Scholarly Life

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have anything out awaiting decision. I have several major things in the production process but nothing actually awaiting decision. Everybody is working faster than I expected and now I’m stressed out because I believe in the 2-2-2 rule of academic productivity: 2 pieces in production, two awaiting decision, and two that I’m currently writing. This method has served me well and I’m now freaking out.

A funny thing that happened is that I was planning to write an article. I read a lot, found secondary sources, developed a theoretical grounding, created a plan for the article, opened a new .doc file, and….

…. started writing a completely different article on a completely different author from a different part of the world for an entirely different journal.

5 thoughts on “Scholarly Life”

  1. Do you think this argument has merit?

    // Teach What You Love
    A modest proposal for professors of literature

    Lacan, Derrida, Foucault… Beginning about the time Rorty and I offered our course in postmodern Freud, the Legionnaires and their cohorts were not just taught. Professors and graduate students didn’t just do what we did: examine their works as pieces of, in our instance, philosophy. They did something else. Works of theory were applied.
    … This tour through now ancient texts, which could be elaborated and deepened considerably—I gave it a shot in a book called Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida—comes to one central point: certain master terms and master thinkers colonized the English department.

    Suddenly, the operative word was no. Literature professors became spirits that denied, like Goethe’s devil.

    That’s a cogent reason for the great shift, at least. I suspect most professors and aspiring profs jumped in because that’s what the hipper-seeming cadet in the office next door was doing and they didn’t want to be left out, jobless, alone, and afraid. Real reasons those, and I might have taken them seriously if I’d been faced with the narrowed possibilities extant 10 years after I left grad school. In 1985, it was okay to argue, as I did in my dissertation, the now outrageous case that the great poets know more than we do.

    There is something easy and glib about the negative. It’s not hard to see that tiny chip of wood in your neighbor’s eye and get quite exercised about it all. (The log in your own eye—tough to discern. Or so the rabbi tells us.) It’s especially exhilarating when the object of your inquiry has been thought to be among the great and the good. One can’t rule out mere competitive rancor here.

    If we continue to judge literature as a waste site teeming with toxins, how long before the students will simply say, “I think I’ll avoid that locale altogether and do my business elsewhere”? Indeed, they are already doing so.


    1. If you can find archived copies of the old magazine Lingua Franca online, you might look up “Last will and testament of an ex-literary critic” by Duke University English professor Frank Lentricchia. He writes about the moment he realized that graduate programs in English departments had become places for people who hate literature. In the article he confesses that he switched his focus to undergraduate teaching, because the undergraduate English majors still actually liked reading real books.

      That was 1996, I guess we’ve lost the undergraduates since then.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. A beautiful article, thank you!!

      I was taught hard to do this kind of a “critical” approach at McGill. Then I was published for it harshly in the PhD program and especially when I started trying to get published. I found that it was completely impossible to publish this sort of thing in my field so I had to unlearn. It was a process but it made me happier in the end.


      1. // I was taught hard to do this kind of a “critical” approach at McGill. Then I was published for it harshly …

        I suppose you meant “punished for it harshly.” May you expand the bit what is the difference exactly between a “critical” approach and what you publish now? If one, for instance, explores capitalism and gender roles in “Bastard out of Carolina”, which approach is that? Or discusses the place of art in a capitalist society in “Martin Eden” and “The Tortilla Curtain”?


        1. Freudian slip. 🙂 Yes, punished.

          It was once suggested to me that instead of publishing an article on how a novel was ideologically deficient (today we’d say not woke enough), I should write a letter to the author instructing him on how to write better novels. It stung but it was true. So I quit being a woke asshole.


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