Academic Wisdom Unboxed

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

As the Chronicle’s blog, Tweed, notes, it is an academic tradition for professors to “try to one-up their colleagues by exchanging unintentionally hilarious sentences from students’ exams and final papers.” (Some of these can be seen here, in the Chronicle forums).

In a similar spirit, I will be providing some of the more striking statements made by professors discussing their papers at the 2009 Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention.

These are from a panel called “Critical Exuberance” and arranged by the MLA Division on Gay Studies in Language and Literature.

President Obama, “centrist Democrat”?

“Not only are Obama’s politics those of a centrist Democrat at best but he is also hemmed in by the politics of his historical accomplishment. As a black man, for example, his commitment to heteronormativity is continually scrutinized, most recently, in the pages of the New York Times Magazine, which chose to focus on the first anniversary of his election on his marriage as the topic of most import. Certainly some of his policy ambivalence on issues of gender and sexuality can be traced to the difficult negotiations he faces as a black man who is always already sexually suspect. Because his racial identity makes him always already so, the one thing this President cannot be, either in his policies or his personal life, is perverse—unlike Bill Clinton who could be personally perverse while politically conservative” (emphasis added).

Janet Jakobsen, Interim Associate Dean of Faculty Diversity at Barnard College.

Civil Rights & Gay Marriage

“As Michelle and Barack lovingly teased and taunted, each other the model of heteronormativity introjected to a distinctly African-American sassiness, my delight was heightened so that—that so public a performance by so powerful a pair should trespass into the whitest of American houses.Perhaps the cleanly scrubbed, meticulously clothed, immaculately well-mannered children who brave the assaults of white mobs, integrate the white schools, are analogous to the endearingly paired queer couples pronouncing their love for each other in customary wedding garb on the front steps of court houses all across the country. This need not be an image of identity displacement. Identifying upwards toward power seems to produce a sort of unaccountable pleasure that our utopian and egalitarian calls for queering the social have not [solely] addressed” (emphasis added).

Marlon Bryan Ross, English Professor at the University of Virginia.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.