doing something different with language
I had to start taking notes when we got to Karl Marx. Did you know he was
I read this and am still trying to decipher. Which may be about me trying to kill some time before I get back to other work, or my endless need to make this about me. In other words; I’m playing the game.
Of course, if you are trying to tell me something, you’ll just tell me, right? Right?
Leda, Chair Oh My Chair, yes of course I would tell you! (But do keep your eyes open!) 😉
I should have emphasized the YOU in that sentence above, since I have just agonized over making my comps committee official. And done it! 🙂 But there are other faculty members (and fellow students, to tell the whole truth) I’d also like to work with but there are all kinds of constraints – faculty who won’t work with each other, faculty who won’t work with certain students or on certain topics, a culture that discourages peer-sharing….
And, this isn’t to diss the wonderful good things happening here – like the presentations Mari’s students will be giving soon (to cite the most recent email)…somehow, there’s gotta be a way to address weaknesses without condemning the whole.
I think it would be fair for me to say that interpersonal mistakes can be very costly and unfortunately unforgiveable. The wrong word, the wrong look, the wrong attitude, the wrong set of actions and reactions and then …. A graduate student who doesn’t “show interest” in others scholarship or who becomes bored and drifts (is Jacques Derrida :-0)isn’t seen as an untapped potential who needs time and perhaps a different kind of stimulation. She is simply dismissed. If she has interests outside of the ones that already exist then there is a lot of smiling and nodding and walking away fast. This also speaks to the nature of the department. It is a place where there is no room for intellectual doubt or uncertainty. Coming in, one must know what she wants to do, who she wants to do it with, how she wants to do it. Knowing is the expectation, resisting, questioning, writhing is virtually social/professional/educational suicide among the cutting edge enclave. From an existential standpoint, the experience has tested my ability to rise from some seriously bitter ashes, learn something I needed to know both personally and intellectually, and try to get the dissertation done.
Shake ups and Break ups
I also would add that *this* academia offers some moments for creativity and courage but is rarely the place where real change occurs or true democracy gets enacted. Most of us are somewhere in between. Consider this: UMass is considered by many folks in the discipline to be a “radical” (i.e. critical, left) department. And yet, see Steph’s message above.
Also, relationships develop that are intensely personal on all sides. I have to remind myself (after a *break up* with a student that no longer wishes to work with me) that this is, in the end, a relationship based on the student’s needs and interests–and therefore my assumptions of mutual commitment are just that.
Looking back to my own grad school experience, I don’t see it replicated in anything in this department. I had co-advisers and a large committee. By the time I left I had done research and published with most of the faculty in the department. I had published two articles with fellow grad students. Different atmosphere for sure, but that doesn’t exist in that space anymore as well. Although I would never have realized it then, we all created that space in that moment because we wanted and needed it. I played a big role in making it happen, but mostly cause I didn’t know enough to think it *couldn’t* happen.
Li and I are working on an oral (?) history of the department. . . wonder what we’ll find/create. . .
Break ups. SURE. You had to use That phrase! (I read somewhere that it’s a teenage girl thing to capitalize like I do. Maybe I am really going through late puberty?!)
So here there are all these incredibly intense academic relationships that are deeply personal because we really freaking CARE about what we’re doing here, and who we’re doing it with.
But we’re supposed to “buy the party line” that its easy and “not a big deal” to swich committee members, or put together our dream team, and somehow we’ll all just manage to work things out.
gosh. I am sounding bitter but you know, my experience really has been good overall. I have no serious complaints (only minor ones – they do still hurt, but hey, what can one expect? Everything to be peaches and cream? Obviously NOT!) I have the commitee I want, and each of you has demonstrated some level of interest in what I want to do, some commitment to investing time to mold me in the ways that I need. I am hyper aware of other student’s experiences though, and some hypocrises….
Am I committing academic harikari? (Is it racist to use that term?) I’ve been warned: “They will fuck with you.” I so hope not!
As cutting edge as we are – and I don’t doubt that “we” are. 😉 Come on! We have brilliant faculty and peers! I’ve never been among so many smart people in my life! Many, if not most – all?! – of you are way smarter than me (sorry if I’m draggin’ you down!)
But, as “cutting edge” as we are, the disciplinary mechanisms are INTENSE. Learn “deep” knowledge, don’t synergize. Conform your needs to your advisors interests. Jump through the hoops….hell. Us students are only gonna be here for….what’s the average, 3-6 years? Tolerable. Then faculty will adjust to the new wave.
I feel like I sound really angry. Shit. Its not you, its me. A “wrapping”, as we’d call it in COM250. And, as we’d also say, don’t let wrapping distract you from the gift. 🙂 ( I sure hope there IS one, and this isn’t just a pointless, self-satsfying vent. I am possibly too wicked tired to be doing this….)
I will be interested in the oral history Li & Leda are working on. I was here in 2 phases: BA and Ph.D. I made a switch in my decision when I arrived, and while I don’t regret it, it wasn’t easy. I felt I was letting others down. I hear what unhooked & unhinged is saying……
Though I’m glad someone gets what I’m saying, there is a huge difference between fearing you’ll disappoint an advisoror other faculty member and fearing you’ll appear anti-intellectual, incompetent, and hopelessly ignorant. The issues I have faced have had to deal with competence, not simply indecision. I doubt department faculty would ever come out and say that they have no respect for some of their graduate students intellectual abilities. To be considered intelligent and worthy of attention by the cutting edge enclave, a graduate student can show no signs of theoretical, methodological, or conceptual weakness.
Unfortunately, some people learn best by not learning right away–if that makes any sense. And some people when not stimulated by the actual approach to ideas may fail to make connections, feel bored, and actually lose interest–die on the academic vine. An academic moment like this routinely ends in leaving the program pre-ABD and sometimes even after becoming ABD. There is no excuse for not knowing an answer on exams and in papers. The graduate student is always responsible for getting the answer. The problem arises when the graduate student knows “the answer” (sort of) but will really only known the answer once she puts that answer into some meaningful intellectual context. However, that deeper understanding may take time to come. And when the grad student feels cut off from the intellectual environment that understanding may be put off indefinitely or much longer than faculty deem reasonable. The point is that there is no real way to recover from the mistake of not knowing.
I raise this point because professors on the cutting edge seem unaware that some of the best thinkers in history have been some of the worst students, the most ideologically unpopular, and the most likely to think beyond even the cutting edge.
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