The novelist Julie Schumacher wrote her latest, Dear Committee Members, entirely in the form of letters of recommendation. The format allowed her to illustrate the travails of a creative writing professor through a medium often ignored in fiction. At The Awl, Jessica Gross and Merve Emre talk about the novel. Pair with: Cathy Day on academia’s novel crisis.
Geoff Dyer is fond of taking potshots at literary academics. He devotes considerable time in one of his novels to a professor whose speech at a conference goes off the rails. Which is why it’s odd that, in mid-July, the author showed up at a conference devoted to — what else? — his own work. (It’s apropos to point out here that our own Mark O’Connell wrote a great essay for Slate about Dyer.)
There are dangers for an artist in any academic environment. Academia rewards people who know their own minds and have developed an ironclad confidence in speaking them. That kind of assurance is death for an artist.
The term “academic writing” is controversial, not least because it implies that academics have an odd and persnickety way of writing. In a blog post for The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman examines the genre, looking back on his time in grad school to argue that academic writing is a “fraught and mysterious thing.”
Whether or not you believe that Oxford University Press is “the largest, most diverse and most respected university press in the world,” you’ll appreciate this review of a new history of the company, which goes through OUP’s origins, its relationship with its namesake and the opening of its New York office in 1896.
'I could say that On the Road was an overt metaphor for the Vietnam War and they would jot it down in their notebooks without any hesitation whatsoever,' said Mabrey, adding that, come midterms, her students will, as if on cue, mindlessly regurgitate whatever she tells them, whether it’s that the character of Dean Moriarty is supposed to be a figment of Sal Paradise’s imagination, or that the entire novel is meant to be read backwards.
Columbia once moved its twenty-two miles of books by sending them down a really, really long slide. As The Paris Review documents, in 1934, the university stocked its then-new Butler Library with a slide that ran from Low Library to the new building. (No word on whether the slide is secretly used to this day.)
Quite frankly, I was speaking to a Frenchman
For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few, there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.