“what-have-you intriguing subject”

by zunguzungu

Brian Reed divines the profession’s future by reading the tea leaves of his university’s grad program applicant pool:

“Movies and TV seem to trump what we teach in the classroom when it comes to influencing future faculty.  We have a sea of applicants wanting to study vampires, zombies, Harry Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, Narnia, and Jane Austen–singly or in combination.  Some of these files are absolutely first rate.  Most aren’t.  Moreover, you read letter after letter of recommendation praising this or that student’s marvelous facility with 17th century prosody, 18th century travel writing, contemporary Zulu praise poetry, or what-have-you intriguing subject, and then you flip to the writing sample and discover yet another Dracula-and-Twilight essay or Beowulf-and-Frodo MA thesis.”


“You hear a great deal about Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Homi Bhabha, Walter Benjamin, Gloria Anzaldua, and other thinkers who were already staples of “Introductions to Literary Theory” courses back in the mid-1990s.  Otherwise, the name dropping has become quite field specific…There also appears to be a truly remarkable degree of agreement concerning the Great Books of the present day:  Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Blood Meridian, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Thomas Pynchon, too, is cited over and over as the harbinger and presiding genius of the New Period.  I’ve read these books (including all of Pynchon’s novels), but I never expected the emergence of such a matter-of-fact way of narrating the present moment in US literature, and I certainly would never have selected such a narrow, narrow cast of characters to represent the 21st century.”