May 18, 2005

The English Department: Why Study

The English Department: Why Study Anywhere Else?

As you may be aware, dear reader, university graduations are drawing apace, and soon your little ne’er-do-well, college diploma in hand, will be re-inhabiting your dank basement. Accordingly, these next few days may well be the end of his carefree years of drinking like an Irish longshoreman and engaging in strenuous bouts of acquaintance rape.

It gets one a bit misty-eyed, doesn’t it?

Yet we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have taken the last few weeks of the university schedule to prowl around Al Gore’s World-Wide Web in order to keep up with the latest academic fashions. What, we collectively wondered, are hip college professors studying these days? What makes the Middle Eastern Studies Department tick? Other than that package from Hamas, of course.

Naturally, dear reader, one of the best ways to find out what’s au courant in academe is an investigation of dissertation topics. If soon-to-be-unemployed graduate students are studying it, you know it’s chic.

As such, the Official Academic Prowling Department here at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” spent well over an hour searching the Internet in the hunt for current dissertation projects at universities in these here United States of America.

During the midst of this investigation, dear reader, the Official Academic Prowling Department came upon a rather interesting conclusion. As far as we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quartery,” can tell, graduate students in English don’t study English literature.

Even more intriguingly, graduate students in Comparative Literature neither write about literature nor compare things.

Perhaps this is a rather old story for those venerable culture warriors among you. Many of today’s academic departments have eschewed their fields’ ostensible subject matters in favor or noxious political hectoring. Hence so many dissertation titles begin with the words “Queering the Other.”

Call us behind the curve, but we still find this a rather odd situation. After all, you don’t very well see Mathematics students writing dissertations on the aesthetics of music. And those in Business Administration don’t tend to write about William Faulkner.

So why do those in English and Comparative Literature feel as if their training miraculously transforms them into experts on practically everything? Why do English professors appear to believe that they are the world’s leading experts on the World Trade Organization, origami, transgender bathrooms, and NASCAR?

The answer, of course, is what contemporary graduate students call—without a trace of irony, alas—theory. Apparently, a few reader-proof pages of Jacques Lacan turn anyone into an instant authority on particle physics, Tampax, neo-conservatism, and the War of 1812.

This has all compelled us, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” to urge universities nationwide to disband all academic departments besides English and Comparative Literature. With these omnipotent experts on board, why would a college require any other faculty members?

Posted at May 18, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack