PhD Student

This is a writing exercise modeled on Jamaica Kincaid’s piece “Girl.”  It was so much fun to write that I cannot resist posting it…

Cite the right sources on Monday with the appropriate degree of subdued awe; fret over your work on Tuesday to make sure it isn’t too derivative.  This is how to string together garlands of words around your tiny quivering ideas to hide how flimsy they are.  Always state yourself with confidence even when you don’t have any; it is not necessary to be frightened: the rest of them are too worried over artfully arranging their own smoke screens to try to catch a glimpse through yours.  Remember that clarity is impolite; it disturbs the order of things.  This is what hegemony means; this is what transformative means; this is what deconstruction does; this is how to capitalize the word Other without giggling like a crazy person; this is how to use the word Other as a verb.  This is how to dress yourself like someone who moves in high realms of the mind that do not concern themselves with fashion.  This is how to sit at a conference talk, with your chin gently resting on your cupped hand like so; don’t look bored; cultivate an expression of mild concern, like one who perceives a crack in a line of reasoning.  Don’t worry too much about following lines of reasoning; as a matter of fact avoid it because you must never, ever burst into bewildered laughter when you see meaning evaporate from language when it gets boiled in our stew—oh yes this is how to make the stew: start with a base of hermeneutics, add two scoops of epistemology and a dash of dialectic; don’t forget to objectivize the paradigm shift and hybridize the transformative ontology of liminality.  Do not laugh; do not laugh like the unpolished rube you insist on being.  Do not believe that anything actually means anything.  This is how to avoid committee work; this is how to sign up for the committees that will look impressive on your CV.   This is how to grimly forecast the death of your discipline; this is how to passionately argue for the needfulness of your discipline in producing well-rounded, educated young citizens; remember to bemoan the piss-poor work of your degenerate students; remember you were never like them; remember you always cared deeply about your work unlike the dissipated corporate drone you are afraid of becoming.  This is how to deliver a paper in a perfect monotone to make sure everyone knows you aren’t trying to pander to an audience with cheap affectations like inflection or liveliness.  This is how to snicker at a joke that pivots on the judicious application of the word differance; this is how to utter the word jouissance to a colleague you are dying to sleep with; this is how to maintain deniability.  When you explain the difference between sign and signifier to a dewey-eyed undergraduate who is only listening to the words coming out of your mouth because he likes the curve of your lip, you must not explode into hysterical laughter.  Why do you insist on laughing as if this were all hilarious?  This is all very serious.  But what if I cannot believe that this is all very serious? You mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of academic that the department won’t let near tenure?


4 responses to “PhD Student

  1. Madge Pastiche

    This is how Elena is a freaking genius AGAIN.

  2. ohlord. I’m lmao. I taught “Girl” this semester.

  3. Great, Elena! I love this!

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