"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Monday, April 4, 2011

"The fiction of the natural is homologous with the discourse of the gendered body."

Over at Stuff Academics Like, the latest addition to my blogroll, you will find much to entertain you. For example, "The Guessing Game" is a regular feature listing a bunch of real conference paper/article titles and one fake one (readers have to guess the fake), but I've been entertaining myself today with the Academic Sentence Generator, linked to in this post.

Hence the title for today's post. The way it works is that you have four categories, each with a predetermined set of terms. You choose one term from each category, and, bingo!, you're on your way to generating outstanding academic prose, as confoundingly obtuse as it gets. Here, let's generate some more (all I did in these gems was change one word):

The fiction of the natural furnishes a provisional lens for the analysis of the discourse of agency.

The fiction of the natural is virtually coextensive with the discourse of power/knowledge.

The fiction of the natural is strictly congruent with the discourse of the public sphere.

The fiction of the natural clarifies the position of the discourse of linguistic transparency.

The fiction of the natural replays (in parodic form) the discourse of the nation-state.

The fiction of the natural is always already participating in the discourse of print culture.

The fiction of the natural asks to be read as the discourse of the image.

The results get a little repetitive after a while, but I swear I could write a paper around one of these suckers -- if someone wanted to pay me. But that's the thing about academia: We've all swallowed the shitte-covered lie that our work is worthless to society beyond the Ivory Tower, that we should generate sentences and lectures and original research all for free, all for luuuuuurv and not money, because if it's "academic" it can hardly be "useful." How many things can you find wrong with that logic?

Yeah, so here's what I say: The fiction of the natural has been coopted by anti-intellectual forces in our society to make decisions about what should "naturally" be funded or defunded. Naturally, higher education is at the top of the list, because, why would you want a majority of educated voters capable of asking embarrassing questions about who and what DO receive funding? Naturally, you want a populace as dumb as possible in order to get voters to vote against their own best interests. Naturally, you don't want too many people around who can tell the difference between fact and fiction, and you certainly don't want anyone around who would attempt to make meaning out of computer generated gibberish sentences.

Naturally, the capacity to make sense out of nonsense is dangerous.

But if you lack the basic capacity to recognize that to be human is to live in a world always and forever mediated by language and that language remains an imperfect medium, you easily become a pawn in the power games played through political, social, economic, and cultural discourses by those who very well know how to use language to their own advantage by telling you what you want to hear.

Damned English professors! How dare they train people to recognize where meaning lies!! (pun intended)

Now, go on over to the Academic Sentence Generator and figure out a title for your next conference paper. Your department may not have the money to fund your trip to that conference (aw, aren't budget cuts the best?), but, hey, at least you can call your paper anything you please. And no one will be the wiser.


  1. That site is awesome. :) I literally cannot believe that "Jesus, the Brown Skinned Revolutionary: Was Jesus a Marxist Rapper?" is the title of a paper. Wow.

    I recently decided to leave academe as an ABD, after a stint on the job market. I got a couple of interviews, but in the process realized I'd be miserable at either school.

    I've been working part-time in a field I have ten years' experience in for the last several years to get myself out of grad-student-poverty. Today, I saw a couple of job listings for management positions in this field in a city I'd love to live in. The minimum starting salary is more than what either school would offer an assistant prof.

    I think I'm officially done.

    Thanks so much for your blog ... you inspired me to start my own. If I can help even one reader the way that you and Worst Professor Ever and Versatile Ph.D. have - well, that's worth it.

    This idea that academia is the only worthy job out there, and that it's worth putting yourself into poverty and depression to do? It needs to go.

    Thanks for this blog ... it's an inspiration.

  2. Wow, JC, thanks for your kind words. You know, I started this thing mainly as a venting outlet, but it's good to know there are readers like you out there -- and that I might motivate one or two others to leave.

    The funny thing is that, unlike a lot of the other postacademic bloggers, I really do miss academe and felt (and continue to feel) that I had/have something to offer both in terms of teaching and research. Maybe that's arrogance, but a lot of my bitterness and frustration and anger comes from having to choose between two absurd extremes: poverty/depression/doing what I like and am good at on the one hand and a living wage/boredom/waste of knowledge and skills on the other.

    No wonder so many junior academics are miserable, but I refuse to accept (and hopefully you do, too) that my choice to leave is the result of failure or inadequacy or some other shortcoming on my part. I refuse to see the breakdown of this system as my fault or leaving as my loss -- though there is much that I miss.

    No, when good teachers and original thinkers and researchers start walking away in large enough numbers, academe will have to reckon with its own failures -- as will a society which has, in recent years, so aggressively worked to defund it.

    Glad you stopped by. I will definitely go over and check out your place -- the more of us speaking out the better!!

  3. I actually do understand why you miss academia. For all of the bitterness I have toward the system itself, I do miss teaching. Research, not as much - but I was going for the SLAC-type jobs from the beginning, with an eye on doing more applied "real world" research or in collaboration with students.

    But I agree with you that the problem is not us - it is with the system of academia. It is simply not sustainable for schools to keep churning out Ph.D.'s while stocking their departments with adjunct faculty. I really do think that if I went on the market again next year I could land something (the market in our discipline isn't as horrible as in humanities), but I think I've decided that I don't want to be part of such an exploitative and, frankly, abusive system of higher education anymore. I can still read and write and study interesting issues, and with the freedom of a "normal" job, perhaps I can adjunct a class here and there at night if I miss teaching (you know, the way that adjuncting is SUPPOSED to work).

    It's hard not to fall into the "I'm a failure" mindset sometimes, but I'm doing fairly well and focusing on the positives ahead of me. If nothing else, it feels good to have taken charge of my career and life for the first time since I came into grad school, you know?