Professing * Reflecting

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

And the scales fall from Medusa's eyes . . .

[Warning: dark and angry thoughts ahead.]
[Edited: A less cranky Medusa reflects.]

Writing, teaching, and conferencing have kept me from posting (or eating or dreaming or reflecting or sleeping or living anything closely resembling life as I usually know it). Total whirlwind. I have a few things knocking around in my head that I do want to post about at length if/when stability is restored.

1. I might actually be a pretentious fuck rather than the imposter into pretentious circles that I thought I was. Have years of trespassing into enemy territory turned me into the enemy? I mirror therefore I am. [When I think about it, I don't know if I can call myself or any of the "enemy" I was thinking of here pretentious fucks. Only from the outside does it seem that these people are putting on airs or pretending to be more important than they are. In graduate school--and I think some people have been blogging about this, but I haven't caught up--you are thrust into circles with the expectation that you can and will hold your own, even if you do not have the street cred to back you. In a sense, you are "trespassing." In another, you are learning the ropes. In a profession that involves showing that you have the right stuff, with an emphasis (I think--if you are really going to succeed) on showmanship, a certain level of self-importance is a job requirement, not a nasty character trait. It might be a part of me, the trailer-park kid, who is speaking the above words, which on reflection amount to: "Look at all of those fancy professors doing their fancy thing. WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?" A good amount of class guilt, of the guilt bound up in "passing," may be a big part of the equation here.]

2. Obnoxiously pretentious people are not being ironic in their pretension, even or especially when they pretend to be. [I am thinking of two types here and again it may be Trailer Park Medusa (How good would that be as the name of a band? Almost as good as Whore Pants. . .) speaking. First, there is the Very Important Person who takes himself or herself so very seriously that you cannot believe that he or she could maintain that level of self-importance without being somewhat aware of the performance. Somewhere along the line, she has caught sight of the game and the ways in which she is implicated in it and has learned to make gestures of self-awareness, e.g. "Oh, look at me/us being so pretentious. Isn't it delightful? Of course I do not really take myself this seriously." But she does not really believe that she is putting on a show beyond making that self-excusing gesture.]

3. Lack of pretension is a meaningless pose. [The second type is the Very Important Person who is seen as "down-to-earth," who self-consciously exudes a sense of "I recognize my own importance but I am in no way buying into it." This is also the person, though, who is blindly pretentious or drawn to pretentiousness in other ways, the person who will in the same breath say, "Oh, all of this is too fancy for me. . . Who let THAT PERSON in the door?" I think the second type may be worse than the first type who really has no understanding why he or she has to make excuses for a certain level of importance. Or the second type might grow from the first type. And, yes, these are wild generalizations.]

4. Pretending not to be charmed by pretension is a pretense. [I have to admit I was to some extent getting caught up in the rhythm, the circularity, and the language mirroring here, but it does relate to what I was thinking above. Yes, I am drawn in by magnetic, powerful, confident-to-the-point-of-arrogant people. I, as much as the next person, am intrigued by a good and grand show.]

5. This profession is thoroughly fucked. [OF COURSE IT IS! It's a profession that is as much about showmanship as it is about merit and part of that showmanship is having to show over and over again that you have the substance to back up the show. And then when you might just have enough credibility to stop having to prove yourself like a trained monkey, you have to apologize for it.]

6. Professional fucking is unprofessional. [By "professional fucking," I meant professors fucking professors. If it were strictly "professional"--if you were really thinking, "Ah, here I am a professor fucking another professor"--what fun would it really be? It is fun. And interesting. And certainly not a crime.]

[Original post: 4/11/05]



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