Academic Drag

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnjoying a coffee with an old chum last week, he mentioned that he’d read my last blog. ‘Afraid I gave up after the first couple of sentences’, he said. ‘Went rather over my head. Might try it again when I’m feeling stronger.’

As said chum has a PhD and is on the faculty of one of our top universities, I wondered whether I should be happy or unhappy about this response. Actually that’s not quite true: I was immediately unhappy. I read my piece again and considered it both pretentious and obscure in the light of his comments. If you also found it so, I apologise.

Yet I very much enjoyed writing it. I was genuinely excited at trying to formulate some thoughts on a difficult subject which at that moment felt of real concern to me. I admit that if I had sat on the piece longer, and subjected it to some rigorous rewriting, I could probably have made it clearer and easier to read. But I was also rather revelling in playing the part of an intellectual, imagining myself heroically wrestling with tough concepts the way one might wrestle with crocodiles, and I liked the thought that I was  presenting such an heroic spectacle to the outside world.

Dressing up in academic drag is great fun. But perhaps adopting such a disguise is also a way in which I can say things that I couldn’t say otherwise. Do you notice, by the way, how cleverly this is leading back to the theme of identity? I’ll let you finish the thought off for yourself.


7 thoughts on “Academic Drag

  1. Thanks to both of you! I’m noticing how my feelings about what I’ve written shift according to the response I get, just as I respond to someone looking bored or interested as I’m talking. Maybe I shouldn’t care. But then what kind of communication would that be? Maybe I could try just not caring too much….

    • Thank you for evoking Pascal, who, like Montaigne, was unfortunately born several hundred years too soon to have published a blog. I opened my copy of the Pensees (the Penguin translation) and the following passage appeared (sortes Pascalianae?): ‘If physicians did not have long gowns and mules, if learned doctors did not wear square caps and robes four times too large, they would never have deceived the world, which finds such an authentic display irresistible.’ (p.40) An excellent footnote to my current blog, and another observation of how the image transforms the relationship. It is part of a section which Pascal himself titled, Imagination.

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