This is the start of a blog I’ll be doing for the GC Advocate. I’ll cross-post the articles that get posted there:
Welcome to “Academic Affairs.” I am starting this blog with a simple idea in mind: the stories that we tell about academic life can shape and influence the way that all of us (academics and non-academics alike) think about the place of higher education in our society. Here at The GC Advocate we already have great reportage on some of the most pressing issues in higher education. In the past two months we’ve had articles about the ongoing struggle to preserve public education here in the CUNY system, articles about the teaching job market for PhD’s throughout the nation, and coverage of the recent student strikes in Puerto Rico, just to name a few examples. I’d like to come at the topic of higher education from a different angle. I believe that those of us with a vested interest in higher education have to make the case for its importance by telling compelling stories about what the academy means to us and what place we think the academy should have in a pluralistic, democratic society.
This is an outgrowth of my dissertation project, which is on academic novels. Now I’ll be the first to admit that this sounds rather narcissistic and elitist. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that academic fiction is only about the insular, closed world of ivory tower academic life. And yes, there are many novels in the genre that amount to little more than bourgeois comedies of manners set in universities, and who gives a flip about that? However, there are also academic novels that look beyond this enclosed world of the university, and I am most interested in the novels (and films) that draw connections between the university and the world beyond it. In the May 2010 issue I shared my Top 10 list of academic films. I’ll be continuing with that theme by writing short articles about some recent films and novels that depict academic life, while also revisiting some older works that I think are still relevant to things that are happening now.
I hope you will enjoy this column and I hope that you will be encouraged to chime in and share your own ideas and make this a collaborative project.