Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I was able to wrap up my duties to my institution on Sunday, filling idle moments in the later morning and early afternoon with the things that needed doing so that I could discharge my responsibilities--for one term. It would be...inaccurate to assert that I and others in my position are "free," however. Work to guide the classroom still needs doing, because there are classes coming, and they will need every bit as much attention as those classes that have just passed. What classes they are has already been shown to me, although the times of those classes are not clear yet; still, I know what is coming, and so I have to begin to prepare for them. And there is the rest of the work that needs to be done.

It seems to me that I have addressed such things before, the idea that those who teach have the time between teaching terms "off." It is true that we do not meet with students (or as many; I have what appear to be two tutorials during the summer as standing appointments, and others might happen). But it is also true that there are things other than standing in front of the classroom that are part of instructional work, and it is true that there are parts of the job other than instructional work. The Work demands that new knowledge be uncovered and substantiated, and even in the academic humanities, where that knowledge and its substantiation are less tangible, that takes time and dedicated effort.

Some doubtlessly question the value of work in the academic humanities. "Why," they ask, "can't we just read a book or watch a movie and enjoy it? Why does it have to be picked at?" Such questions betray an association of enjoyment and passivity, that a thing is best simply received rather than engaged, a consumptive attitude that evokes scorn in many of my colleagues and pity in me. While I certainly appreciate sitting back and watching things, and there are times when it is the appropriate way to act, I also know that there is great pleasure in figuring things out--for those who can do so. (Elitist? Certainly. But accurate. Not all are equipped or trained to be able to untangle ideas from each other.) Just as there is a different pleasure, and likely a greater, in, say, playing judo as opposed to simply watching it, or to playing baseball rather than watching it, there is a different and likely greater pleasure in wrangling with the text (whatever its form) than in simply spectating it.

We are consistently surrounded with symbols. They are used to manipulate us. The academic humanities call attention to those symbols, looking at them and looking behind them to see not only what they suggest about themselves but about those who inscribe them and those who are expected to read them. Looking at them and figuring out how they function--coming to understand thereby what it is that people are based upon what they do--needs much doing, and it does not stop needing that doing because the summer has come.

No comments:

Post a Comment