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« Friday Cat Blogging | Main | Dominant books »

July 22, 2006


Rich Puchalsky

That was funny.

I can't really imagine what a good essay in this subgenre would look like (subgenre defined, I think, as thumbsuckers about How Literary Academia Is These Days). Deliberate contrarianism -- "everything has never been better" -- would sound too much like tedious Internet-triumphialism, probably. Anything too intelligent would probably be too narrow for the subgenre.

Given that it's "First Person", probably the best bet would be to write an unadulterated sex-in-the-library piece, add a paragraph at the beginning and end stating that you are writing this for some terribly important academopolitical reason, and then either pump up the scandal when CoHE declines to print it or rest assured that it will be the best-read article of its kind.

Sherman Dorn

That was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for making my morning!


Ok, this is a riot.

New Kid on the Hallway

Excellent! I love it!


Ha ha! All I can say is, when I wrote my First Person column last fall, I did it under my own name and praised blogging. The tone was so upbeat that two days after it came out, one of my fellow grad students came up to me and asked what medication I'm on, and where could he get some...

I'll also note that I offered to write a followup, but never received a response.


The endowed chair would probably carry a 1/1 or 0/1 or 0/0, 0/1 load.


Also, is anyone currently a cultural idealist? Doesn't that sound like fun?

Thomas H. Benton

That was funny because it's true, alas.

There is only so much one can do in 1,500 words on higher education with minimal research, but I realize some of my stuff is reductive, naive, self-indulgent, and worse. I'm just saying the same things in different ways. Maybe it's time to retire "Benton."

But what kind of First Person essays would you like to read? How could the genre be altered in productive ways? What topics are not being addressed? Could you offer some more constructive suggestions?

I won't comment further, but I do hope some of you will respond. I would be most grateful if you did.


Well, THB, I would like to read some happy columns. Surely, somewhere, there is someone in academia (besides myself) who is content in what she does. My main problem with the CHE First Person columns is that they lack joy.

dean dad

All those hours I spent as a kid doing Mad Libs are paying off! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

Michael Bérubé

Well, Professor Benton (if that is your real pseudonym), it's quite true that the 1500-word genre imposes fairly severe limitations. But I think that's one reason why The Little Professor wrote this post: so that future First Person essays (by you or anyone else) can open by saying, "1A, 2C, 3H, 4A, 5B, 6D, 7D, 8B (Little Professor System)." That alone should free up enough space for 500-600 words right there.

And are there other endowed chairs out there teaching two or one or one-half courses per year? Damn. I teach three. I'm gonna write me a disgruntled First Person column about this, in which I reveal confidential data from job searches and personnel decisions (4B).


This is perfect.

Maybe CoHE should retire the first person columns and start hosting a few blogs. Seriously.

Jim Flannery

Michael B., that's starting to look a lot like geek code. Let's not underrate the value of this kind of quantification ... think of the performance benefits to a search committees of having an applicant's Prof Code (e.g. "2C3C5D7D") right there at the bottom of the cover letter!

Scott Eric Kaufman


I think their hostility to blogs--and electronic media, generally--puts that in #8 territory.


I just received an email from the First Person editor, who says she must have missed my email offering a followup and would like for me to write another column. So, I promise it will be happy, joyful, and useful!

Amanda French

As I said over on Michael's blog, this is a great, right-on, hilarious post. But my feeling? The sulkier the better. The scandal sheet that is CoHE without carefully sorrowful First-Persons would be like Oprah without Dr. Phil, Vegas without the Luxor, fettucine without Alfredo -- still bad for you, but not as enjoyably bad for you.


*chortles* You've hit on why I rarely read the column -- I feel I've seen it all before.


Is anything more self-indulgent than your own research? It is the most important thing in the world to you, but 6 people in the world care about it and you go to conferences so they will tell you how wonderful you are.

As a reformed academic, another fascinating behavioral pattern that I noticed was the forming of life-long hatreds of chosen other academics. Very few disciplines can support the life-long feud, you wind up on the pavement, but academia thrives on it.

Hence your delightful list.


I offered a happy column to the CHE once. I expect they laughed at it and put it in a round bin.

The continual self-pity isn't what gets me so much; it's the self-pity plus the obvious ignoramity (is that a word) of some of the authors. I read a lot of those columns saying, "well, duh!" to the authors.

Little Professor, you've got it exactly right.

John Emerson

Lighting candles is fine, but I've never seen what was wrong with cursing the darkness.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a wonderful person, god bless her soul, but we can't all be her.


I wuve you! I'm totally laughing my ass off. Also, I am sadly mortified to find myself checking the boxes: "yep, I'm definitely in the unfortunately untenured at a university that doesn't appreciate my scintillating intellect box..."


*love* this :)


thanks for the laugh, Miriam!

Mary Catherine Moran

Very amusing. I especially like numbers 1 and 5.


Excellent. Talk about a "sense of injur'd merit"!


Hrmph. Don't know what a CoHE is. Does it have to do with computers? Cats? Snack food? It's cats, right?

I'm off to STFW.

Professor Zero

Hilarious. I have been saying for years that I would write a parody of acknowledgments pages for academic books. The kinds of gushing, name-dropping acknowledgments pages, where you find out that the author is amazingly well connected and funded, works in a wonderfully supportive department, has brilliant students in numerous seminars on their research topic, had incredible adventures while doing their research, knows every librarian in the universe, is married to a gourmet cook and expert editor, and has adoring children who provide them with useful anecdotes and analogies, and then leave them alone to write. Now I may have to just do it!



I'm not an academic, but I get to see CoHE often, because it crosses my work domain, so to speak. First Person always catches my eye. Sort of like a murder-suicide in progress on live TV. You don't want to watch. But you can't not watch.

Then again, I enjoy the macabre.


From TypePad to the CHE--congratulations! (if that's the appropriate word...)


Good but strange: I a) was amused;
b) recognize most of the questionnaire-types satirized;
c) identify with many of them;
but why then don't I know what CoHE stands for? Is it because I'm a Brit?

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