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Just a Few of My Many Contributions to Modern Scholarship

March 15, 2010

Ohhh, friends.

I’m applying for a job, and it’s a real job, the type that I would actually like to have, the type that could become a very interesting career and would certainly pay the bills in the meantime, and the firm has requested that applications include writing samples. Given the nature of the position, I have opted to submit samples located nearer to the academic discourse side of the spectrum than to the gangsta throwdown side, and this has necessitated a plunge into certain document folders that have lain dormant for years. A friend of mine was in a movie called “Hot Tub Time Machine.” This is similar, except it’s “Hard Drive Time Machine” and I’m not wearing a bathing suit.

I found some incredible material in there last night. As soon as I began to open files I knew there would be no way to get around writing a blog post about the adventure at the earliest opportunity. Won’t you join me as I perambulate down Memory Lane? I mean, you’re here anyway, right?

There are many important facets of academic writing that I would have budding scholars keep in mind as they ascend the rungs of the cursus honorum, and one is the importance of titles. Boring titles are boring. Scholars began to realize this around 1980, and since then, there has been an exponential surge in the use of the “entertaining-colon-dry” paper title template. Like, for example, “Bull Shit: A Study of Fertilization Techniques in Greek Agriculture, 600-400 BC.” It’s pretty much the scholar’s way of reassuring the audience that s/he has a sense of humour despite having spent the past ten years researching fertilization techniques in Greek agriculture, 600-400 BC. It’s also an effective means of making people think they want to come to your conference presentation.

My strategy apparently was to just not do the second part – leave out the “colon-dry” so that the entire title would fall under the banner of “entertaining.” Who wouldn’t want to spend an hilarious morning reading all of these essays in a row:

  • I Cuss, You Cuss, We All Cuss for Romulus
  • Dude, Where’s My Triumph?
  • Too Many Sappho(e?)s
  • You’ll Live to Regret It
  • The Decline of the Dworkin Empire
  • Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Ockham
  • Mo’ Territory, Mo’ Problems
  • Thucydides!

Crack those babies open and you find a delectable blend of meticulously researched (true story: I once went four years without taking a book out of the university library), highfalutingly argued English prose liberally seasoned with Greek and Latin quotations some of which I even knew what they meant when I originally used them. Hard-hitting scholarship like this:

  • It is impossible to say whether Atwood is acquainted with the Helens of Herodotus, Gorgias, Isocrates, or Euripides, because her Helen possesses none of the positive attributes of those writers’ Helens. She is flirtatious, shameless, mean, juvenile, spoiled, conceited, disloyal, ditzy, and morally disgusting in all respects.  To put it in the eloquent words of rap artist Ludacris, she’s “doing ho activities, with ho tendencies.”
  • When I get that feeling, I need…textual healing.
  • “In the beginning,” according to one somewhat popular source, “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  • Aquinas, to begin with, assigned himself the honour of officiating at the shotgun wedding of God and Aristotle.
  • For example, let’s suppose I have a close friend who has promised to let me borrow her tattered and beloved copy of the latest Danielle Steel novel next time she comes over.  I have faith that she will keep her promise and deliver the much-coveted exemplar of Grade A storytelling.  I don’t know whether the promise will be kept, and right now there is no way for me to find out…  But my faith is not based on a mere guess or some story I have made up to comfort myself because I am so desperate for some quality reading material.
  • Since the beginning of time, the problem of categories has vexed philosophers such as Aristotle and Kant, and now I can add my own name to this list of outstanding men.
  • In his own lifetime, Eriugena, not unlike Rodney Dangerfield, got no respect.

Wow. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I gave it all up for the Bedazzler-studded glamour of being an unemployed, completely unheard-of writer with a blog that ten people read. (Before you scoff, put this in your pipe and smoke it: it was five people a month ago. I like to look at my stats every morning and re-realize that more people have read my writing in the past seven months than would have read it in 30 years had I continued to spend my life investing all my creativity into the composition of academic books and articles. Perspective: it’s what’s for dinner.) (Which works out great, because I can’t afford food.)

Anyway, let’s all pray to whatever gods we believe in that I get an interview for this job, because it really would be a hell of a ride. “International travel may be required.” Yeah, I think I could handle some of that…

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 1:11 pm

    I’m impressed that after delving into the academic archives you still want a real job. I should be putting more effort into finding such a thing myself, but every time I start writing another cover letter I’m overcome by anxiety-induced nausea at having to produce the sort of meaningless corporate blowjobbing HR-babble from which I ran screaming in the first place.

    Perhaps this is an example of a benefit of a classical education. You look at that stuff and use your advanced critical thinking skills to work out an acceptable rationalisation for persisting, while I – educated by hard knocks, corporate indentureship, and autodidactic chance – give up and get drunk. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but the spirit’s occasionally there.

    On another topic, I can’t believe I’ve never noticed the Meanhag anagram on my own. I guess I was too busy making a mental association with Canada’s 9th Prime Minister, spelling difference notwithstanding, to get there.

    Good luck with the potential new career!

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