Monday, January 14, 2008

Holy Moly

I am one of those people who don't usually believe in TMI (cough), but holy moly, more than I needed to know and more than I would ever want to know about my advisor, say:

Novelist/Professor Robert Olen Butler's Wife Leaves Him to Join Ted Turner's Harem; Bob Emails His Grad Students To Tell Them The Whole Story.


Via Jeremy Freese, who also comments that Humanities professors seem to lead more dramatic, action-packed lives. Yes, we are very late to this party. Because my life is definitely devoid of florid, creepy poetry (arms reaching out in the darkness, etc.) written by hopeful and wan English literature majors ever since I made the switch to law and social sciences, I have to agree.

No, this is not important information about The Academy, but you have to admit, you're interested. It's like watching a train wreck. So much of why we pay attention is because our world becomes smaller when we enter the academy. The world of ideas enlargens our scope, but our actual communities become so small: colleagues, students, other academics at other institutions but who do not really make our world more "diverse." It's the Creeping Homogenization effect, that everyone of this education level and way of thinking and career becomes your community. It's rather limiting, to be concerned with only this group of people. So you try to find interesting things about them, and sex and scandalous affairs are definitely interesting in a prurient, shameful way.

It's an odd thing, but I find myself more interested in the lives of other academics whose work, career changes, and wedding announcments I read (via Leiter Law School Reports, academic blogs, NYT, etc.) than I do about anyone on TV or any stranger sitting next to me in the cafe. What do I know about that person? Nothing. That person might be way more interesting, actually, but heck, an author I've read just pulled a psycho in violating some institutional norm that generally makes you choose between scholar/person by emailing a bunch of his students about his private life, and that's just as interesting if not more so.


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