Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

Sur la linguistique

Why was it that, back then when we were in Comparative Literature, we thought Linguistics was the other cool field? I think it had to do with not being a discipline that reproduced a nation-state or the Area Studies model, and that was theoretical, and that (we thought then) could begin to dismantle colonial arrangements of knowledge. And Philology was falling out of fashion. I announce that I have now decided Linguistics is about as uncool a field as can be found. I am for Philology and against Linguistics, on grounds that linguists do not speak languages or know anything about them. Linguists with deep knowledge of a language other than their own may receive an exception, as may those who study their own language exclusively. All others, however, are frauds. They should return their degrees, and resign their professorships. If you do not realize there is a difference between being a fully educated speaker of a language and a person who is functional for tourism in it, then you have no respect for it or for its speakers, let alone for it as an academic field; you have no business remaining in play.

Axé.

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P.S.A.

1. Catalan is a language, not a dialect. 2. All of Spanish America speaks Castilian. 3. There are very many literate Mexicans, including winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, and Mexicans are completely comprehensible to other Spanish speakers. 4. I, as a person who speaks educated Spanish and am really competent in it, can (a) INSTANTLY switch to using the vosotros form for you informal plural, it is no stretch, and (b) INSTANTLY switch to voseo for you informal singular, it is no stretch at all. 5. Forsooth, those kinds of grammatical differences among regions, and differences in regional vocabulary, are ELEMENTARY. 6. There are ways in which my Spanish is not as sophisticated as that of some educated native speakers but these subtleties lie at FAR more advanced levels than being able to understand regional differences in normal speech. 7. In academia, we hire on expertise and publications, not on accent. So YES, it is possible to be an expert on Spain without being a Spaniard or speaking like one, and YES you would still be respected as an expert.

I guess you can tell I had an argument with someone today.

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Encore une fois, what I learned in psychotherapy

That I was not just a person with a question, but an unredeemably flawed person due to the sins of my ancestors. The worst of it, and the proof of it, was that I could not see my own inferiority. The only cure was to self-flagellate in some manner, and I certainly did not deserve any kind of consideration or help; I could not hope anyone would ever talk to me.

I had learned these things as a child, of course, but as I grew I stopped hearing them and I had not expected to have to hear them again. But then I heard them, and I hear them waking up most mornings still. (And I should not have the intellectual inclination, because it hurts people.)

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On abusers and enablers in academic culture

This is an important article and should be read. “You would be hard-pressed to find a mental-health professional, a productivity expert, or a writing coach who would suggest that — rather than recognizing people’s talent and rewarding their hard work — the way to get good results out of people is by making them feel inadequate or confused,” is one of its key sentences.

My current weapon against anxiety is to give myself time, not try to rush. I am amazed how easy it is to start work when I know that starting does not have to mean rushing. This, for me, is the true procrastination-buster.

The other general weapon is to keep saying my work is good enough and that I am not crazy. The linked article talks about the impact of gas-lighting, and the importance of not deciding, in that situation, that the problem actually is you.

Holding onto these weapons, keeping them at hand and within view, is a constant struggle.

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Money and a room of one’s own

It is cheaper for me to stay longer at my conference location than I need to than it is for me to stay less time, and this does not mean missing any more classes than I absolutely must. Therefore, I get to spend a week and two weekends in Mexico in October and I will make this a writing retreat.

To work well, you first have to be free of harassment and sabotage, and you also be free of major financial worries. Otherwise things are entirely too precarious. If you do not have this situation, you must recognize that. Don’t say: I am lazy. Say: it is cold in here. You might have to continue on in the cold but it will be easier to concentrate if you do not berate yourself for feeling it.

I, to work well, also need not to rush. Everyone else is about rushing and working in short bursts. If I think I have to sprint like that I put off starting as long as I possibly can. I may even decline the race. But if I decide to work at my pace and without self-recrimination, the way I did before Reeducation, I am always ready to start.

We’ve been having a crisis involving governance and service. I say that YES white men get credit for service, more than they deserve, while a lot of women and people of color end up having to do part or all of the work these people get credit for. If it surprises you that this should be true, you are in a position not to have to see how the world works.

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On having time to yourself

THIS is why the people with their alarm clocks and hourglasses, upping their so-called productivity, seem so antithetical to the life of the mind.

“The world of labor and wealth is armed against the idleness and utopia that it sometimes promises. Thinking and dreaming require unregulated time; intellectuals lingering over coffee and drink threaten solid citizens by the effort—or the appearance—of escaping the bondage of money and drudgery. Guardians of order have denigrated, almost for centuries, critics and rebels as mere ‘coffee house intellectuals.’ In the catalog of bourgeois sins bohemian intellectuals earn a double entry, thinking too much and doing too little.”

—Russell Jacoby in The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (Basic Books, 1987): 29.

I must read that book. I remember the reviews, but now I actually get it.

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On primitivism and aristocracy

I do not agree with everything in this Appiah article on primitivism but there are some very interesting references in it.

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I have been in Utrecht for a week and it has changed me greatly. I want to live here. I looked at some notes I made the first day and I know so much more about the town now, and the Netherlands are so much more familiar now.

I have learned something important: the idea that was imposed upon me, that one should finish the Ph.D. in a field like letters, and then decide what to do with one’s life, is an aristocratic one, was what aristocrats actually did. It is not an odd neurosis of mine that one must first prove personhood via the Ph.D. and ideally tenure in a top place in a humanities field before going on with one’s life, finding ones true field and vocation — it is an aristocratic ideal that was actually communicated to me as a requirement.

This is very interesting. Parents who want children out of the nest, on the one hand, but want to tie them to it hand and foot, on the other. I had some other psychoanalytic insights as well, about early infancy.

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