Saturday, 18 March 2006

Graduate Students Love Fun Too Over the CLCWEGSA1 listserv this afternoon I learned that a faculty member had graciously agreed to donate her old junk to furnish the future "graduate student lounge." According to the email, "She says she has a nice futon, some rungs, and a few more ideas to make it a more comfortable space." My first response? Thank the lady for luxurious ideas. But then I thought about her offer of "rungs." Because what this graduate student community really needs is a jungle gym. Freshman have their "fifteen." Graduate students know how to multiply. I decided that in addition to rungs, the Graduate Student Lounge of the Future could stand for some swings. Swinging invigorates both mind and body! If we're gonna have rungs and swings we oughta have monkey bars too. Sure there's something inherently racist about the African-American students swinging on the monkey bars, but who cares? I'm talking about monkey bars here people. Monkey Bars. What hunched graduate student wouldn't disavow Derrida after a few hours of monkey bar-induced glee? (Besides the closeted Republican one, since he obviously hates fun. Why else become Republican?) Nothing could improve a graduate student lounge with rungs and swings and monkey bars. Except a slide. So I sprung into action and formed the CLCWEGSA Wants Monkey Bars and a Slide Committee. Our first meeting is tomorrow. I anticipate the Swing Faction will complain about their marginalization. But don't worry. If they don't like it they can take a long slide down a short . . . slide. [1] Comparative Literature Creative Writing English Graduate Student Association, pronounced "click-weg-sa" and hands down the worst acronym ever devised by people with ostensible mastery of the English language.
Women + Education = Death or Other People Have It Easy [To be posted on the Valve sometime tomorrow so Clancy's excellent post remains front and center.] Last May I noted the existence of articles in other disciplines which consist entirely of the research required by ours. As I said then: "How did someone else publish my background research as a scholarly article?" Today I ran across another example of this distressing phenonemon: "The Neurologic Content of S. Weir Mitchell's Fiction [pdf]." According to the abstract, the "objective" of this article—published in the 14 February 2006 issue of Neurology—is "to assess the extent that references to neurologic topics were present in Mitchell's fiction, whether these neurologic references reflected Mitchell's scientific interests and contributions, and whether his fictional accounts of neurologic topics would precede those in his scientific writings." Fair enough. Their method? "The authors read Silas Weir Mitchell's novels and short stories." Despite the fact that poetry "lends itself less to neurologic reference than does prose . . . for completeness, [the authors] read this poetry and provide a brief comment on its neurologic content." I agree that the best way of assessing the extent to which something appears in a body of literature is to read that body of literature. But how are these neurologists going to read it? Will they analyze the developmental patterns of characters in Mitchell's novels and corollate them to contemporary neurological theory? Will they document the structural relation of particular plots to specific neurological stimuli like the stressors of the white-collar world and the Civil War? Or will they count? I think you know the answer ah-ah-ah-ah. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, "seventeen of the twenty-seven fictional works contained neurologic references" ah-ah-ah-ah. One, two, three, four, five . . . fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four, "fifty-five of seventy-nine references were brief" ah-ah-ah-ah. Their conclusion? "The majority of Mitchell's fictional works contained references to neurologic topics but most contained brief references" ah-ah-ah-ah. This isn't to say the article's devoid of evaluative criticism: "Mitchell's novels were known for their dramatic flair." He "was a prolific writer of both science and fiction" whose "novels were well regarded in his day." He "also had a life-long interest in snake venom." What importance their dry tallying has for the medical community escapes me. But theirs is "the only study to [their] knowledge that has systematically reviewed Mitchell's novels and short stories, detailed his neurologic citations in this fiction, and discussed these with reference to his interests and contributions as a neurologist." What a cunning use of flags ! I now have imperial claims to unseat. No worries. This afternoon I found the Greatest Quotation in the History of Everything. It reads: "I have sometimes been led to think that over brain-work tends not only to stunt the body and to contract the pelvis, but, by the law of evolution, to develop bigger headed offspring, or at least offspring with heads relatively disproportioned to the pelvis of the mother." Explanation tomorrow,...

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