I've been away for a few days but its time to get back to posting my reasons for leaving academe, partly because I feel my anger and resolve slipping a little bit. It's like after the breakup when you start thinking about calling your ex. "It wasn't really THAT bad." I actually sent off a job application yesterday. I guess that's equivalent to texting your ex. Granted it was in a place I would really like to live, so I thought "why not?" But I need to keep my rage. I'm going to keep deleting academe's number from my cell one post at a time. The jerk.
Reason #3: I hate academic writingI hate academic writing. Loathe. Detest. Begin uncontrollably wretching. Every word of academic jargon I have ever read has been like swallowing a little bit of poison. You think I'm being overdramatic here, but read this and see if you don't feel your soul dying just a little bit:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
-Butler, J. "Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time." Diacritics (1997).There. Now. Don't you feel a little foggy, as if you are not completely real? As if a hole opened up into a parallel universe where vast incomprehensible Lovecraftian horrors vie over meaningless prizes in eternal and cacophonous verbal combat?
Perhaps not everyone feels this way. Some people enjoy it, even like to write like that! I don't claim to understand that, but I think the big difference is that I actually want to be a writer (as opposed to whatever it is someone is doing when they put together a sentence like that.) Even as a little kid when I found my parents' typewriter I started writing a novel on it. Whenever I meet successful writers I always have an attack of envy, and I know envy is something that you can use cause it helps you identify what you actually want in life. When I meet a tenured professor do I feel envy? Hellz no. More like I want to run like hell. Yes, I've been a bit traumatized.
I guess I ended up in grad school because I thought universities were places where the written word was respected and loved. Boy was I wrong. The stuff that gets you ahead in academia is awfully written, convoluted, jargony, elitist nonsense, especially in the humanities. I guess maybe humanities folks feel like they have to overcompensate to feel valid next to the biochemists curing cancer and whatnot by filling their publications with indecipherable jargon to hide what they are really saying. For example, there is a certain author who fills hundreds and hundreds of pages with convoluted prose to say nothing more complex than "gender is socially constructed." There. I just said it in four words.
For someone who actually loves good writing, generous writing, playful writing, evocative writing, the halls of higher education can be a heartbreaking place. At least in the sciences the things they are writing about actually are fairly complicated. Not to say that literature, for example, is not complicated. But if you want to know about what Virginia Woolf is doing in To the Lighthouse then maybe, well, read it and find out for yourself??? If you want to know why I hate academia, just go buy any book in critical theory of any kind and see if you can get through three pages without throwing it out a window.
After having written a dissertation, I'm worried that the bad writing demon is now inside me. Its like that movie where aliens come down and take over peoples' bodies. I reread some of my dissertation and was like "damn, that sounds good." But it doesn't. It sounds like jargony nonsense. And somehow that sounds good to me now. Scary. I need some serious detox. Lately I've only been reading things with pictures. Comic books may just save me.
For an example, here's an excerpt from a press release on Philosophy and Literature's Bad Writing Contest (where the above quote was taken from):
The Bad Writing Contest celebrates the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles published in the last few years. Ordinary journalism, fiction, departmental memos, etc. are not eligible, nor are parodies: entries must be non-ironic, from serious, published academic journals or books. Deliberate parody cannot be allowed in a field where unintended self-parody is so widespread.
Two of the most popular and influential literary scholars in the U.S. are among those who wrote winning entries in the latest contest.
Judith Butler, a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, admired as perhaps “one of the ten smartest people on the planet,” wrote the sentence that captured the contest’s first prize. Homi K. Bhabha, a leading voice in the fashionable academic field of postcolonial studies, produced the second-prize winner.
“As usual,” commented Denis Dutton, editor of Philosophy and Literature, “this year’s winners were produced by well-known, highly-paid experts who have no doubt labored for years to write like this. That these scholars must know what they are doing is indicated by the fact that the winning entries were all published by distinguished presses and academic journals.”
Professor Butler’s first-prize sentence appears in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997):
"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."
Dutton remarked that “it’s possibly the anxiety-inducing obscurity of such writing that has led Professor Warren Hedges of Southern Oregon University to praise Judith Butler as ‘probably one of the ten smartest people on the planet’.”
This year’s second prize went to a sentence written by Homi K. Bhabha, a professor of English at the University of Chicago. It appears in The Location of Culture (Routledge, 1994):
"If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize”formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality. "
This prize-winning entry was nominated by John D. Peters of the University of Iowa, who describes it as “quite splendid: enunciatory modality, indeed!”