The Teachable Moment: The Bullying Moment

For academics, twitter is a world of pretend. Undergraduate students “follow” senior professors; graduate students try to make that elusive “connection” with “stars”; and junior faculty try to impress “influential” people. All of this accords with an idea we’d like to have of education as open, welcoming, friendly. In the absence of bodies and offices... Continue Reading →

On Getting a Ph.D.

Getting a Ph.D. is hard. It takes time. It takes energy. And, as I have told so many of my students, it forces you to encounter your intelligence. As you sit and read and try to write and try to think, you are encountering your intelligence, as though for the very first time. Not confirming... Continue Reading →

Learning Hurts

A few years ago, one of my smart students, who interpreted literature effortlessly, encountered an essay by Judith Butler. “Why,” she asked, “does she have to write like she’s so smart?” The question has stayed with me. Was she asking, “why does reading this essay make me feel less smart?” Or, was it gendered, “why... Continue Reading →

It Gets Harder: On Teaching

This post can go wrong in many ways. It is not about sex. This post can go wrong in many other ways. It really is not about sex. Stop reading right now if you think it’s about sex. Really. Stop. Since I’ve used the word sex so many times, search engines will probably direct those... Continue Reading →

Teaching on Lynching

While the scholarship on lynching has proliferated over the past 10 or so years, the memory of lynching seems more elusive than ever. Lynching has lost its force, so much so that lynching has become a common metaphor for having a bad day. Curiously, not since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have images... Continue Reading →

Magic Numbers: 20+40

Since the publication of Richard Arum and Josipa Roska’s Academically Adrift early in 2011, 20+40 have become “magic numbers,” evidence of “academic rigor.” The study (which I haven’t read, but which has been much discussed) claimed that 32% of the students they studied did not take courses with more than 40 pages of reading a... Continue Reading →

Graduate Training in the Humanities II

Something strange happens in discussions of graduate education in the humanities: we forget that graduate school is more than the dissertation. In fact, we forget how and why coursework matters and this is a terrible loss, especially given the changing nature of the increasingly rapacious academy. A quick scan of job listings over the past... Continue Reading →

Graduate Training in the Humanities

Scholars in the humanities are having wide-ranging discussions about the purposes of graduate training. Should Ph.D. students be required to write a dissertation that is a book-length manuscript? (For the record, my answer is no.) What is the appropriate length for a Ph.D. program? (Russell Berman, MLA president, says 4 years.) How should we change... Continue Reading →

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