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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0672.  Wednesday, 18 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Sean K. Kelly <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 1996 16:09:46 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 96 14:09:49 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession

(3)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 1996 14:30:20 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0665 Re: The State of the Profession


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Kelly <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 1996 16:09:46 +0000
Subject: 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession

Dear Fellow Professionals,

As an ABD Comparitivist who is soon to be experiencing the "real" state of the
profession, I feel somehow obliged to enter this discussion.

Is it not the case that this discussion is able to take place because we are
currently unsure/insecure about the "meaning" of the words ("state",
"profession", and perhaps even the "of") that we use to respond to what we are
experiencing as a real academic crisis?

Why have we, as readers of both literary and cultural texts, failed as a
culture to respond to the fact that the university is, in Heidegger's words,
not the bricks, wall, and desks (as well as bills), but the
exploration/questioning of our own linguistic being in relation to the language
that we speak/read?  I am sure that there is not a one of us who has entered
the profession for deeply practical reasons, and yet it is the "practicalities"
that we have allowed to dominate our discoure about the humanities.

As I see it, the Humanities have become the site of the average.  We seek to
teach the average student, we desire the average faculty racial/gender make-up,
we must maintain average class sizes, etc. Inspite of this, the "truth" of our
calling always seems to be to the exceptional text.  (I am on this list not as
the average Shakespeare scholar, but as a Faulknerian/Poststructuralist who
experiences Shakespeare as that which promises a linguistic sight which exceeds
the average.) Let me illuminate this position:  there is nothing average in
even a line of Shakespeare, just as there is not an average Shakespeare that we
experience as his greatness.  Every reading is a singular encounter with this
linguistic experience.  This is our experience when we enter the "state of the
profession" in its most profound form.  However, we are quick to adopt the
"state of the university (as brick, wall, suits, and downsizing)" as the state
of our profession and thus succumb to its demands -- even in our hope beyond
hope of experiencing and helping others to experience the excellence of the
texts we teach and write about.  How is it that we have not understood that
each of these demand a certain relationship to the technology that we call
thinking?  While MLA continues to propogate the technology of the mediocre as
the truth of the profession, we as real people are forced into dealing with
this fallen notion excellence as best we can.  Is it not time that we learn
from our texts?  The questions involving how we deal with the current state of
the profession must first begin with the questions of what our profession
involves.  Must we deal with the ratino-technical "truths" of pigeon-holing,
publication quotas for tenure, explotation of part-time faculty, etc. as givens
within which we must navigate our ethico-political decisions regarding hiring,
firing, promoting, etc?  Is it not time that we, the literary, pay attention to
the language that is being imposed upon us by those with a notion of excellence
that is neither our own nor thoroughly interrogated even by itself?

Ultimately, I am suggesting that we are fighting a losing battle if we choose
to fight (in the classroom or with the university) on grounds which we should
reject as not being our own ( even our texts -- the Shakespeare's that we love
-- depend on this).  How do we navigate this crisis otherwise?  I am unsure.
However, I am sure that we have to reconsider the state of our own profession,
the state of our relationship to language itself,  before we can respond on
equal footing with the techno-political state of the profession that is
currently being imposed upon us (even by ourselves).

Sean K. Kelly
SUNY Binghamton

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 96 14:09:49 EDT
Subject: 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0665  Re: The State of the Profession

As someone who's been in the profession forty years, I'll take it on myself to
answer Lisa Broome's question about the relation between teaching and research.
 (Research, of course, really means publication, and precious little of that,
in literary studies, anyway, requires research, only a lot of lucubration.)
When I entered the profession the formula was, "You are hired for teaching and
promoted for publishing."

As far as I can tell, that formula still holds.  Nowadays, though, there is a
lot of emphasis on "demonstrating" one's teaching skills. It is my impression,
though, that these demonstrations are as spurious as they always were.

The real test of whether there has been any fundamental change in the formula
would be to see a gifted teacher who had no publications promoted.  By the way,
I don't think that's a good thing at all.

In my experience as professor and as chair, teaching and publication usually go
together.  People who are beloved as teachers but don't publish, tend to be
people who don't have new ideas but do have effective stand-up routines.

                                                  --Best, Norm

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 1996 14:30:20 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 7.0665 Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0665 Re: The State of the Profession

Hello.

I was rather surprised by the number of respondents to the "state of the
profession" thread, who talked about a conflict *between* teaching and
research.  In my own experience, teaching is a useful way to explore new ideas
in the company of original young minds.  The process of preparing a lecture
provides the fodder for what eventually becomes conference papers.

Moreover, some of the best teachers I've ever known have been publishing
fiends.  There's something particularly inspiring about hearing someone discuss
her or his own research.  Besides, people who stay intellectually active by
publishing usually have more to say.

Cheers,
Sean.
 

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