This blog post is dedicated to the Masters lit students at UiB, who have just discovered my blog
Scene—early afternoon. A seminar room at UiB filled with Masters literature students and the UiB lit profs. A student has just finished presenting the beginning of her thesis, and another student has offered criticism. Below is the inner monologue that played in my head during the class:
Wow. She’s so extremely diplomatic. What an amazing gift. How nicely she phrases her criticism. Okay, now she’s beginning to sound diffident. Come on, girl! Don’t be cowed by the other woman’s age, you’ve got heaps more brains. I wish that woman would just sit quiet and take it. Otherwise this is going to be more like a ping-pong match than an academic discussion. Now, is anyone going to say the much-needed and obvious fact: that this thesis lacks any idea of its own? Oh, good, you can always trust Randi to articulate the unpleasant. It’s her professorial prerogative. Walt Whitman as eco-poet... or not. If you stretch his "I contain multitudes" that far, lady, you'll be left with "Walt Whitman: Poet." Gosh, Jakob may have just saved her thesis with that idea. I wonder if she’ll be smart enough to take it. Oh Jesus, no, why is the American prof speaking? Maybe if I just duck my head down like this I can pretend I’m in a different room. Or country. Why does he always start out with, “If I were writing this…” Dude, why must everything be twisted around until it reflects you? He’s Charles Tansley from To The Lighthouse, only neither marriage nor tenure can cure him. [American Prof: If I were writing this, and I know I’m coming from a different cultural background, I’m an American—] No, don’t say that! Don’t bring attention to it! You want her to read Milton? What part of her-thesis-already-lacks-a-focus did you not understand? Okay, yes, good, mention that book. And that one. I know, we all know, you’ve read everything. I hate academics—Jesus! Did you just tell her to learn French? Oh, shit. Oh, shit, did I just moan “oh, shit” out loud? Oh good, the British professor’s jumping in. He should clear things up for her. Thank you, yes, she doesn’t have to learn French. And needn’t read Milton. NO! American prof, DO NOT respond! You are at a decided disadvantage here. Oh my gosh, this is horrible. They sound so polite and so irate. WASPs in a scuffle. My left hand neighbor wrote, “clash of the Titans” on a paper and passed it to me. More like clash of the lanky grizzled pedants who both need haircuts. What utter agony it is not to burst out laughing right now. The student to my right is chuckling. He has written “intellectual mud fight” on his computer and angled it at me. How on earth do people find academia boring?
*There is a prequel to this scene, from last night’s professors’ dinner at which my limbo half-student half-teacher status gave me the privilege of presence so that I could once more imagine bashing my head against the table. I’ll share it in a later post when I have more time to do it justice.
** My dad is going to want me to take this post down in case the prof sees it and I get in trouble, but Abba, do you really think that a guy like that is going to spend time surfing the blogosphere?