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.
- The Tenured Radical and Historiann discuss Terry Castle's The Professor and Other Writings, which I read earlier this summer and highly recommend: part 1, part 2, part 3.**
- The University of Michigan Library now includes contact information for relevant subject specialists among patrons' search results. I don't know if that would be possible to implement in MPOW's catalog (having a shared catalog with two other schools would probably make it hard to point people to the right librarian), but it's a very cool idea.
- Today's XKCD absolutely nails what's wrong with pretty much every college and university web site I've ever seen.
- "Academic Prose: A Brief Rant," by Kevin Dettmar, also had me nodding in simultaneously pained and delighted recognition (delighted because, as with XKCD's take on university web sites, it's a pleasure to see someone say it so well):
[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.
- On a related note, I really must read Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus's Higher Education? after reading this interview with them at the Atlantic.
- On an altogether different note...From McSweeneys: This Is Just To Say That I'm Tired of Sharing an Apartment with William Carlos Williams.
- I think my wardrobe needs a "Some people are gay. Get over it!" t-shirt.
* 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.