Thursday, July 19, 2007

Literature Professor (new example)

Some recent airplane reading turned up yet another unflattering description of a professor (art history, in this case):

".. a mild, rather mousy man, who for some reason invariably evoked the pity of students. It was not that they disliked him.. they just felt a vague, inexpressible regret that he existed.." (Love Over Scotland, Alexander McCall Smith, p. 1)

Ouch. This professor does not dress well and is passionate about obscure things.

It may well be that some students (and others) pity me, not so much for my unstylishness (although there may be an element of that) as for my fascination with obscure things, as if a deep focus on an academic topic means you don't have "a life". It's very true that I don't have as many hobbies as some people, but I love my research and I feel quite content with my current balance between work and family and other fun things in life (friends, travel, gardens, cats, reading, writing). So, bring on the pity and inexpressible regret -- the professorial existence can be very fun, however obscure your research topic.

(note: I enjoyed the book, even though I was slightly sedated by dramamine when I read it on a recent long flight)

11 comments:

Yvette said...

My email signature even today- "Yes, I have a life. It's quite different from yours." It was a retort I said years ago to some high school peers who seemed convinced of the opposite.

iGollum said...

Having a life vs. research : here's the way I look at it. Seems to me that a 'having a life' for most people is having an unstimulating office job were they work because they have to, in order to be able to afford to actually do some of the things they like after hours, during weekends and on vacation. In contrast, if you're really passionate about your research, you're getting paid to pursue your hobby (with a few, uh, incidental obligations on the side, admittedly), so you're already 'having a life' all day, and thus don't feel so much need to make yourself feel good after work. That's the way it is for me anyway.

Katie said...

And on the very first page!

Doug Natelson said...

So, do you like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books?

Female Science Professor said...

Not particularly, though I like them enough to read them on airplanes. I like his academic satires better (Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Villa of Reduced Circumstances). Also, I had just read What Is The What (Eggers) and wanted to read something different/lighter..

scarlettscion said...

Man, lit professors always get the worst typing. Not only are we just as bland and uninteresting as the science profs, we also may a)have severely inappropriate/odd relationships (Philip Roth) and b) clearly never contribute anything valuable to the world, ever. At least no-one informs physics professors that their entire field is BS and that they exist for the sole purpose of navel-gazing. Argh. And this occurs *within* academia, let's not even talk about outside of it.



A brief note though--art history is really quite different from literature studies. Honestly. Promise. Like microbiology vs nuclear chemistry...

Female Science Professor said...

I do know the difference between art history and literature (Honestly. Promise.). The reference was to a Professor depicted in a Literary work.

gs said...

My understanding is that every halfway legitimate faculty opening attracts many well qualified applicants. Society isn't serious about dismissive stereotypes of professors.

scarlettscion said...

Ah, I get it. Literature Professor=professor in a literary work. Sorry for the snark, it seems to be hardwired into my DNA ;-)

AngryMan said...

People love to make fun of you in order to make their empty life feel better. I get a lot of grief from friends for being such a sci-fi fan. In fact, a good friend of mine won't read a short story that I wrote because it has sciency elements to it. How lame is that? It don't bother me, though, I keep writing.

alguien que pasaba por ahí said...

life vs. life, thats the way i try to put it. Whats life is? and what research is? Im a literature professor, and i do live. I have sex, and I visit mum, and i have my strange and funny friends.