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nunia ( 女 , 107 )
地区: 美国, 新泽西
作者: nunia, 俱乐部:死党 [引文评论] [评论
时间: 2006-04-16 14:27:37, 来源:未名交友
标题: THE UNBEARABLE UGLINESS of Volvos

On a day in the mid-seventies--it may have varied in different parts of the country and at different universities--American academics stopped buying ugly Volkswagens and started buying ugly Volvos, with a few nonconformists opting for ugly Saabs. Now on the surface there would seem to be an obvious explanation for this shift in preference: on the one hand, graduate student stipends gave way to the more generous salaries of assistant and associate professorships; on the other, growing families required more than a rudimentary back seat. But the question remains, why Volvos? why not Oldsmobiles, or Chryslers, or Mercury station wagons? The answer, I think, is that Volvos provided a solution to a new dilemma facing many academics--how to enjoy the benefits of increasing affluence while at the same time maintaining the proper attitude of disdain toward the goods affluence brings. In the context of this dilemma, the ugliness of the Volvo becomes its most attractive feature, for it allows those who own one to plead innocent to the charge of really wanting it. There must be another reason for the purchase, in this case a reason provided conveniently by the manufacturer in an advertising strategy that emphasizes safety. We don't buy these big expensive luxurious cars because we want to be comfortable or (God forbid) ostentatious; we buy them because we want to be safe. (I can only guess how many academics are now gobbling up overpriced Michelin tires reassured by a recent advertising campaign that they are purchasing family security rather than performance or glamour.) The ugliness of the automobile makes the cashing in of its negative value a straightforward and immediate transaction. Were the car not ugly, a Volvo owner might be in danger of hearing someone say, "My, what a stunning Volvo," to which he or she would have to respond, "Well, perhaps, but I really bought it because it is safe." But no Volvo owner will ever face the challenge of an

unwanted compliment, and therefore the disclaimer of nonutilitarian motives need not even be made. Of course this entire economy is now threatened by the revelation that tests demonstrating Volvo's superior safety were faked; but since they are mostly academics, Volvo owners will no doubt be resourceful in the search for rationalizations and will probably take comfort from Consumer Reports or some other publication that breathes the proper anticommercial virtue.

Now it might be said that the relationship between academics and their Volvos is not exactly central to the life of the academy; but in fact it seems to me emblematic of a basic academic practice, the practice of translating into the language of higher motives desires and satisfactions one is unable or unwilling to acknowledge. If I can put the matter in the form of a rule or rule of thumb: whenever you either want something or get something, manage it in such a way as to deny or disguise its material pleasures. Nor is this a rule simply of personal behavior; it can generate the behavior of the entire profession. Consider, for example, the very material pleasures of the lecture and conference circuit, something that was not in place when I was a graduate student in the late fifties and early sixties. The flourishing of the circuit has brought with it new sources of extra income, increased opportunities for domestic and foreign travel, easy access to national and international centers of research, an ever-growing list of stages on which to showcase one's talents, and a geometric increase in the availability of the commodities for which academics yearn: attention, applause, fame, and, ultimately, adulation of a kind usually reserved for the icons of popular culture. In the face of such a cornucopia of benefits the academic world is in danger of at once providing and experiencing unadulterated gratification, but (never fear) the danger is warded off by a set of practices that exacts a payment, usually in advance, for every potential pleasure.

Nine times out of ten, when you arrive in a strange city, there will be no one to meet you despite elaborate and repeated promises; or, if you are met, you will be taken to a hotel only to find that the reservations were never made and every room is taken; or, if the reservations have been made and there is a room, the hotel is in the course of being rebuilt (this seems to be a requirement for hotels at the MLA convention) and there is no possibility at all of either sleep or study. And if these difficulties are somehow overcome or avoided and you actually get to the campus at the appointed time, more or less prepared, the room you are supposed to speak in will be locked and no one will know who has the key; and if the room isn't locked, it will be occupied by a scheduled class; or, if it is unoccupied, it will be either impossibly small or embarrassingly large; or, if by some accident it is the right size, it will be the only room in the university, if not the entire state, that is not air-conditioned. You will then be intro-

duced by someone who takes pride in either forgetting or mispronouncing your name, who associates you with work you haven't done in ten years, who attributes to you opinions the reverse of those you actually hold, and who believes that it is only by a perverse turn of fate that he or she is not being introduced by you. The audience you then address will be a fraction of what it might have been had the lecture or panel been properly advertised; there will be insufficient time for questions and discussion; and when it is all over, and you have endured a dinner only slightly less adversarial than your Ph.D. orals, you are then left alone, at 7:45 P.M., to pass the long night in a town that offers you only a parade of unfamiliar faces.

Transposed to another institutional key, the same scenario plays itself out in the context of the job market. Here the visit is to a potential employer, but it often seems that you are interviewing for a place in a penal colony. Again, the, arrangements are systematically botched; planes not met, reservations mixed up; rather than being introduced by someone who barely knows your name, you are interrogated by deans who mistake you for the candidate from neurosurgery; your schedule is a brutal one, in the course of which you meet potential future colleagues who warn you away from their territory even as they try to enlist you in wars now going into their twentieth year; you have coffee with students who inform you that you were the department's fourth choice; later you will have an intimate dinner with department members whose inability to talk to you is exceeded only by their inability to talk to each other. At your presentation or, rather, audition, you will be asked many questions, but the content of all of them will be the same: what makes you think that you're good enough to join us in the first place? Finally you leave town without ever having had a chance to find out very much about the things that would really be of concern to anyone contemplating relocating from one place to another; and in general it seems that no one thought to ask the most obvious question: if I were coming to see whether I wished to exchange my present situation for a new one, what would I want to know and how would I want to be treated?

The result is perfectly in line with the general rule I announced earlier: the pleasure and satisfaction of landing a new and better job are blunted and even overwhelmed by the programmatic unpleasantness of the process. Nor is this an accident that could be avoided if a few obvious truths about social and human obligations were pointed out to the responsible parties; for the inattentiveness, like the ugliness of Volvos, is purposeful and is valued both by those who perform it and by those who receive it. Were the process to be efficient and sensitive both to the personal feelings of the participants and to the realities of the marketplace, it would be too much like the world of business, and the investment in being distinguishable from business is so great that academics will pay any price to protect it. In the

collective eye of the academy, sloppiness, discourtesy, indifference, and inefficiency are virtues, signs of an admirable disdain for the mere surfaces of things, a disdain that is itself a sign of a dedication to higher, if invisible, values.

Once one understands this, an otherwise puzzling feature of academic life makes perfect sense. I am referring to the remarkable uniform incompetence of academic administrators. It is tempting to say, as many have, that academics get the administrators they deserve, but it would be more accurate to say that academics get the administrators they want. What they want is administrators who are either so weak that they provide no protection against the pressures exerted by higher-level administrators or so tyrannical that there is no protection against the pressures they exert. In either case, by getting the administrators they want, academics get what they really want--they get to be downtrodden; and by getting to be downtrodden, academics get what they really really want--they get to complain. If one listens to academics, one might make the mistake of thinking they would like their complaints to be remedied; but in fact the complaints of academics are their treasures, and were you to remove them, you would find either that they had been instantly replenished or that you were now their object.

The reason that academics want and need their complaints is that it is important to them to feel oppressed, for in the psychic economy of the academy, oppression is the sign of virtue. The more victimized you are, the more subject to various forms of humiliation, the more you can tell yourself that you are in the proper relation to the corrupted judgment of merely worldly eyes. Were you to be rewarded in accordance with what you took to be your true worth, that worth would immediately be suspect. The sense of superiority so characteristic of the academic mentality requires for its maintenance continued evidence of the world's disdain, evidence that takes the form of poor working conditions, the elimination of so-called privileges like offices and telephones, increases in course loads, decreases in salary, and public ridicule. As each of these misfortunes is visited upon the academic, he or she acquires a greater measure of that pained sensitivity that makes so many academic faces indistinguishable from the faces of medieval martyrs.

Now if martyrdom and self-denial, even self-hatred, are the true treasures of the academic life, it follows that the generous academic will be eager to share those treasures with others. That is the purpose of tenure decisions and other rites of academic passage. Here the skill is once again to manage the bestowing of rewards in such a way as to render them bitter to the taste. The strategies include delay, ritual humiliations, unannounced shifts in standards, procedures that are either frustratingly secret or painfully public. The meetings themselves are an exercise in virtuoso captiousness where the art is to find the formulation that will best express the proper combination of regretful compassion and condemnation: "a great teacher, an excellent colleague, but..." "The work is good and there is an impressive amount of it, but..." "We have no better undergraduate teacher, but..." And if there seems to be nothing to fault, there is always the invocation of the standard that no one, least of all the invoker, could meet: "Is she taking the field in an entirely new direction?" And if the answer should be "yes," it is no trick at all to turn it into a negative. "Is her work so ahead of the field that no one will be inclined to follow her?"You get the idea. You've been getting and giving it all your life, when you've been blocked from teaching a course for so long that when you are finally assigned it, you are no longer interested in the material; when you've waited for years for an office you're given three months before the building is torn down; when you've been an associate professor for so long that promotion can only be experienced as an insult. Whatever else they are, academics are resourceful, and when they set their minds to it, there are no limits to the varieties of pain they can inflict on one another.Originally I had intended to write this paper differently, not as an unfolding argument, but as a simple enumeration of the aphorisms I have been fashioning since I entered the profession in 1962. Here is a sample:


--In the academy, the lower the act, the higher the principle invoked to justify it. This aphorism underlies the analyses I offered earlier; it speaks to the academic inability to acknowledge desire unless it is packaged as altruism. It also speaks to the bizarre but strangely logical outcome of this transformative practice: pettiness, which might be held in check were it acknowledged for what it is, instead becomes raised to a principle and is renamed eccentricity or even individualism so that it can then be defended in the name of academic freedom. In this way acts of incredible cruelty can be licensed and even admired. The sequence leads us to another aphorism:

--Academics like to keep their eyes on the far horizon with the result that everything and everyone in the near horizon gets sacrificed. The curious thing is that ac

Let me emphasize again that these aphorisms describe a two-way commerce, victim and victimizer, trashers and trashees, each not only needing but desiring the other. The essence of it al is contained in the very first aphorism I ever formulated, in 1964 as I watched my colleagues at Berkeley turn from abasing themselves before deans and boards of trustees to abasing themselves before students: --Academics like to eat shit, and in a pinch, they don't care whose shit they eat. Of course had I known enough at the time, I could have saved myself the trouble and simply quoted from Freud's essays on masochism. For the masochist, Freud explains, "it is the suffering itself that matters; whether the sentence is cast by a loved one or by an indifferent person is of no importance; it may even be caused by impersonal forces or circumstances, but the true masochist always holds out his cheek whenever he sees a chance of receiving a blow" ( "The Economic Problem in Masochism"). (A friend suggested to me that a better title for this essay might be "An Academic Is Being Beaten".)

In the past year many blows have been struck and many cheeks have been proffered. The always dormant strain of anti-intellectualism in American life has been reawakened by a virulent union of disgruntled neoconservatives and ignorant journalists. In nearly every newspaper and magazine in the country, teachers of literature have been credited with the destruction of Western civilization and with other nameless crimes. Academic-bashing has become the national spectator sport, and, predictably, some academics are among the best players. They may soon be outdistanced, however, by a growing chorus of politicians led by George Bush who have realized anew what Ronald Reagan discovered in the 1966 California gubernatorial election, that academics present an irresistible target, not simply because they are highly visible, but because, by and large, they will not fight back. The election year of 1992 promises to provide a perfect match of an attacking army and a target population that finds its pleasure in punishment. Before it is all over, both sides may be moved to echo Wordsworth: "bliss was it in those times to be alive."

Of course, I may be wrong; it may not go that way. Indeed, everything that I have said may be wrong or worse, which is why, despite the fiftyyear tradition of the English Institute, I would prefer not to entertain questions at the conclusion of this paper. Instead, and in accordance with the spirit of academic practice as I have described it, I will cheerfully plead guilty to all charges in advance. I acknowledge that the statements I have made are too sweeping and admit of innumerable exceptions: that some Volvos are beautiful, that no one here now owns or has ever owned a Volvo; that the life you experience in your various departments is characterized by amity and generosity; and that your relationship to the rewards and privileges of the profession is straightforward and healthy. I further

ademics like to sacrifice themselves, that is,

--Academics like to feel morally culpable, especially in relation to those who would give anything to be in their place; and also,

--Academics like to feel morally superior, which they manage by feeling morally culpable. Together these aphorisms illuminate a curious history in which already enfranchised academics, largely male, gazed with envy and strangely mediated desire at the disenfranchised, first at Jews, then at women, then at blacks, and then at Native Americans, and now at gays and Arabs.

Let me emphasize again that these aphorisms describe a two-way commerce, victim and victimizer, trashers and trashees, each not only needing but desiring the other. The essence of it al is contained in the very first aphorism I ever formulated, in 1964 as I watched my colleagues at Berkeley turn from abasing themselves before deans and boards of trustees to abasing themselves before students: --Academics like to eat shit, and in a pinch, they don't care whose shit they eat. Of course had I known enough at the time, I could have saved myself the trouble and simply quoted from Freud's essays on masochism. For the masochist, Freud explains, "it is the suffering itself that matters; whether the sentence is cast by a loved one or by an indifferent person is of no importance; it may even be caused by impersonal forces or circumstances, but the true masochist always holds out his cheek whenever he sees a chance of receiving a blow" ( "The Economic Problem in Masochism"). (A friend suggested to me that a better title for this essay might be "An Academic Is Being Beaten".)

In the past year many blows have been struck and many cheeks have been proffered. The always dormant strain of anti-intellectualism in American life has been reawakened by a virulent union of disgruntled neoconservatives and ignorant journalists. In nearly every newspaper and magazine in the country, teachers of literature have been credited with the destruction of Western civilization and with other nameless crimes. Academic-bashing has become the national spectator sport, and, predictably, some academics are among the best players. They may soon be outdistanced, however, by a growing chorus of politicians led by George Bush who have realized anew what Ronald Reagan discovered in the 1966 California gubernatorial election, that academics present an irresistible target, not simply because they are highly visible, but because, by and large, they will not fight back. The election year of 1992 promises to provide a perfect match of an attacking army and a target population that finds its pleasure in punishment. Before it is all over, both sides may be moved to echo Wordsworth: "bliss was it in those times to be alive."

Of course, I may be wrong; it may not go that way. Indeed, everything that I have said may be wrong or worse, which is why, despite the fiftyyear tradition of the English Institute, I would prefer not to entertain questions at the conclusion of this paper. Instead, and in accordance with the spirit of academic practice as I have described it, I will cheerfully plead guilty to all charges in advance. I acknowledge that the statements I have made are too sweeping and admit of innumerable exceptions: that some Volvos are beautiful, that no one here now owns or has ever owned a Volvo; that the life you experience in your various departments is characterized by amity and generosity; and that your relationship to the rewards and privileges of the profession is straightforward and healthy. I further  acknowledge that I am necessarily (and multiply) implicated in the critique I have presented; that I have been a member of the academy for thirty years, in which I have been an eager participant in its economy, often providing, as I have here, the desired beating for those who have assembled to receive it; that every sin of which I have accused others is writ large in my own performance. And finally I acknowledge that there is no justification whatsoever for that performance, that it is irresponsible, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, and entirely without redeeming social or intellectual value. It is just something I have always wanted to do.




※ 最后修改者:nunia, 修改于:2006-04-19 21:29:00 ※
※ 来源:Unknown Friends - 未名交友 http://us.jiaoyou8.com ※
evenhorizon ( 男 , 41 )
作者: evenhorizon, 俱乐部:死党 [引文评论] [评论
时间: 2006-04-19 21:29:00, 来源:未名交友
标题: Re: THE UNBEARABLE UGLINESS of Volvos

volvo cars have nick name "brick" 砖块.

some volvo model look good, but not many.

saab is cool car, most saabs are turbo charged.  they often look slightly unconventional.



【 --------------------原文-------------------- 】
: 作者:nunia, 俱乐部:死党
: 日期:2006-04-16 14:27:37, 来源:未名交友
: 标题:THE UNBEARABLE UGLINESS of Volvos
:
: :

: On a day in the mid-seventies--it may have varied in different parts of : the country and at different universities--American academics stopped : buying ugly Volkswagens and started buying ugly Volvos, with a few : nonconformists opting for ugly Saabs. Now on the surface there would : seem to be an obvious explanation for this shift in preference: on the : one hand, graduate student stipends gave way to the more generous : salaries of assistant and associate professorships; on the other, : growing families required more than a rudimentary back seat. But the : question remains, why Volvos? why not Oldsmobiles, or Chryslers, or : Mercury station wagons? The answer, I think, is that Volvos provided a : solution to a new dilemma facing many academics--how to enjoy the : benefits of increasing affluence while at the same time maintaining the : proper attitude of disdain toward the goods affluence brings. In the : context of this dilemma, the ugliness of the Volvo becomes its most : attractive feature, for it allows those who own one to plead innocent : to the charge of really wanting it. There must be another reason for : the purchase, in this case a reason provided conveniently by the : manufacturer in an advertising strategy that emphasizes safety. We : don't buy these big expensive luxurious cars because we want to be : comfortable or (God forbid) ostentatious; we buy them because we want : to be safe. (I can only guess how many academics are now gobbling up : overpriced Michelin tires reassured by a recent advertising campaign : that they are purchasing family security rather than performance or : glamour.) The ugliness of the automobile makes the cashing in of its : negative value a straightforward and immediate transaction. : Were the car not ugly, a Volvo owner might be in danger of hearing : someone say, "My, what a stunning Volvo," to which he or she would have : to respond, "Well, perhaps, but I really bought it because it is safe." : But no Volvo owner will ever face the challenge of an


--In the academy, the lower the act, the higher the principle invoked to justify it. : This aphorism underlies the analyses I offered earlier; it speaks to : the academic inability to acknowledge desire unless it is packaged as : altruism. It also speaks to the bizarre but strangely logical outcome : of this transformative practice: pettiness, which might be held in : check were it acknowledged for what it is, instead becomes raised to a : principle and is renamed eccentricity or even individualism so that it : can then be defended in the name of academic freedom. In this way acts : of incredible cruelty can be licensed and even admired. The sequence : leads us to another aphorism:

--Academics : like to keep their eyes on the far horizon with the result that : everything and everyone in the near horizon gets sacrificed. The curious thing is that ac

: Let me emphasize again that these aphorisms describe a two-way : commerce, victim and victimizer, trashers and trashees, each not only : needing but desiring the other. The essence of it al is contained in : the very first aphorism I ever formulated, in 1964 as I watched my : colleagues at Berkeley turn from abasing themselves before deans and : boards of trustees to abasing themselves before students: --Academics like to eat shit, and in a pinch, they don't care whose shit they eat. : Of course had I known enough at the time, I could have saved myself the : trouble and simply quoted from Freud's essays on masochism. For the : masochist, Freud explains, "it is the suffering itself that matters; : whether the sentence is cast by a loved one or by an indifferent person : is of no importance; it may even be caused by impersonal forces or : circumstances, but the true masochist always holds out his cheek : whenever he sees a chance of receiving a blow" ( "The Economic Problem : in Masochism"). (A friend suggested to me that a better title for this : essay might be "An Academic Is Being Beaten".)

: In the past year many blows have been struck and many cheeks have been : proffered. The always dormant strain of anti-intellectualism in : American life has been reawakened by a virulent union of disgruntled : neoconservatives and ignorant journalists. In nearly every newspaper : and magazine in the country, teachers of literature have been credited : with the destruction of Western civilization and with other nameless : crimes. Academic-bashing has become the national spectator sport, and, : predictably, some academics are among the best players. They may soon : be outdistanced, however, by a growing chorus of politicians led by : George Bush who have realized anew what Ronald Reagan discovered in the : 1966 California gubernatorial election, that academics present an : irresistible target, not simply because they are highly visible, but : because, by and large, they will not fight back. The election year of : 1992 promises to provide a perfect match of an attacking army and a : target population that finds its pleasure in punishment. Before it is : all over, both sides may be moved to echo Wordsworth: "bliss was it in : those times to be alive."

Of : course, I may be wrong; it may not go that way. Indeed, everything that : I have said may be wrong or worse, which is why, despite the fiftyyear : tradition of the English Institute, I would prefer not to entertain : questions at the conclusion of this paper. Instead, and in accordance : with the spirit of academic practice as I have described it, I will : cheerfully plead guilty to all charges in advance. I acknowledge that : the statements I have made are too sweeping and admit of innumerable : exceptions: that some Volvos are beautiful, that no one here now owns : or has ever owned a Volvo; that the life you experience in your various : departments is characterized by amity and generosity; and that your : relationship to the rewards and privileges of the profession is : straightforward and healthy. I further

ademics like to sacrifice themselves, that is,

--Academics like to feel morally culpable, especially in relation to those who would give anything to be in their place; and also,

--Academics like to feel morally superior, which they manage by feeling morally culpable. : Together these aphorisms illuminate a curious history in which already : enfranchised academics, largely male, gazed with envy and strangely : mediated desire at the disenfranchised, first at Jews, then at women, : then at blacks, and then at Native Americans, and now at gays and Arabs.

: Let me emphasize again that these aphorisms describe a two-way : commerce, victim and victimizer, trashers and trashees, each not only : needing but desiring the other. The essence of it al is contained in : the very first aphorism I ever formulated, in 1964 as I watched my : colleagues at Berkeley turn from abasing themselves before deans and : boards of trustees to abasing themselves before students: --Academics like to eat shit, and in a pinch, they don't care whose shit they eat. : Of course had I known enough at the time, I could have saved myself the : trouble and simply quoted from Freud's essays on masochism. For the : masochist, Freud explains, "it is the suffering itself that matters; : whether the sentence is cast by a loved one or by an indifferent person : is of no importance; it may even be caused by impersonal forces or : circumstances, but the true masochist always holds out his cheek : whenever he sees a chance of receiving a blow" ( "The Economic Problem : in Masochism"). (A friend suggested to me that a better title for this : essay might be "An Academic Is Being Beaten".)

: In the past year many blows have been struck and many cheeks have been : proffered. The always dormant strain of anti-intellectualism in : American life has been reawakened by a virulent union of disgruntled : neoconservatives and ignorant journalists. In nearly every newspaper : and magazine in the country, teachers of literature have been credited : with the destruction of Western civilization and with other nameless : crimes. Academic-bashing has become the national spectator sport, and, : predictably, some academics are among the best players. They may soon : be outdistanced, however, by a growing chorus of politicians led by : George Bush who have realized anew what Ronald Reagan discovered in the : 1966 California gubernatorial election, that academics present an : irresistible target, not simply because they are highly visible, but : because, by and large, they will not fight back. The election year of : 1992 promises to provide a perfect match of an attacking army and a : target population that finds its pleasure in punishment. Before it is : all over, both sides may be moved to echo Wordsworth: "bliss was it in : those times to be alive."

Of : course, I may be wrong; it may not go that way. Indeed, everything that : I have said may be wrong or worse, which is why, despite the fiftyyear : tradition of the English Institute, I would prefer not to entertain : questions at the conclusion of this paper. Instead, and in accordance : with the spirit of academic practice as I have described it, I will : cheerfully plead guilty to all charges in advance. I acknowledge that : the statements I have made are too sweeping and admit of innumerable : exceptions: that some Volvos are beautiful, that no one here now owns : or has ever owned a Volvo; that the life you experience in your various : departments is characterized by amity and generosity; and that your : relationship to the rewards and privileges of the profession is : straightforward and healthy. I further  : acknowledge that I am necessarily (and multiply) implicated in the : critique I have presented; that I have been a member of the academy for : thirty years, in which I have been an eager participant in its economy, : often providing, as I have here, the desired beating for those who have : assembled to receive it; that every sin of which I have accused others : is writ large in my own performance. And finally I acknowledge : that there is no justification whatsoever for that performance, that it : is irresponsible, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, and entirely : without redeeming social or intellectual value. It is just something I : have always wanted to do.


: unwanted compliment, and therefore the disclaimer of nonutilitarian : motives need not even be made. Of course this entire economy is now : threatened by the revelation that tests demonstrating Volvo's superior : safety were faked; but since they are mostly academics, Volvo owners : will no doubt be resourceful in the search for rationalizations and : will probably take comfort from Consumer Reports or some other publication that breathes the proper anticommercial virtue.

: Now it might be said that the relationship between academics and their : Volvos is not exactly central to the life of the academy; but in fact : it seems to me emblematic of a basic academic practice, the practice of : translating into the language of higher motives desires and : satisfactions one is unable or unwilling to acknowledge. If I can put : the matter in the form of a rule or rule of thumb: whenever you either : want something or get something, manage it in such a way as to deny or : disguise its material pleasures. Nor is this a rule simply of personal : behavior; it can generate the behavior of the entire profession. : Consider, for example, the very material pleasures of the lecture and : conference circuit, something that was not in place when I was a : graduate student in the late fifties and early sixties. The flourishing : of the circuit has brought with it new sources of extra income, : increased opportunities for domestic and foreign travel, easy access to : national and international centers of research, an ever-growing list of : stages on which to showcase one's talents, and a geometric increase in : the availability of the commodities for which academics yearn: : attention, applause, fame, and, ultimately, adulation of a kind usually : reserved for the icons of popular culture. In the face of such a : cornucopia of benefits the academic world is in danger of at once : providing and experiencing unadulterated gratification, but (never : fear) the danger is warded off by a set of practices that exacts a : payment, usually in advance, for every potential pleasure.

: Nine times out of ten, when you arrive in a strange city, there will be : no one to meet you despite elaborate and repeated promises; or, if you : are met, you will be taken to a hotel only to find that the : reservations were never made and every room is taken; or, if the : reservations have been made and there is a room, the hotel is in the : course of being rebuilt (this seems to be a requirement for hotels at : the MLA convention) and there is no possibility at all of either sleep : or study. And if these difficulties are somehow overcome or avoided and : you actually get to the campus at the appointed time, more or less : prepared, the room you are supposed to speak in will be locked and no : one will know who has the key; and if the room isn't locked, it will be : occupied by a scheduled class; or, if it is unoccupied, it will be : either impossibly small or embarrassingly large; or, if by some : accident it is the right size, it will be the only room in the : university, if not the entire state, that is not air-conditioned. You : will then be intro-

: duced by someone who takes pride in either forgetting or mispronouncing : your name, who associates you with work you haven't done in ten years, : who attributes to you opinions the reverse of those you actually hold, : and who believes that it is only by a perverse turn of fate that he or : she is not being introduced by you. The audience you then : address will be a fraction of what it might have been had the lecture : or panel been properly advertised; there will be insufficient time for : questions and discussion; and when it is all over, and you have endured : a dinner only slightly less adversarial than your Ph.D. orals, you are : then left alone, at 7:45 P.M., to pass the long night in a town that : offers you only a parade of unfamiliar faces.

: Transposed to another institutional key, the same scenario plays itself : out in the context of the job market. Here the visit is to a potential : employer, but it often seems that you are interviewing for a place in a : penal colony. Again, the, arrangements are systematically botched; : planes not met, reservations mixed up; rather than being introduced by : someone who barely knows your name, you are interrogated by deans who : mistake you for the candidate from neurosurgery; your schedule is a : brutal one, in the course of which you meet potential future colleagues : who warn you away from their territory even as they try to enlist you : in wars now going into their twentieth year; you have coffee with : students who inform you that you were the department's fourth choice; : later you will have an intimate dinner with department members whose : inability to talk to you is exceeded only by their inability to talk to : each other. At your presentation or, rather, audition, you will be : asked many questions, but the content of all of them will be the same: : what makes you think that you're good enough to join us in the first : place? Finally you leave town without ever having had a chance to find : out very much about the things that would really be of concern to : anyone contemplating relocating from one place to another; and in : general it seems that no one thought to ask the most obvious question: : if I were coming to see whether I wished to exchange my present : situation for a new one, what would I want to know and how would I want : to be treated?

The result is : perfectly in line with the general rule I announced earlier: the : pleasure and satisfaction of landing a new and better job are blunted : and even overwhelmed by the programmatic unpleasantness of the process. : Nor is this an accident that could be avoided if a few obvious truths : about social and human obligations were pointed out to the responsible : parties; for the inattentiveness, like the ugliness of Volvos, is purposeful : and is valued both by those who perform it and by those who receive it. : Were the process to be efficient and sensitive both to the personal : feelings of the participants and to the realities of the marketplace, : it would be too much like the world of business, and the investment in : being distinguishable from business is so great that academics will pay : any price to protect it. In the

collective eye of the academy, sloppiness, discourtesy, indifference, and inefficiency are virtues, : signs of an admirable disdain for the mere surfaces of things, a : disdain that is itself a sign of a dedication to higher, if invisible, : values.

Once one understands this, : an otherwise puzzling feature of academic life makes perfect sense. I : am referring to the remarkable uniform incompetence of academic : administrators. It is tempting to say, as many have, that academics get : the administrators they deserve, but it would be more accurate to say : that academics get the administrators they want. What they want : is administrators who are either so weak that they provide no : protection against the pressures exerted by higher-level administrators : or so tyrannical that there is no protection against the pressures they exert. In either case, by getting the administrators they want, academics get what they really want--they get to be downtrodden; and by getting to be downtrodden, academics get what they really really : want--they get to complain. If one listens to academics, one might make : the mistake of thinking they would like their complaints to be : remedied; but in fact the complaints of academics are their treasures, : and were you to remove them, you would find either that they had been : instantly replenished or that you were now their object.

: The reason that academics want and need their complaints is that it is : important to them to feel oppressed, for in the psychic economy of the : academy, oppression is the sign of virtue. The more victimized you are, : the more subject to various forms of humiliation, the more you can tell : yourself that you are in the proper relation to the corrupted judgment : of merely worldly eyes. Were you to be rewarded in accordance with what : you took to be your true worth, that worth would immediately be : suspect. The sense of superiority so characteristic of the academic : mentality requires for its maintenance continued evidence of the : world's disdain, evidence that takes the form of poor working : conditions, the elimination of so-called privileges like offices and : telephones, increases in course loads, decreases in salary, and public : ridicule. As each of these misfortunes is visited upon the academic, he : or she acquires a greater measure of that pained sensitivity that makes : so many academic faces indistinguishable from the faces of medieval : martyrs.

Now if martyrdom and : self-denial, even self-hatred, are the true treasures of the academic : life, it follows that the generous academic will be eager to share : those treasures with others. That is the purpose of tenure decisions : and other rites of academic passage. Here the skill is once again to : manage the bestowing of rewards in such a way as to render them bitter : to the taste. The strategies include delay, ritual humiliations, : unannounced shifts in standards, procedures that are either : frustratingly secret or painfully public. The meetings themselves are : an exercise in virtuoso captiousness where the : art is to find the formulation that will best express the proper : combination of regretful compassion and condemnation: "a great teacher, : an excellent colleague, but..." "The work is good and there is an : impressive amount of it, but..." "We have no better undergraduate : teacher, but..." And if there seems to be nothing to fault, there is : always the invocation of the standard that no one, least of all the : invoker, could meet: "Is she taking the field in an entirely new : direction?" And if the answer should be "yes," it is no trick at all to : turn it into a negative. "Is her work so ahead of the field that no one : will be inclined to follow her?"You get the idea. You've been getting : and giving it all your life, when you've been blocked from teaching a : course for so long that when you are finally assigned it, you are no : longer interested in the material; when you've waited for years for an : office you're given three months before the building is torn down; when : you've been an associate professor for so long that promotion can only : be experienced as an insult. Whatever else they are, academics are : resourceful, and when they set their minds to it, there are no limits : to the varieties of pain they can inflict on one another.Originally I : had intended to write this paper differently, not as an unfolding : argument, but as a simple enumeration of the aphorisms I have been : fashioning since I entered the profession in 1962. Here is a sample:



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