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Manifesto of a Tenured Radical

CARY NELSON
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 254
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfqdk
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  • Book Info
    Manifesto of a Tenured Radical
    Book Description:

    In an age when innovative scholarly work is at an all-time high, the academy itself is being rocked by structural change. Funding is plummeting. Tenure increasingly seems a prospect for only the elite few. Ph.D.'s are going begging for even adjunct work. Into this tumult steps Cary Nelson, with a no- holds-barred account of recent developments in higher education. Eloquent and witty, Manifesto of a Tenured Radical urges academics to apply the theoretical advances of the last twenty years to an analysis of their own practices and standards of behavior. In the process, Nelson offers a devastating critique of current inequities and a detailed proposal for change in the form of A Twelve-Step Program for Academia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5927-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    Walk the halls of almost any large university anthropology, English, or history department and you will meet faculty and graduate students who feel personally empowered by decades of innovative disciplinary and multidisciplinary work. Yet those same hallways may be peopled by adjunct and parttime faculty who cobble together what is at best an uncertain, nearly impoverished existence on the margins of their disciplines. And those intellectually ambitious graduate students, as they near completing their degrees and start contemplating the disastrous job market, will begin to wonder if they have any future in the field they have come to love. A...

  4. I THE POLITICS OF ENGLISH
    • 1 AGAINST ENGLISH AS IT WAS THEORY AND THE POLITICS OF THE DISCIPLINE
      (pp. 13-28)

      In the literature curriculum, Perkins allows, the nestlings that have been starving and are nearly dead are the canonical works of English literature. In each new cowbird invasion, a body of theory has not only demanded space for itself but also helped plant new and brutally opportunistic textual eggs in the true nest. A series of nonnative species has filled our good English trees. First it was modern philosophy and literature displacing classical studies; then in the 1930s Marxism helped clear the way for American literature. More recently, feminism, multiculturalism, and gay studies have laid their eggs in the nest;...

    • 2 MULTICULTURALISM WITHOUT GUARANTEES FROM ANTHOLOGIES TO THE SOCIAL TEXT
      (pp. 29-38)

      I want to take up the question of multiculturalism by addressing the subject of anthologies, not only because they are one of the major ways of bringing together texts from a variety of cultural traditions but also because anthologies that are explicitly multicultural—as anthologies of American literature are increasingly tending to be—are also a means of constructing in miniature textual versions of a larger multicultural society.¹ Anthologies are, in a significant way, representations of the wider social text, figurations of the body politic; their compilation and use is thus fraught with social and political meaning and responsibility. What...

    • 3 RELATIVISM, POLITICS, AND ETHICS WRITING LITERARY HISTORY IN THE SHADOW OF POSTSTRUCTURALISM
      (pp. 39-51)

      In the current critical climate one may easily find proclamations of a “return to history” sharing disciplinary contemporaneity with declarations that objective historical knowledge is impossible. Given the far-reaching and apparently opposite nature of these claims, it is not surprising that many see them not only as irreconcilable but also as competing moral, epistemological, professional, and cultural agendas. They represent, or so we are often urged to conclude, radically different ways of thinking about both historiography and the world itself. I would not want to argue that it is possible to synthesize certainty and doubt as they are embodied in...

    • 4 ALWAYS ALREADY CULTURAL STUDIES ACADEMIC CONFERENCES AND A MANIFESTO
      (pp. 52-74)

      The rapidly increasing visibility of cultural studies in the United States over the past few years gives us an opportunity to see how an emerging body of theory is realized politically and professionally, to reflect on its articulation to existing institutionsin medias res, before those articulations are fixed for any period of time. One of those institutions is the large academic conference, two of which took place within a few months of each other, “Cultural Studies Now and in the Future” at the University of Illinois in April of 1990, a conference I helped to organize, and “Crossing the...

  5. II THE ACADEMY AND THE CULTURE DEBATES
    • 5 PROGRESSIVE PEDAGOGY WITHOUT APOLOGIES THE CULTURAL WORK OF TEACHING NONCANONICAL POETRY
      (pp. 77-96)

      I want to ground this chapter’s remarks about theory and social responsibility in undergraduate teaching in a specific material context—a course in modern poetry that I taught recently. I was returning to the undergraduate literature classroom after several years’ absence, having done mostly courses and seminars in theory. Because I wanted my students to treat critical books and essays as texts, rather than as mere exportable systems of ideas (and because no one else in my department was teaching courses in pure theory at the time), I considered it important to exclude literary texts from my theory courses and...

    • 6 CANON FODDER AN EVENING WITH WILLIAM BENNETT, LYNNE CHENEY, AND DINESH DʹSOUZA
      (pp. 97-114)

      On Thursday 4 April 1991, the conservative Washington, D.C. based American Enterprise Institute held a two-hour round table with Lynne Cheney, William Bennett, and Dinesh D’Souza, author of the recently publishedIlliberal Education.¹ They were addressing an invited audience on the subject of “The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus,” which is also the subtitle of D’Souza’s book. Bennett and Cheney are, of course, former and present heads of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bennett also filling in as former secretary of education and former drug czar. D’Souza is a formerDartmouth Reviewboard member and was then...

    • 7 HATE SPEECH AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
      (pp. 115-125)

      In a famous 1925 poem called “Incident,” Countee Cullen described in only two stanzas something of the power that hate speech can have over those who are its victims:

      Now I was eight and very small,

      And he was no whit bigger,

      And so I smiled, but he poked out

      His tongue, and called me “Nigger.”

      I saw the whole of Baltimore

      From May until December;

      Of all the things that happened there

      That’s all that I remember.

      It’s not merely that the speaker here is a child, of course, but that he is attacked in a moment when he...

    • 8 WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE PUT THE LEFT AT THE CENTER?
      (pp. 126-134)

      Some years ago, when I was beginning to teach from an expanded canon and working on the book on noncanonical modern American poetry described in chapters 3 and 5, I sent a draft of the manuscript to a senior faculty member who was a specialist in modern poetry. The book was an attempt to recover a large number of forgotten or devalued women, minority, and left-wing writers. My reader, wedded to the traditional canon of often politically conservative white males, had only one comment: “So you want us to read a lot of women, blacks, and Jews. What’s the point?”...

  6. III LESSONS FROM THE JOB WARS
    • 9 DICHOTOMY IS WHERE THE MONEY IS ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 137-152)

      As I have argued throughout this book, higher education in America faces a future that is far from uncertain. For if faculty members and administrators continue as they are, we can predict with unwelcome confidence the basic shape of the educational environment of the next millennium—increased class sizes, decreased academic freedom, fewer tenure-track faculty, more part-time teachers, a shakeout and reduction in the number of full-scale research universities, and little time for research anywhere except at a small handful of private institutions. And universities, meanwhile, will be increasingly exploitive employers.

      In the fall of 1995, after I made similar...

    • 10 LATE CAPITALISM ARRIVES ON CAMPUS THE CORPORATE UNIVERSITYʹS EXPENDABLE EMPLOYEES
      (pp. 153-170)

      As any faculty cocktail party conversation from Maine to California will reveal, wishful thinking about the job market is alive and well in academia. I sometimes think wishful thinking is academia’s major contribution to the public sphere. But every colder gaze cast on our economic future suggests that things will not get better either now or later. The job market—especially in the humanities, but also in the social sciences and the theoretical sciences—may remain depressed throughout the decade and beyond. And if all of us in higher education remain disengaged—indifferent to our public image, to the network...

    • 11 WHAT IS TO BE DONE? A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM FOR ACADEMIA
      (pp. 171-193)

      Let me begin with a riddle for higher education in the 1990s: In three letters, what is the name of a lengthy and expensive cultural enhancement program for term employees in the academy—employees, in other words, who have been hired for a fixed term and no longer? Stumped? Perhaps, like many Americans, just bored? Or, like most of the higher education community, eager to change the subject? The key part of the riddle again:a cultural enhancement program for term employees. The answer: the Ph.D.

      It is true that a few of these term employees will be selected for...

    • 12 REACTION AND RESISTANCE AT YALE AND THE MLA UNION ORGANIZING AND THE JOB MARKET
      (pp. 194-216)

      It was late in the 1995 Christmas season. In the general culture the parties were over until New Years. But at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association job candidates had nonetheless to be feted. So in a cramped room high in some forgettable hotel, Cactus State University was offering boxed wine, pretzels, and chips to people being interviewed for a job in critical theory.Boxed wine?Yes, indeed. Years ago at my home university distinguished French theoretician Henri Lefebvre had delivered what proved to be my single favorite line from a conference on the current state of Marxism:...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 217-230)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 231-238)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 239-244)
  10. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 245-246)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)