Self-awareness is hard. Because, let’s face it—a lot of people don’t like themselves. And in academe, where social ticks and neuroses are disproportionally high per capita, we are bunch of Woody Allens walking around with all of the hang-ups and none of the jokes.
Well, okay, not none…there are parodies of the profession galore. The video that circulated on youtube and about which my colleague Russell McCutcheon recently posted on this very blog comes to mind. It made my academic friends and me roar—a student asks her professor for a letter of recommendation because she wants to get a Ph.D. in the humanities and is met with a scowling litany of the ways in which the profession is a thankless and unfulfilling one, that the life she’s facing is one of misery and exhaustion, and that, of course, she’ll get a letter. Get it?? Professional desperation is really funny! Another knee-slapper is the brochure left anonymously in the common areas at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association a few years back. Along with being a huge conference, the MLA is where a lot of graduate students in the English discipline interview for university jobs. It gave information on the conference that I eagerly snatched up (I was still on the job market and was thinking of eager beavers and early birds and other conscientious woodland creatures). My close and studious reading rendered bits of information like, among other things, directions to “Adjunct Alley,” where someone arrived after taking the subway to “Anxiety Blvd” (I think it was the second stop after Depression Lane). It also provided a diagram of the layout of the floor of the big hotel that held the job information center (schools conducted interviews here in a large room full of tables with little numbers…it was like academic speed-dating). The diagram took the shape of a man pointing a gun to his own head. See?? Suicide may not actually be painless, but it is apparently hilarious! Continue reading