Monday, January 28, 2008

Frustration, Irritation, Etc.

You know, I spend a fair amount of time wondering what it would be like if I wrote as my actual self - or I suppose under my given name, if we're going to quibble about subjectivity-related issues - and not as a person called "Dr. Crazy." I wonder how it would change people's responses to me, or whether it would make me change my approach to blogging. I suspect it would have some effect on both, and obviously I think that effect wouldn't be entirely positive or I would have gone the way of writing under my real name long ago. Most days, I like the "Dr. Crazy" identity in the blogosphere, and I like the people whom I interact with through the blog. Most of the time I'm pretty pleased with myself in those interactions.

Today, I'm left frustrated, irritated, and with a general frown on my face related to all of the above. This happens periodically, and I know that I have a role in it. Somebody comes along - somebody who's outside of my regular readership, or who at the very least isn't an active commenter. And they use something written on this blog to make some kind of a point about hysterical, insensible, "odd" people, and then it whips me into a pissed off frenzy. Now, the thing is, I shouldn't be in a pissed off frenzy. I should just refuse to engage. But rather than do that, I somehow, no matter what my original intentions, am drawn into attempting to defend myself. And because I'm angry, I allow the false positions into which I've been put to define the terms of the debate, and I end up attempting to engage in a debate in which I'm never going to be on equal footing with the opponent.

And so yes. This is frustrating and irritating, and it makes me wish that I only had a hundred readers and that people who normally don't comment or respond to me would stay the fuck away. I know, not generous, esp. when so many people who aren't the usual stoppers-by have been directed here lately.

So, a few things and then I'm going to fill my day with work and put this from my mind:

  • I'm not some sort of voice of the working class or of underprivileged college students. Sure, I think that we need to talk about how their experience of higher education is different, and I think that we need to talk about the higher education that they actually experience rather than pretending all higher education experiences are basically the same. Sure, I think we need to acknowledge that actual experience and not attempt to abstract it in order to make ourselves more comfortable. But I'm not trying to tell anybody what they should believe about their own students. I'm just talking about my experience, and if you don't like what I have to say, even enough to admit that what I say might have merit as you disagree, then just leave me alone.
  • This blog has a personal voice. I don't want it to have a more formal one. I like to feel like this blog is a place where I am in conversation with people - not where I'm "fostering debate" or where I'm at my fucking job. If you don't like the voice I've chosen, if you have a strong reaction against inconsistency or if you find somebody writing in a loose way about the topics that I choose "odd," your prerogative. But if you can't engage with the blog on its own terms, or with me on my own terms, then just leave me alone.
  • I'm fucking tired of being used for other people to further their own agendas. I'm tired of being used as a selfish, hysterical, wrong-headed, uncommitted, delusional postergirl through which other people can grind their axes. Dude, if you need me for that, then you really probably don't have a leg to stand on. And thus, you'd be better off leaving me alone.
  • Whenever I feel frustrated like this and post this sort of thing, people blab about me only wanting people to blow sunshine up my ass and to agree with me and to praise me, as if I'm some sort of attention-whore. Not so. But you know what? Hold on a minute. Yes, I'm just going to go out on a limb and say, sure. That actually sounds pretty good. No more fucked up and harassing comments, no more using something about which I post to be an asshole to me. Yep, just make me feel good if you want to come around here. Of course, you can disagree with me, but only if you're nice to me. Actively nice. Maybe flatter me a little bit before you express your disagreement. Or tell me that my hair looks great today. Something like that. Because you know what? There is no honor in welcoming people to respond to me in ways that make me feel like crap on my own blog or because of what I write on the blog. So if you feel like that would censor you, then - you guessed it - leave me alone.
I'll probably take this down in a few hours. I'm sure it's only going to make things worse. But I've been feeling so crappy that I felt like I needed to say this stuff in order to clear my head enough to accomplish some things.


marciano guerrero said...

Hey, don't take this down! I love to see the inner springs of a person's consciousness at work. Besides, you write so well!
Hang in there and you'll see that happiness isn't a journey, but a few inns here and there.

Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Hey, I know I've been quiet in the blogging parts lately, but had to give props for talking about this. No one wants to be someone else's cipher. Keep on keepin' on.

zombieswan said...

I don't get it a lot anymore since my readers have mostly left since I went anonymous, but I used to get this frustrating thing all the time. I hate it when people pick something out of a blog post and turn it for their own purposes. It is a blog, which is personal, and you surely have your own right to write what you want. And if someone doesn't like it, they SHOULD go away.

But they don't, and you get trolls, and as much as you feel you shouldn't, you obsess over them. What you ought to write, what you ought to say.

I like this post. If you remove it, fine, but if you leave it, it doesn't scare anyone who is normal off. I'm a frequent reader & infrequent commenter, and I don't feel like this is directed towards anyone but Trollishness.

I also like it that you bring up working class issues. Very few folks talk about it; it's still such a small branch. It's good to see it circulating; it reminds me of research I mean to do.

And finally, OF COURSE Your hair looks very nice today. :) And that outfit is very flattering. Have some tea, and one of these yummy cookies. Those trolls over there are not worth the rocks to throw at them.

timna said...

I've been buried this semester (not sure why) but your original post on why you teach was something I cut-and-pasted and put up behind the wall in my online class. That means I see it often (my students don't). But it reminds me of so many of the reasons that literature is important to my (mostly) working class students. All of the folks who came to my office hours this morning were first generation students. Most of them were over 30.
Thanks. enjoy your tea!

k8 said...

I like the post - a lot. My blog isn't really anonymous (easy enough to find out who I am), but I don't have my full name posted to it. I do wonder how people respond to me depending on whether or not they know who I am.

I find that those who are apt to use abstractions all of the time have trouble understanding/dealing with real issues in the real world of solid, tangible people and situations. Some of those recent reactions seem to support this idea. I like practical, so I prefer the very real context of your work that came through in that post.

ceresina said...

I think everything you've said in this post is spot on; people who swoop in & respond to one point in one posting, *especially* when they haven't taken the time to learn who the blogger "is" and how she interacts with the world are the most. Irritating. Ever. And that's being nice.
I mean, Really? people criticized you for not being "formal" enough? have they never read a blog at all??
(And now I will go back to not commenting, but nonetheless reading faithfully.)

Anonymous said...

like I said in my comment on your other post--and i haven't followed the thread there, i gather it turned ugly--the point should be contextualized discussion. that's one of the reasons I don't find the more formal discussions I find on more "professional" blogs very compelling. I'm not engaged by the distinterested pose the way I am by people who speak from where they are and out of who they are. I do think it is a pose--they aren't really disinerested, they aren't speaking for everyone...they're elevating their perspective to normative status. and well, that sucks. because it isn't true.

anyway, those are the reasons I appreciate what you do. whether or not you leave this post up, I'm commenting because I know you'll see this.

Tara Kuther said...

I SO get where you're at. Maybe that's part of the reason I've been blogging less lately - too lazy to deal. I'm glad that you deal, though, as I really love your posts -- and as someone at a similar institution with a similar personal background -- I get you. Feel free to delete the nasties -- it's your party, do it your way :)

AvenSarah said...

I just wanted to echo an earlier commenter -- I cut and pasted your post about reasons for teaching literature, and saved it as something I want to think about -- a lot. I hadn't articulated most of those thoughts in that way before, but they really resonated with me, much more in fact than many more "formal" approaches to the subject. So thank you.

That's all I wanted to say.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I’m new. I’ve never commented before. And I’m not a troll.

I’ve read both your posts about why you teach, and what you’ve said in this post.

I think you have every right to request that comments be respectful and respond to you as you write, without making demands of your style or what you cover. After all, blogging should be fun right? And that just sounds like work.

And the reasons that you teach literature remind me of why I want to teach at all, even if I’ll be teaching a stuffy discipline.

Margaret said...

Crazy, once again I am stunned that people actually *attack* you for some of the things you say... things which to my mind, are REALLY fair/balanced/generous/gracious... MUCH more so than many other bloggers.

And when people disagree with you --in thoughtful and respectful ways-- I always see you respond in a thoughtful and respectful manner. You're much more tolerant about explaining and re-explaining yourself than I am, for example.

Anyway, you know I love your blog and your blogging voice and you don't need to even *consider* changing anything. Especially not for a few rude people.

life_of_a_fool said...

This is why I am happy to have, like, 3 readers. I agree you're thoughtful and respectful to those who disagree, until they deserve to not be treated as such.

And, your hair looks great. :)

susan said...

Take it down if you want, of course, but I hope you don't.

Many of the people who read here are academics, like you, and as academics, we're all about informed debate, free exchange of ideas, etc. But why be rude? There's no reason to scoop quotations out of context and use them as a starting point for an argument a personal blogger isn't trying to have.

I love the voice here, and your posts (which I read more than I comment on, I admit) get me thinking about why I do what I do. That's a great gift, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm sorry you're getting dumped on by trolls.

The History Enthusiast said...

Just wanted to say that YOU ROCK! I read you ever day and appreciate your candor. Keep on keepin' on!

GP said...

Keep this post -- and your head -- up, Dr. Crazy. I'm one of those not-so-active readers who resents the fact that some of my ilk have been making your life miserable. We're not all like that! Please keep being your honest, truth-telling, transparent self; it's what makes this blog interesting.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Dahling, you look MAH-velous!

And I'm so with you. FWIW, I commented over at your favorite post that I didn't at all see your post as being about teaching "breeding" or promoting the bourgeoisie.

That said? I also pointed out that a lot of the things that academics condemn as bourgeois look pretty good to people who've never had them, and if my students were in that position I'd much rather help them get that stuff, rather than tell them why they shouldn't want it in the first place. And I do feel that way. And it doubtless makes me terribly bourgeois. To which I would say, Suck it. ;-)

What I really hate is when someone says, "This is how I experience something," and someone responds by saying "Your experience is completely invalid because it fails to take into account theorists x, y, and z! And it's inconsistent! And it's bourgeois!" Blah blah blah - it may be all of those things, but it's still your experience. It's NOT a scholarly argument. I hate when people can't get that distinction.

Lesboprof said...

I agree with Gayprof, as I usually do, and want to ask why taking time to read and think critically is bourgeois? Some of my favorite class and culture theorists speak from the working class place about the importance of thinking deeply. They just want to silence you, not challenge you or engage you. So, as you all say, fuck 'em.

Lesboprof said...

Sorry, New Kid. I was obviously referring to your post, not GayProf. But I love you both! :-)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Hey, I'm flattered to be so mistaken! ;-)

Dr. Crazy said...

Thank you so much, all of you, for the supportive comments. To be fair, I don't think that Joseph Kugelmass is a troll. I've some experience with those (one just last week) and I wouldn't put him in that category. Or if he is a troll, then he's a higher caliber kind. And I really do blame myself for engaging at all, because clearly I'm coming from such a different place in the debate that no conversation is really possible. That said, I *am* going to leave the post up, because looking back over it, it really says what I feel about all of this stuff. And if any haters come knocking on my door, I can just provide them with the link. And that's sort of awesome :)

At any rate, thank you all again. And welcome to those who don't normally comment here or who are new to the blog. I'm really not normally this testy :)

Sisyphus said...

I feel i should say something relevant and brilliantly witty and supportive here, but pretty much everything I have to say has already been said. So, I'll just close with: YOU ROCK!

Rokeya said...

JK certainly isn't a troll; he's writing with a completely different intention and register. The Valve is directed toward a particular kind of audience, and his comments are consistent with how a post at The Valve might look. I certainly don't want to tell you what you should or should not do, but I hope you won't take his style/critique personally. He is very much performing an identity as he writes on that blog, much the same as we all craft blog identities.

FWIW, during a campus visit I met two UC Irvine alumni teaching at a school with much the same demographic and circumstances as your institution, Dr. C., and they were very clear that the requirements of teaching at their current institution are so different (and in many ways more challenging) than what teaching at UC Irvine had ever prepared them for. Irvine itself is a town that could be described not only in terms of its being a ridiculously privileged academic center, but even geographically as a bastion of privilege. This would set up a different experience, even for "underprivileged" students, than students who attend the kind of institution you are at (or that JK's fellow Anteater colleagues are at). I think his post rehashes many of the critiques we've grown accustomed to nodding our heads at regarding class (though to be honest, I too am a bit skeptical of the notion you articulated of a kind of class mobility through literature). While your post is engaged in a quite personal and intriguing struggle to articulate what your experience is like, I think JK's post isn't meant to engage in that kind of struggle at all.

In many ways this exchange proves precisely what you started off trying to highlight: what we hear from certain academics (the kinds of people that might be at institutions from which we see individuals hand-picked for "special sessions" at the MLA) isn't very in touch with other kinds of experiences.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why speaking from one's experience should be opposed to academic argument.

Dr. Crazy said...

All I can say is that I took it personally because when somebody says what I write isn't "sensible," says that a post that I did was "odd," and is generally entirely dismissive of me, then yep, I respond to that personally. And yes, he's writing in a particular register, and I get that, but in failing to acknowledge that I was writing in a register that was not his, and rather just characterizing me as, frankly, stupid, I wonder why it's on me to give him a pass for treating me with a complete lack of respect. He's not the only one who questioned that point, but he is the only one who insulted me. And that's why this whole thing got blown out of proportion. I suspect had he said just "I see where you're coming from, Crazy, but this is why I disagree" I would have responded much differently. Again, I should have kept my mouth shut, for apparently nothing that I could say would make him recognize that different perspectives from his might have validity.

And yes, this whole thing does illustrate the very point that I was making in the original post.

A caveat re: class mobility and higher education: I don't think the study of literature is the only thing that aids in class mobility. I think that this can happen in any discipline. But because I teach literature, it counts as one of the things that I see my work doing. I suspect if I taught at my same institution but in another discipline, I'd see this as a reason for why I do what I do as well.

At any rate, thanks for your comment :)

Dr. Crazy said...

Yes, I fail to see that as well. And lots of people more than 20 years ago failed to see it, too. They were called "feminists." Isn't it interesting that all these years later, then, that personal experience is still regularly dismissed in an academic context? I certainly think so.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

(I just wanted to add quickly that I certainly don't think Kugelmass is a troll. I think it's frustrating when two different registers are treated as the same, and I don't agree with his reading of Crazy's post - which isn't to say that everyone has to agree with Crazy's post, just that I disagree with his disagreement, if that makes sense. But he's certainly not a troll.)

I don't think the study of literature is the only thing that aids in class mobility. I think that this can happen in any discipline. But because I teach literature, it counts as one of the things that I see my work doing.

I think this is an important point, and it's one that I took as implicit in the original post, for whatever reason. I think perhaps some people have focused on that as a statement about teaching literature rather than a comment about teaching? I do think there's valuable cultural capital to be gained from a college education, even if that capital isn't the same from institution to institution, and even if seeking to acquire that cultural capital can reinforce the status quo in terms of structures of power.

Brigindo said...

I'm glad you decided to leave the post up. I would have missed it entirely and I really enjoyed this post and the original post. I hadn't followed all of the comments on the original and was surprised it resulted in such negativity.

As a fairly new reader and commenter and a very new blogger I can only say how much I appreciate and respect the voice you have established here. One of the reasons I decided to start blogging is reading this blog and several others and being enthralled that there could be a space to have these conversations--thoughts as they are being processed are more refreshing to me than carefully constructed academic arguments--and a hope that blogging would help me develop my own voice outside of traditional academia.

That being said I also have to add how much I appreciate your discussions of class (in the post being discussed and others). One of my pet peeves is the lack of acknowledgment and discussion of the importance and meaning of class in our society. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that negative comments, especially comments aimed to make you appear outside of the academic norm, should arise when the subject was working class students. I think it can cut to the bone. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts and experiences both living in and teaching different class levels. It has helped me think about my background and the role it plays in both my teaching and my research.

Belle said...

Dr C, as noted above and not often enough, you rock. More, you inspire. So delete the nasties; if they want to rant, let them do it elsewhere.

Can anybody explain why we are so sensitive to these button pushers? Why is it that we give energy to responding to their blasts?

Rokeya said...

I think my discomfort around your remarks about class mobility didn't so much stem from a focus on teaching *literature* (referencing NK's astute point), but more a general discomfort I often have when you talk about class mobility seemingly as some kind of end in itself. You had a really insightful post awhile ago about how "making it" didn't seem to yield the rainbow class narratives promise in terms of "choice" in academia, and it's within this contradiction that I frequently find myself a little critical of your comments about class mobility. That's not to say that class mobility isn't a part of teaching *anything* at the university, or that I don't find your comments to be interesting and thought-provoking.

Re: JK, I think I wanted you not to be so personally offended (though you are of course entitled to whatever response you have!) because when I read his post, I was sadly reminded of when I was in graduate seminars and someone would lay into someone else (author or colleague) as an attempt to perform. These people would frequently overstate the "wrongness" (or even just very naive stakes) for their disagreement, and I think most folks who had been there for awhile sort of secretly smiled and moved on. You know? I don't know if JK will ever change his ideas (he might not end up teaching at a substantially "different" kind of university like some of his colleagues whom I met), and so maybe he'll coast along with the same views he articulated. But when it comes down to it, he just doesn't know the experience you're citing at all, is trying hard to impress at The Valve without having that experience, and he doesn't even seem to know that he doesn't have/won't have that experience in his current situation/position. I'm not trying to make a personal attack on JK here, just saying rather bluntly that he doesn't get it.

Also, I completely agree with folks who are highlighting the "personal can't be academic" lie. Absolutely.

Rokeya said...

Hm, I think instead of "rainbow" in my comment above I meant "pot of gold." Oh, well. :)

Dr. Crazy said...

Rokeya: I think I see where you're perceiving dissonance. Let me try to respond. I think it *is* true that conventional narratives about class often make it seem like "making it" is supposed to result in all this choice and skipping through fields without a care, without ambivalence, and that this is just not true. That said, the reality is that I have moved into the middle class. And while there isn't a pot of gold now that I'm here, my life is substantially different because I have, and substantially *better* than it would have been if I had not learned how to be a middle-class person and acquired the benefits of that position. So it's not that I believe that upward mobility is not without its.... costs or negatives. Yes, there are most definitely costs and negative aspects to it. But those costs ultimately do not compare to the costs (material, but also mental, emotional) of *not* being middle class. And so when I think about class mobility in terms of what I do for my students, part of what I'm thinking about is the fact that I really need to prepare them as best I can to move into a world with completely different conventions than the one in which they were raised so that they can do the best they can in that world. If I don't pay attention to that, there is the very real potential that they won't be able to make the transition into the world into which their degree gives them access. So it's not that I think that giving students the tools to pass means that they will be without problems or that it will be all smooth sailing once they graduate. But I think if I *don't* give them the tools to pass then I put them at a material and personal disadvantage. So it's not a simple "if you learn how to be middle class then life is great" narrative. Rather, it's about giving them the tools to negotiate between where they come from and where they aim to get to. I hope that makes sense. I'm not sure how clear I'm being.

And I see what you're saying about JK reminding you of grad seminar posing. That was my initial response, too, in my initial measured addressing of the issue in my post yesterday. What sent me over the edge was that even after that post, even after I tried to respond to him in a measured way over at the Valve and on his own blog, it continued. I suppose I react so strongly against it, and not kindly, because you know what? I haven't had to put up with that *bullshit* for 8 years. I've earned the right not to put up with it. If he has insecurities he'd like to work out, great, but I'm not going to sit back and let him do it through me. I'm not his teacher, nor am I one of his cohort. And so yes, I freaked out, as immature and ill-conceived as that response on my part was.

And Brigindo and Belle: Thanks :)

New Kid: EXACTLY. As for the reinforcing structures of power, that is a detriment BUT I think it is totally silly to think that any of us can avoid doing that entirely. I justify it to myself by thinking that it's better to be conscious of how I'm reinforcing those structures and by trying to build in challenges to those structures even as I do so. What is... troubling... to me is when people really think that they are somehow fighting the power by refusing to engage with it in a conscious way, which I think happens a lot in academia. Dude, even if one is doing Marxist theory or interrogating the structures of capitalism in the classroom and in their scholarship, they're still complicit in the power structures that order our culture.

SEK said...

FYI, I've responded too, if only to prove that the Valve ain't ideologically monolithic.

(Or all us UCI folk either.)

(Nor all of Joe's friends, for that matter.)

That said, I think this debate's gotten heated in ways I hadn't expected it would, but it's been interesting to follow, to say the least.

marciano guerrero said...

"Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was. (Northanger Abbey)

While Marlow presents white males as civilized, enterprising, and accomplished, he denigrates African natives. He also takes pot shots against white women: "It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own ..." (Heart of Darkness)

Where else can we learn about human nature and its darkness but in lit? Psych? Philosophy? Linguistics?--give me a break.

Through the love of lit we become whole, harmonious, and radiant.


withneedle said...

1. My main reaction to Kugelmass's entry at the Valve is that he bears an astonishing resemblance to the cadre of students whose presence in the English department of my undergrad institution was the main reason I picked math over literature.

2. As someone who taught herself how to behave/pass by reading etiquette books and 19th c. novels, I found his insistence that literature would not be useful to someone who is trying to bootstrap herself into the middle class to be, um, well, interesting.

3. You totally rock, Dr. C. Have I mentioned that you look fabulous? :-)

zombieswan said...

Just a quick aside. It wasn't Dr. Crazy who called whatsisname a Troll. It was me who brought up that word, so she's not guilty of Troll-bashing. (What a dangerous yet thrilling sport that can be!) :)

But I when I used Troll, I was assuming she had one of those random anonymous comments that comes now and then. I hadn't clicked a link, and I didn't know to whom she was referring. So don't think she was calling fellow blogger guy a Troll.

That said, I think there is a certain degree of Trollishness in the post, and in the later conversation in comments, that happened.

A Troll is someone who bashes the argument mindlessly. By starting off his post with the whole "odd" label, the guy in question (Joe, is it?) basically set up a straw man argument, and that's just not okay. It makes anyone who wants to dispute the argument have to fight on the defensive, and that's just not good argument. It's a logical fallacy. Trolls often use logical fallacies (although their favorite is attacking the person...)

Finally, one of the things about this post, this thread, that still fascinates me is the defensive nature of some people (not everyone) when anyone who was not from middle class brings up class. Long ago and far away, I attended a grad conference where a very brilliant prof read a paper on how Horatio Alger was a Lying SOB. It opened my eyes and felt like one of those "Killing Me Softly" moments, because up until then, I hadn't known that anyone in the world felt the way I did in academia. But at that same conference, a crazy art guy rudely dismissed my discussion of how my mom was a waitress on food stamps (he was talking about how he was empowering the downtrodden masses in Mexico) as irrelevent, and instantly looked down his nose at me. His main goal had been to silence any questioning of his debate-- and you know, it usually works, because the way people from a lower-SEC fight isn't with words, and we don't always know how to respond when someone throws down. So the discomfort is all kinds of all over the place. And I see it in a lot of this discussion.

Dr. Crazy doesn't have to speak for all of her students; that's a responsibility her students have. And "passing" certainlly isn't the only thing I learned from good books. But it sure helped. One time, a person at a dinner party (a genuine Colonel's daughter) asked my hubby if I was "a professor's daughter or something" cause I was "so sophisticated". He just laughed. I got my "larnin" from Little Women, from the public library.

Sorry to hog up comments... I could go on, but perhaps this needs my own blog post. :)

Timothy Burke said...

I think you should leave this up, for sure. Partly because it's another reminder of a basic principle of online discourse: the people on the other end are real.

But in this case, I don't know that this would change things, and that's another reason to keep this cross-blog discussion intact, because this captures pretty well some basic tensions in literary and cultural studies that have been around for decades. Such as, "Do they have to have a function at all?" I very much prefer the way you come at that question in terms of your teaching, but the discussion itself (including your frustrations with it) is a good snapshot of issues boiling under the surface all the time.

One thing that really strikes me is that beyond the question of "are we teaching to make students 'bourgeois' or not", one of the things that makes the critique of your post so frustrating is the assumption that it is QED that bourgeois is bad or narrow. In another context, in my own classes on Africa, I call that "spot the hegemon": an assumed moral argument that if you can identify something in the modern era in Africa as deriving from the intervening presence of European colonizers, you've done all the critical work you need to do, that no further critical argument is needed. What you have found is bad, end of the point, move on.

Another thing to consider about Kugelmass' original post at the Valve. He says that he finds literature valuable because of how it reveals "others' experiences of life". For someone who values literature in those terms, he seems uncurious about some others--Dr. Crazy, for one; "the rich" he has known for another. There just seems to me a mismatch between his own view of why he teaches literature and his capacity to appreciate the difference between (for one) Dr. Crazy's personal understanding of the teaching of literature and his own; or between his own mapping of social categories that he thinks he knows of and the different representations of those social categories that he has and could encounter in literature. (e.g., why is he sure that "the rich" are like the Wilcoxes and not like the family of Quiz Show? If teaching literature is about the encounter with the otherness of other people, wouldn't the knowledge that each of us have from experience always be heavily provisional, and wouldn't it always be a sort of intellectual sin to declare that people are one thing, not another, that one literature reveals social truth and another is an oddity or an exception? Wouldn't it be a worse sin to say, "I have been in conversation with rich people, and thus know them" right alongside a declaration that the point of literature is to explore empathetically the complex subjectivity of others?

Dr. Crazy said...

Timothy, first, and totally off topic, I'm really excited that you commented over here! Your post about "should I go to grad school" is one that I make every student read who mentions that they think it's an option, and I've been a faithful lurker at your blog for a long time.

Second, I really appreciate the questions that you ask in your comment, and those have been many of my unspoken questions about the other side of this debate. So thanks for stopping by, and for the thoughtful response to this (sometimes sordid) exchange.

The Sassy Orange said...

I love your blog and would never want it to change. I do think though that the people who bring in the crap just want your reaction. If you don't give it, they'll give up and go harass others.

Timothy Burke said...

Long-time lurker, first-time commenter!

Karet said...

I really enjoyed reading about your reasons for teaching, and frankly I’m surprised the subject has become controversial! I know I’m chiming in a bit late, but I wanted to add one comment about the class issue. One reason I think JK misunderstands your point about class mobility is that, in my opinion, there is often a disconnect between what people of one class perceive to be the most important class markers of another class, and how that class is defined by those who are part of it. One of my best friends comes from a background not unlike yours and went to the University of Chicago on a full scholarship, and we have had a number of discussions about class – but I always feel as if the things that she thinks are huge markers of the “upper class” are so strange – like having a subscription to the New Yorker. Maybe it is, but nobody really gives a sh** if you subscribe to the New Yorker or not, if you see what I mean. I just think the very definition of class(es) varies so tremendously, depending on your own background. Personally, I don’t see any connection between cultural literacy and the upper-middle class, but I understand why you do. Indeed, my PhD in English often makes me feel alienated from my family and their friends, not somehow a part of some elitist club!

Craig @ AFT said...

I am way late to this discussion and feel a bit like I am creeping in after doing something bad with a guilty conscience! I had read this post and then got lost in all the arguments everywhere that have sprung up from this exchange and forgot to come back over and say that we really never expected this turn (although Chris over here said "that is what viral means Craig--it spreads and mutates." Point taken)

When I picked up your post to start the meme I was sincerely excited by what you wrote and hope that we haven't simply contributed to some experience that will go down in the books as "that ugly meme thing." The posts that have been generated have been great and your readers have been great as well.

I think Tim is exactly right about online discourse here and I am still hopeful that it will stay mostly positive as we continue to get emails from folks telling us about their post on the meme.

Anyway--just wanted to say that we still really appreciate your writing on this and hope we helped create more positive feedback than negative.


cps @ Free Exchange

Dr. Crazy said...

No worries at all, Craig. Things got a little crazy, I blew off some steam, and ultimately I really appreciate the many posts that came out of the meme that you guys started. I do think that there was some confusion on the part of some about my role in the meme or how I came to write my post or the style that I tend to adopt when writing on this blog. That's nobody's fault, ultimately, and something that goes with the territory. But so there's absolutely no need for you to apologize, and Reassigned Time will continue on without interruption :)

Doctor Pion said...

I'm glad you kept it up, because I have been too busy to get over here for a few days.

Funny, but your choice of surname never colored how I read your blog. After all, most faculty are crazy (or driven crazy at some point). And I deeply appreciate your perspective on class and adjusting to college, because I see it every day where I teach.

And I really like what you say. If a physicist can learn something about teaching from your informal little coffee shop, it is serving its purpose. Just try to ignore the trolls, as hard as that can be.