cross-posted @ wellesley underground (an alternative alumnae magazine, go check it out!)

h/t to hailey huget (’10)/hawkward.

some choice passages from nicholas dames’ review of three new books addressing the state of academia, and especially the liberal arts/humanities.

“Now picture one kind of “bad” student. This child is obsessive, inflexible, a bad listener. Prone to daydreaming, preferring her own company, idiosyncratic in her tastes, she is a solitary, possibly discontented child. In one way, she is a classroom problem, with disorders of attention or attachment. She is also an eccentric; an artist; perhaps a “genius”; in any case, an economic burden, a proto-elitist, with the capacity for generative unhappiness. One might go so far as to call her a natural humanities major.”

“The young humanist, as Castle depicts her, is necessarily perverse, and certainly “neurotically invested.” She is likely to be a prig, but is also a cynic, at least about some cultural norms. She disbelieves many hoary old narratives, but still thinks academic achievement earns love. (These days: she knows all the numbers, but still thinks she will get a job.) She is the bad child of Dewey’s progressive educational model — an introvert, a solitary, an obsessive — who can fake the moves of the good child. And by trying so sincerely to earn a way into the academic middle class while feeling uneasy about it she lives out a contemporary contradiction, in which “being middle-class these days means feeling freaky a lot of the time.” She is good, in other words, at inhabiting the gap between sincerity and irony, between cultural gatekeeper and cultural rebel, between grandiosity and humility. And she is good at making others feel similarly.”

it’s a somewhat new genre of online writing to me, the long-form (it’s over 3500 words) book review. but i happen to agree/am intrigued by all the texts he addresses (by terry castle, louis menand, martha nussbaum). anyone coming to beijing this year and want to bring them over for me? #kidding #butwouldyou?

read the entire review here.