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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Betrayal

While I was teaching APD's class, after he fell sick, I learned that he and my colleague in Latin American poetry were going to be teaching an NEH Seminar in the summer. Imagine my surprise. My two colleagues and friends had applied for an NEH Seminar for College Teachers, had their proposal accepted, and this was going on without my knowledge: a seminar in my own field, at my own university, that I knew nothing about until it was about to happen. She had approached APD with the idea. She had mentioned, "What about Jonathan?" and he said, "Oh, he wouldn't want to do it." (As I found out later.)

So that summer a group of students came to KU to study poetry with APD, once more. Later I had it out with my colleague in Latin American poetry. We are still friends and even co-taught a course later. She knew I thought APD's work and influence were far from benign, but she still wanted to teach with him instead of with me. I don't understand it and I never will, but I can't do anything about that now.

It was true that I might not have wanted to do it, and that I was no longer getting along quite as well with APD, but I still felt like I had been punched in the stomach by these two colleagues. Of course, I was too stunned to even express my anger, until a few years later. That is my fault, because I tended to be passive about such things. When I had to peer review an article that had obviously resulted from this seminar, I could point out how this student had no original voice, was a mere carbon-copy of APD.

I don't think I would be as passive today.

3 comments:

profacero said...

Re all the behind one's back-ness, I just find that a lot of academics are not very grown up. My departure fantasies are about leaving this junior high school type behavior behind and having a chance to work with grownups. (Perhaps there are no grownups, anywhere....)

Clarissa said...

This is really uncanny because I had almost the exact same story with my mentor. I don't know, maybe it is, indeed, impossible to tolerate it when somebody whom you molded as an academic begins to go their own way intellectually.

Clarissa said...

" My departure fantasies are about leaving this junior high school type behavior behind and having a chance to work with grownups. (Perhaps there are no grownups, anywhere....)"

- My sister runs her own business and her central complaint about her employees - even those who are older than she is - is the amount of baby-sitting and micromanagement they demand. So I can't say that I'm wildly optimistic about the number of responsible grown-ups anywhere.