Academic Instincts

Academic Instincts

Academic Instincts

Academic Instincts

Synopsis

"In this book, cultural critic Marjorie Garber, who has written on topics as different as Shakespeare, dogs, cross-dressing, and real estate, explores the pleasures and pitfalls of academic life. Academic Instincts discusses three of the perennial issues that have surfaced in recent debates about the humanities: the relation between amateurs" and "professionals," the relation between one academic discipline and another, and the relation between "jargon" and "plain language." Rather than merely taking sides, the book explores the ways in which such debates are essential to intellectual life. Garber argues that the very things deplored or defended in discussions of the humanities can be neither eliminated nor endorsed because the discussion itself is what gives humanistic thought its vitality." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In combining the most “disciplined” and the most “undisciplined” of forces, the title Academic Instincts is meant to sound like a contradiction in terms. But this is a book about the energies that keep scholarly disciplines from becoming inert and settled. It is about the instincts not of individuals but of fields—what might be called the disciplinary libido. in each chapter, I consider the ways in which a field differentiates itself from, but also desires to become, its nearest neighbor, whether at the edges of the academy (the professional wants to be an amateur and vice versa), among the disciplines (each one covets its neighbor’s insights), or within the disciplines (each one attempts to create a new language specific to its objects, but longs for a universal language understood by all). the chapters that follow thus address the current world of scholarship in the humanities in three different modes: through persons (“The Amateur Professional and the Professional Amateur”), institutions (“Discipline Envy”), and language (“Terms of Art”).

I suggest that various attacks against the academic profession and various feuds within it—the disparagement of amateurs by professionals and professionals by amateurs, the desire to keep the disciplines pure, the accusation that academic writing is, unlike the language of the real world, jar-

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