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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scholarly Self-Fashioning

My image of myself, of what I am doing as a scholar, has shifted gradually over the years. I once saw myself as the hot-shot, hyper-theoretical Young Turk. Now I am more the old-fogey, old-school Comparative Literature professor. Between these two phases, I saw myself as the person with the deepest possible insight into poetry, aspiring to be the greatest possible reader. Sometimes I've wanted to see myself as the consummate specialist in my particular subfield. Other identities I've tried on include the "poet-critic" and the high-modernist.

I mention these overlapping or partially contradictory identities because it might be strategic to define oneself in a particular way, but it is also helpful to question one's own identity from time to time. What benefit do we get from thinking of ourselves in a category like those I've described? If you call yourself a professor-activist, a cultural critic, or an interdisciplinary scholar, what does that mean for you?

(I borrow the word "self-fashioning" from Stephen Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning.)

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

I went to grad school to be a cool hot-shot Comp Litter but ended up writing a rather old-school Comp Lit thesis and then drifting onto the margins of academia ...