Tired of academic quit lit? Another view on academic labor.

dontquitApparently responding to the recent spate of academic “quit lit,” Matthew Pratt Guterl writes:

Let me tell you why not to quit.

You’ve been told that the university is a back-breaking neoliberal machine. That it encourages a certain solipsism and inhibits any sort of solidarity. That it will wall you off from colleagues and comrades. That it wants you to be happy but also to focus only on your own happiness. And that, by doing so, by finding happiness in the profit you glean from your own labor, you are complicit in someone else’s tragic undoing. In their erasure from life on the tenure stream. And in their own chance at happiness. That the ideological work of the institution dissolves your identity as a worker, and that it makes it impossible for you to connect with someone else with a different pay grade or institutional status, even if you both work in the classroom.

The architects of this story are scarred survivors of a dystopian landscape. Brilliant and talented, they’ve walked away from the tenure stream, spent a few years questing for a bright future, or never quite got close. The university they describe is bleak. It features: people tearing down other people; days and weeks spent alone in the office; a job market that resembles Lord of the Flies; faculty who are either preening peacocks or back-stabbing social climbers; students who will suck the life out of you, or who too closely scrutinize your tone and your words; administrators interested only measuring things, in taking away money, or in expanding their own ranks. They describe a life set to the lonely rhythm of the keypad and warmed by narcissism.

He appreciates the totalizing effects of this academic dystopianism:  “Full of strong colors and clear divisions, it is a magnificent, totalizing, overdetermined work of art.  Dystopian landscapes serve a purpose. They do great political work. Their broad brush strokes are meant to persuade, but also to focus the eye on a single, instrumentally conceived big picture. I might disagree with them on the details, but I also see their truth out there.”

But then he makes his point, which is an important one:  “other realities are out there. Other landscapes for you to inhabit. Or to create.”  Continue reading

Great prediction, Carnac: a brief history of the future of online education

carnacthemagnificentOne of the great things about blogging for the better part of a decade is that you can hold people accountable for the silly things they once said, or wrote, and presumably believed.

Do you remember 2010?  Like yesterday?  Here’s columnist Froma Harrop on September 21, 2010:

Bill Gates recently predicted: “Five years from now on the Web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”

It’s the fall semester of 2015:  are we there yet?  What does Professor Pushbutton have to say about all of this?  How ’bout them learning machines, y’all?   Continue reading

Wrung out.


This is not me, but it’s pretty close.

Another day, another mass shooting in the U.S.A.  I know it’s been FOUR days already, but I’m wrung out.  (I also just typed “wrong out” instead of “wrung out,” which indicates why it’s probably best that I’ve been off-blog and social media in general lately.)

I used to write about gun violence a lot (see below for links).  I guess I’m just as jaded and discouraged as everyone else, but it’s hard to gin up the outrage yet again for another classroom full of dead students and a dead teacher.  Another socially isolated and probably mentally ill young man who had a parent eager to supply him with an arsenal for mass murder.

This article by Melissa Duclos, a community college proffie in Oregon, published last Friday morning at Salon.com was the best thing I saw all weekend about last week’s murderous rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, “we don’t need your prayers, we need your courage.”  After a rundown of her CC’s “emergency protocols,” she writes this: Continue reading

Sometimes I don’t know what to say.

In both my grad class and my undergrad class this week we’re discussing Sharon Block’s Rape and Sexual Power in Early America.  This is a book that goes over very well with college students, given their vulnerability to sexual assault as well as Block’s analysis of the racial and class dynamics of rape complaints and prosecutions.  I was pushing my students on the question of why more hasn’t changed over the past 300 years, and decided to ask them if they knew someone who had been raped.  All of us but ONE person out of 17 or 18 of us in the discussion section raised a hand. Continue reading

You Must Remember This, the podcast

YouMustRememberThisI have a new obsession.  If it were a man, my husband would be jealous (or so I would hope.)  All weekend and much of this week so far, I’ve been listening to the You Must Remember This podcast, which is written and voiced by Karina Longworth.  Its tagline is “exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of 20th Century Hollywood.”

Why do I love it?  It’s like eating a bag of potato chips, or a box of candy, but they’re really smart potato chips, and really nutritious candy.  I think I’ve shared here before that on the rare occasions I read history books for pleasure, I read twentieth-century U.S. history.  Longworth’s research and writing are all that, plus celebrity gossip, and more!

But by far, the best thing about You Must Remember This is the clear feminist through-line of Longworth’s analysis of the careers of women artists.  I burned through the entire 12-part series she did last summer on “Charles Manson’s Hollywood” while washing my windows on Sunday afternoon, and this almost made window-washing a pleasure.  This series includes a riveting analysis of Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate’s short acting career along with a consideration of the not-very-revolutionary aspects of the Sexual Revolution for most women, even (or especially) women in the industry.  Since then I’ve heard her fascinating reconsiderations of the careers of Marion Davies and Mia Farrow. Continue reading

Gender & political inspiration

Allyson Hobbs remembers the night in Chicago’s Grant Park in November, 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president, and asks “Why Aren’t We Inspired by Hillary Clinton?”

If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and the national election, can we expect the same gathering of crowds and the same emotional outpouring? Would the historic election of the first woman President evoke a similar thrill and sense of wonderment at the leaps that this country is capable of making?
Probably not. But why not? Is the election of a black man more revolutionary than the election of a white woman? Of course, one cannot compare the moment of an election victory of one candidate to a moment during another candidate’s campaign, a year before the election. And much of the excitement about Obama derived from the dissatisfaction with the President he was replacing. But the question remains: what’s behind the shortfall of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton?

There are myriad reasons, and Clinton, of course, is not remotely as inspiring a speaker or campaigner as Obama. But another obvious explanation is the persistent problem of gender bias in American culture. Perhaps the sexism—in both overtly hostile and less visible but still insidious ways—has helped stoke the fires of animosity towards Clinton while, at the same time, creating an almost impossible standard for her. Unlike her male opponents, Clinton has to be far more careful and measured in what she says and does. To be free from a strict choreography of words and actions is a form of male privilege that Hillary Clinton cannot access.

Continue reading

Functioning like a senior scholar with junior scholar prestige and pay


Well, I ain’t got it, anyway.

That’s my life these days!  And it’s why you haven’t heard from me very much lately.  I suppose it’s true for most of us advanced–not to say superannuated–Associate Professors.

I’m trying to get a grip on this friends, but it seems like already I’m swamped with requests for letters of recommendations, manuscripts to review for presses, articles to review for journals, serving on a postdoctoral fellowship committee, and all kinds of worthy work that I want to do, because 1) it’s only fair, considering that I have been the beneficiary of this kind of work from others, and 2) it’s probably the most direct way I can advance feminism in my field and my profession.  By writing letters recommending other feminists for jobs, fellowships, and publication, I’m effectively throwing down the ladder and  trying to pull others on board. Continue reading