November 19, 2004

Where’s the Romance? Recently, a

Where’s the Romance?

Recently, a correspondent from our Durham (NC) office sent us word of a spine-tingling conference that is soon to take place at Duke University. This graduate student colloquy, entitled “Transformations and Mutations,” is sponsored by Duke’s Department of Romance Studies.

In the course of the advertisement for this meeting of the minds, the Department of Romance Studies does its best to make it crystal clear to its readers that this conference will offer the requisite genuflections to “interdisciplinarity” and kindred beacons of academic fashion.

To be sure, dear reader, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” didn’t originally believe there was much novel about this grad student gathering. In fact, we originally presumed it was yet another ho-hum attempt to appear trendy.

But then we took a gander at the end of the advertisement, and we couldn’t stop laughing. It reads in part as follows (with our own humble commentary humbly affixed):

Papers could engage such questions as:

--How does sand change into a pearl?

Gee. That’s a heck of a question. We suppose we don’t know. But we have the feeling that a conference dedicated to “Romance Studies” isn’t the best place to present a paper on this topic. Perhaps an eighth-grade science class would prove more sufficient?

--How have linguistic changes enhanced or hindered self-expression?

Well, back in the past we could chastise the sponsors of this conference for being a passel of toplofty witlings, whereas nowadays we’d have to label them a group of self-important boobs. How’s that for self-expression?

--How did Mr. Rogers use words and music to create meaning for his television neighborhood?

Oh, for crying out loud. This pathetic dross is the stuff of academic fashion? We can almost see the smug self-satisfaction that drips from these grad students’ faces. We’ve mentioned Mr. Rogers, they chirp; that means we’re really with it.

--What, exactly, triggers a revolution?

Wow, that’s too bad. One of the senior editors here at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly”—let’s just call him “Chip”—recently composed a paper entitled “That Which, More or Less, Triggers a Revolution.” Since our friends in Romance Studies want the specifics, however, we guess “Chip” will have to submit his talk to another mindless exercise in intellectual masturbation.

--Why is a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Titus Andronicus different from one put on by prisoners at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky?

Finally a question we can answer! First, for the sake of the RSC’s future, we hope there would be some distinction in quality, however slight. In addition, we have the sneaking suspicion that the RSC’s snacks at intermission would be manifestly superior to the bread and water offered by the convicts.

Come on, Department of Romance Studies! Was that really so difficult a question?

Posted at November 19, 2004 12:01 AM | TrackBack