It?s not just the lifetimes lost to graduate school, nor is it the loss to academia itself (he believes as I do that academia more or less gets what it deserves there, good and bad). He hates the economic, physical, and psychological damage that academia causes attriters and non-attriters alike, the same damage that none of my tenured/tenure-track friends has thus far cared to acknowledge happening to me.”

Required reading | Dorothea Salo
Posting links to a 60-page PDF report on the current state of the American doctoral system.

Ph.D. Program Retention Rates, Again | John Bruce
The permalink for this posting doesn’t work, so the link is to the February archive. Scroll down to February 03, 2004. There are multiple postings on the subject from this month.

Inane Literary Politics… | Julia at Winston’s Diary
A friend writes: “One of the characters in a book by a Vietnamese-American author was indicted by the class for her phallocentric American ‘desire to know’ (I guess vaginocentric non-Americans just want to loll around in loose shoes and ignorance–exactly how is this bullshit supposed to promote tolerance and human happiness?). The character discovers that her mother’s life in Vietnam had been brutal rather than idyllic, and that the Vietcong were as lousy as the feudal overlords, if not worse. I pointed out that it wasn’t the character’s ‘American need to know’ that uncovered the truth, but her mother’s unprompted confessional letter. Was that evidence, then, of a ‘Vietnamese need to tell’? One woman sitting next to me nodded enthusiastically (she hasn’t been fully indoctrinated yet) and said, ‘That’s great’ but everyone else glared at her until she looked at her shoes, suddenly knowing she’d made a gaffe.”

Disappearing Act | Scott Smallwood
“Like the Invisible Adjunct blog, which walked a line between the personal and systemic, her departure is not just about her. It’s yet another signal, some say, of how broken the academic hiring system is. About 45 percent of all faculty members are now part-timers. Each year thousands of people with new doctorates in fields like history and English fail to find the tenure-track jobs they are chasing. In English, for instance, fewer than half of the new Ph.D.’s win tenure-track jobs initially, according to the Modern Language Association. When confronted with those numbers, the apologists, as the Invisible Adjunct calls them, maintain that there will always be jobs for the good ones. But if someone with a Ph.D. from a top-tier college, publications, and writing skills good enough to get thousands of people to start their day by checking what she has to say — if she isn’t one of the good ones, who is? ‘She has jumped through all the hoops that the profession set for her,’ says Ralph Luker, a former professor at Morehouse College and a regular participant in the Invisible Adjunct blog. ‘And we failed to find a place for her.'”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 28 November 2004 @ 7:09 PM

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