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Todd Suomela

Fanning the Flames While the Humanities Burn - The Chronicle of Higher Education - 0 views

  • Yet before we have even had time to digest this criticism, the authors change their mind: Perhaps diversification is responsible for shrinkage, and it is for the best! "Some of what Kay figures as disciplinary attrition," they write, "looks from our vantage point like the very necessary unsettling of white male dominance." It is not entirely clear whether they mean that the tremendous drop in enrollment and jobs can be accounted for by the attrition of white males (it cannot), or rather, more likely, that the shrinkage of the profession is a necessary and therefore justified consequence of the moral housecleaning it was forced to endure. On the latter reading, the problem with Kay’s essay is not one of diagnosis. It is rather that he fails to appreciate the extent to which both he and the discipline he eulogizes deserve whatever misfortune happens to befall them. (Indeed, these four horsewomen of the apocalypse promise that "a cleansing flame will allow us to build a better structure.")
  • Their lengthy description, displaying most fully the confusions of snark for wit and of hyperbole for exactitude that pervade the piece, is not, strictly speaking, false. Choosing what to wear for conferences and interviews is not always easy. And the attempt to meet contradictory standards (formal but not too formal, etc.) leads both men and women to come to resemble one another, as they all jointly reach toward an elusive ideal of professional suitability. But this awkward process of convergence is surely just what Kay means to convey with his description of the participants as sharing a "self-conscious aesthetic." As for misogyny, it is not obvious to me who comes off worse, the men with their "mummified" hair and pairs of identical try-hard-casual sneakers, or those women in their suits. But then again, who cares? The structuring idea of the essay, remember, is that English professors are dithering while their profession dies. It is hard to imagine a better illustration of this point than four tenure-track professors spending five paragraphs of their response criticizing a line about Ann Taylor dresses.
  • Kay says very clearly what he misses about his life at the university: talking to and reading poetry with an adviser he admires, doing work he cares about, and being part of a community that could provide him with the opportunity to talk about literature with those who share his love for it. This fantasy is the fantasy of those who wish to dedicate themselves to a life of the mind. It is mine. Here, apparently, lies Kay’s real sin. It is not his unwitting bigotry. Ultimately, the scandal of his piece has little to do with his adoring descriptions of his academic adviser or his sartorial observational satire. His sin is that he fails to embrace his own sacrifice as well justified, fails to see his own loss as the "very necessary unsettling of white male dominance," fails to welcome the "cleansing flame." The problem is not what Kay says but that he dares to speak of his own predicament — that he dares to want publicly anything at all. After all, according to the authors, Kay, despite having had to abandon his vocation, possesses a power and freedom that they can only dream of. "Our point is this: It’s not that no woman would have written an essay like Kay’s. It’s that no woman could have done so, because no woman is permitted to navigate the MLA — let alone the world — in this fashion." Kay, that is, betrays women not only by failing to portray them as sufficiently capable and accomplished but also, and without contradiction, by failing to portray the degree to which they are, compared to him, utterly powerless. What woman could go in and out of conference rooms? What woman could sidle up to a couple of octogenarians in a conference-hotel lobby?
Todd Suomela

Academe's Extinction Event: Failure, Whiskey, and Professional Collapse at the MLA - Th... - 0 views

  • At some point, though, a presenter began reading a paper that caused me to look up at once from the wiki. This was Anna Kornbluh, of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her paper was written in the same language as the others, but scythelike; she plied the language with weird skill, as if slicing a path toward some promontory of insight — and I found, to my surprise and unease, that I wanted to follow her there and stand and look out. Advertisement Her thesis was unsparing. “We have rhapsodized demolition as liberation while literally laying ruin to the university,” she argued, “a horror to be beheld by future historians — in the unlikely event there are any.” Literary theorists, by prizing an ethos of destruction in the name of freedom, had ironically aligned themselves with the external forces — political, administrative — that had for years conspired to obliterate the institution in which they work. “Human beings,” though, “are essentially builders,” she noted, channeling Marx — “architects of ideas” as well as topplers of norms. Both gestures, affirmation and dissent, are “life-sustaining”; ideally they coexist,  equipoised, twin components of a fulfilled life. A reconstructed university — and wider world — would depend on recovering the constructive and visionary impulse, which the profession had too long devalued in favor of critique. “Get building,” she enjoined the room.
Todd Suomela

The Scholar's Stage: How to Save the (Institutional) Humanities - 0 views

  • A few years after I graduated my alma mater decided to overhaul their generals program. After much contentious wrangling over what students should or should be forced to study, the faculty tasked with developing the general curriculum settled on an elegant compromise: there would be no generals. Except for a basic primer course in mathematics and writing, general credit requirements were jettisoned entirely. Instead, faculty made a list of all majors, minors, and certificates offered at the university, and placed each into one of three categories: science and mathematics, the humanities, and professional skills. From this point forward all students would be required to gain a separate qualification in each of the three categories.
Todd Suomela

The Scholar's Stage: Teaching the Humanities as Terribly as Possible - 0 views

  • Dive into the past and you will see this theme will emerge time and again: the purpose of studying history, philosophy, and poetry is to help us lead better lives and be better people. The humanities are an education for the soul. Placed next to these paeans to education, the aims of the "Theology of Dostoevsky" course are crippling. Reading Dostoevsky will help students will learn how to "contextualize literature within its anthropological milieu." Dostoevsky will teach them to see "the unique interpretive problems inherent in studying creative genres" and discussing his works will help them "communicate more effectively, verbally and in writing, about theological literature." That is the purpose of reading a man regularly called the best novelist in human history! We read him to "meet academics standards for writing and notation!" How painfully limited.
Todd Suomela

Lambda School - A Revolutionary New School That Invests In You - 0 views

    A school that only requires you to pay back tuition after you start earning$50000
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