Post Academic

The Semi-Notorious New Yorker Cover

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWow. That New Yorker cover by Daniel Clowes, which depicts a PhD moving back in with his parents and hanging his advanced diploma on the wall hit too close to home. Gina Barreca wrote over at Brainstorm, “We wonder whether the implication is that Ph.D.’s are worth as much as third-place ribbons—and are as easy to obtain.”

Eh. Somehow I don’t envision that New Yorker cover convincing a lot of readers that PhDs are deluded individuals who are doomed to return to Mom and Dad’s basement.

Yes, the portrait creates an unflattering picture of those with advanced degrees, but the reason it stings is that it makes New Yorker readers with PhDs feel like they’re being attacked by their own kind. That’s reason enough to dislike the cover, and I find it annoying because it perpetuates grad student/professor stereotypes. I don’t think, however, that the cover has a strong enough message to convince a person who is on the fence about the value of advanced degrees to dismiss such degrees entirely.

People move back in with their parents all the time because their grand life dreams didn’t work out, but it doesn’t mean there’s a reason to condemn the profession they chose. After all, people still go to the theater and go to rock shows, and for every successful actor or band, there’s probably about 10 people living in their Mom and Dad’s basements.

I posted the image of the New Yorker cover because I’m analyzing it for a semi-scholarly reason. I am fully aware that I’m pushing it with that rationale, so I kept the image small. If you want to see the image in detail, buy your own copy of the magazine.

Why You Should Invest in Computer Books

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWe’ve already warned you against hoarding books, but you need some computer books for your academic career. Chances are good that you’re here because you have either started grad school or you are concerned about the state of grad school in the Humanities. So why do you need a book on HTML, CSS, or Windows 7?

A little computer knowledge can increase your value in the workplace, whether you wind up in academia or not. Learning HTML in particular expanded my job opportunities after I left graduate school. You don’t need to turn into a mega-hacker, but being able to hop on a computer or build a Web site or a Wiki will save you time and will make you much happier. Why is that, especially when you focus on books and reading?

Your students expect you to be wired. More and more students want PDFs, or they want to visit a Wiki to get course materials. You don’t have to start speaking to them in 140-character Twitter lingo, but you will need to make your coursework accessible in more ways.

Fewer IT resources will be available. As universities cut budgets, the hard truth is that departments will have to share the IT guys. That is not an ideal situation, but the delays you are experiencing now to fix your computer will only increase. It’s best to take charge of the situation and start thinking of the computer tasks you perform most often (Printing? Word processing? Spreadsheets for your grades?) and buy a book or two that can help you deal with these tasks.

Other faculty members will love you. You don’t want to get stuck showing people how to print specific sections of Excel spreadsheets, but being known as your department’s computer whiz gives you an edge.

But how do you get started? Schedule a few hours a weekend to sit down with your computer and learn some new skills. Set a goal first, such as creating a custom grading spreadsheet or building a wiki, get a book on the subject, and get started. If you want any specific book recommendations or have anything you want to suggest, either e-mail us or leave a note in the comments.

Image of a PDP-12 from Uppsala University from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Breaking Professor Stereotypes: Homi Bhabha. Seriously.

Posted in Breaking Academic Stereotypes by Caroline Roberts on May 14, 2010
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Trust me on this one. Okay, Arnold and I will be the first to tell you that Bhabha is damn near incomprehensible. Yet he breaks professor stereotypes in one spectacular way—he has serious fashion skills.

Don’t believe me? Even if you haven’t seen him in person, Bhabha is regularly recognized in the Boston Globe for his style. He was even listed as one of the Most Stylish Bostonians in 2007, along with Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics. Bhabha gets this sort of attention for good reason. He’s like the Tim Gunn of critical theory.

In an interview with the Globe, he describes his style as a reflection of his own “eclectic, hybrid cultural provinces.” (Nice to see he adjusted his prose for the masses.) He also mentions that his go-to fashion piece is his “black and white Indian silk dressing gown.”

I desperately want to link to one of the Globe’s photos, but you will have to see it for yourself. The Harvard Crimson also has a photo of Bhabha in a man-scarf. If you took a photo of Bhabha working it, let us know, and we’ll add it to the site.

Support Matt Stewart’s LitDraft!

Posted in Breaking Academic Stereotypes by Caroline Roberts on April 30, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWith the exceptions of JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, the literary world still doesn’t have the mass appeal that generates the big bucks. Rowling and Meyer are big winners precisely because they appeal to a large audience, especially teens, who have disposable income and who aren’t afraid to spend it.

But these authors are in the minority, and it’s tough for new authors to break out. Although novelists are creative, they just aren’t the greatest at promoting themselves and convincing others why they matter. Hmmm … sounds a lot like grad students and academics …

Luckily, author Matt Stewart—whose novel The French Revolution comes out on Bastille Day, FYI—proposed a solution in a recent HuffPo piece. He suggests a LitDraft, just like the NFL Draft, but with authors.

Why not? The public obsesses over drafts, wondering which player is a sleeper hit and which player will flame out. And the marketing possibilities are dizzying:

The LitDraft is more than a mere recruitment tool–it’s a national media event focused on reading! Put the LitDraft on TV (CSPAN, PBS, whatever); give us face time with reclusive literary celebrities; provide running commentary and red carpet interviews; and package nifty segments on writers’ fascinating stories. It’d get casual fans fired up about new voices–hell, it’d get them thinking about reading for a few minutes period. Along the way, the LitDraft creates instant local celebrities, and a brief descent from the New York juggernaut might even make the book world feel slightly accessible to readers. (Did JK Rowling really wear that?)

A LitDraft would also benefit literature departments everywhere by reminding the public that words aren’t just important, but they’re also fun.

Want to know which writers Matt Stewart would like to have in his own LitDraft? Find out after the jump!

Image of 2008 draft results by Jim F, posted to Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.


“Howling Mad” Murdock Was Totally a Liberal Arts Grad Student

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo McSweeney’s has had a field day with liberal arts majors lately, and a recent satire re-imagines the stock “Team Assembly” scene so popular in action flicks. Usually, action-movie “Team Assembly” involves gathering individuals with special skills that are deployed at just the right time. Blame the “Seven Samurai” for this plot.

Every action-movie team has the brains, the muscle, the sex magnet, the leader … and of course the Batsh*t Insane one. For you pop-culture buffs, that’s “Howling Mad” Murdock from the “A Team.”

Well, who better to be the crazy person on a team than a liberal arts major? Who else is more nuts than that? The “team leader” in Michael Lacher’s satire says,

Your midterm paper on the semiotics of Band of Outsiders turned a lot of heads at mission control. Your performance in Biology For Non-Science Majors was impressive, matched only by your mastery of second-year Portuguese. And a lot of the research we do here couldn’t have happened without your groundbreaking work on suburban malaise and its representation and repression in John Hughes’ films.

Yup. That’s a sign of a nutty mo-fo who has just the right spirit to lead a team into workplace battle. Remember that, hiring managers. Don’t dismiss the resume of a liberal arts major. You might just need a crazy visionary on your team some day.

The Only Thing That Can Stop This Asteroid Is Your Liberal Arts Degree [McSweeney’s]

Image of A Team van graffiti by Hannu from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Breaking the Academic Stereotype: Professor as Crimefighter, Asskicker

Any time you hear one of those tired stereotypes about lazy, booze-swilling, skirt-chasing, freeloading professors, simply bookmark this post, and pull up this image:

Yes, that’s a professor who is fighting crime. Journalism professor Kim Komenich, who teaches at San Jose State, caught a perp in a bear hug before he could rob a bank. Kudos to you, professor, for doing us all a favor and proving that, yes, professors do much more than drone on about obscure matters. In their off-hours, they fight crime!

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

This action has probably increased Professor Komenich’s “hot pepper” rating, and one commenter at the Chronicle of Higher Ed labeled him “the new hottest man in academe.”

Professor Halts an Apparent Robbery in Progress — With a Bear Hug [Chronicle of Higher Ed]

Crime-in-progress/perp photos wind up released to the masses courtesy of the police department. All charges against the person in the bear hug are alleged until proven under law.

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