Sunday, 01 June 2008

Skewering Academia, Just Because ... In a comment on the previous post, Justin asks: Do you ever worry that the person who would hire you recognizes himself in your posts? If I wrote good puns, I'd be unnerved by this post. I would fear that your presence in my department would make me feel inadequate, on account of my inadequate puns. You don't use names, but you skewer most everyone in academia. To address the last point first: I do skewer the excesses of academia, but only because they deserve skewering. My criticism is in the same vein as Mark's, except about trivialities no reasonable scholar wastes three thoughts on. More importantly, I doubt any scholar recognizes him- or herself in my posts. The thing about self-delusion is that it's based on delusional thoughts. I remember the many puns larding my first essay on Finnegans Wake with a horror as histrionic as it is appropriate. They were beastly. The knowledge that I handed a paper overbrimming with them to Margot Norris, one of those rare scholars whose eminence is deserved, will cold dog me to the grave. At the time, however, I mistakenly believed in the transparency of their brilliance. I couldn't have been more wrong. So do I worry that someone will recognize themselves in that post? Only in the way that I do, i.e. as the nightmare of history returning its just verdict. No one believes they currently produce drivel so stimulating they'll be unable to continue working without a brief onanistic indulgence. But they do believe they once believed that. Only with embarrassment do they remember their first overexcited forays into academia. Even if they still love their puns and their unnecessary accoutrement—the insecure plumage of parenthesis, slashes and dashes whose clutter they consider proof of genius—they won't consider this post an affront. These are the puns of an amateur unconvinced of the obviousness of their brilliance. They are the clumsy stabs of the scholar-in-training who, for the moment, is overreaching. Or so I hope.

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