University Diaries

University Diaries

A professor of English describes American university life.

October 4, 2008 - 2:06pm
Universities are winsome, dappled, pathetic things. Their two main constituents, students and professors, are cute and idealistic. They worry about Darfur and solar power and whether we can be said to reason autonomously. Other important university constituents, like proud parents and alumni sports boosters, are also adorable in their excitement about things like intellectual cultivation and school spirit.
September 25, 2008 - 11:08am
Suicides, especially the suicides of sensitive writers we love (Virginia Woolf, Randall Jarrell, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace), are a serious body blow. They anger and demoralize us. They make us brood. Even if he'd left a tightly argued, thousand page suicide letter -- with endnotes -- we'd find what Wallace did mysterious, unaccountable. Yet if suicide is a million miles away from our experience, it's also luridly intimate.
September 12, 2008 - 9:26pm
I'm sitting on Leslie Whittington's bench. Born 1955. You can only follow one or two stories, and of course UD - a George Washington University professor who has spent research time in Australia - has followed Leslie's. She was a Georgetown University professor, on sabbatical, on her way - with her husband and daughters - to a research appointment in Australia. She was almost the same age as UD.
September 7, 2008 - 11:06am
The fiery debates about Sarah Palin's capacity to lead - the quality of her intellect, the nature of her academic and political preparation - focus national attention on a theme dear to UD: Higher education. Why do we call it higher? Does it matter whether one has this rather obscure, somehow elevated, experience?
September 2, 2008 - 3:48pm
As we wait for the next water to break on the Palin story, it's worth recalling that one of the country's most high-profile conservative thinkers, Charles Murray, has been promoting a book which argues, among other things, that college should be reserved for America's intellectually gifted. The cognitive elite, Murray says, is the group most likely to be running government and industry; and, given these crucial responsibilities, it should be as seriously educated as possible:
August 14, 2008 - 9:49pm
Where to learn to shoot? Where does a fiftyish female English professor with bad aim and a bad attitude go for some bangbang? UD contemplated this. She considered an NRA class; she considered the many kind shooting invitations from gunnies that she got via this Inside Higher Ed series. She considered taking things slower, the way professors do, sitting around libraries reading about guns rather than shooting them...
July 30, 2008 - 7:47am
UD got a cab ride to the Chantilly, Virginia gun show last weekend with her taxi driver friend, G. No way was Mr. UD going to drive UD to a gun show. G., a working class woman in her forties, told UD about her alcoholic husband (he died of cirrhosis a year after she left him) grabbing his rifle one night and blasting her car when she got home late from a friend's.
July 13, 2008 - 6:43pm
"Guns," conclude two Yale law professors in a recent Emory Law Journal, "are at the center of an expressive struggle between the adherents of competing visions of the good society - one egalitarian and communal, the other hierarchic and individualistic."
July 11, 2008 - 12:43pm
No, I haven't shot off a gun yet. UD has been on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She has put her bed as close as possible to her balcony overlooking the Atlantic so that she can fall asleep to the sound of waves. Right now (7 AM), she has closed the balcony curtains to keep the big sun out of the room so she can blog. An hour ago, she stood on her balcony staring at a white, gray, blue, purple, black, yellow, and orange sunrise.
June 23, 2008 - 11:34am
Stop me if you've heard this before, but it's sort of new to UD. If you've read this series, you know she's had a peculiar, sheltered, life. But if Mark Tushnet (see post below this one) and others are correct, and if gun control/gun rights is ultimately about the culture wars, then maybe UD's making some progress in her effort to get closer to guns in noting the shame/beauty divide.

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