The academic journal College Literature just published my essay on applying to grad school. You can read it here on Project MUSE, or visit this site’s archive for an open-access .pdf.

As in most academic publishing, this took positively forever to come out—in between my final revision and the issue’s printing, U. S. News & World Report not only issued two new sets of grad-school rankings, it also ceased to be a print publication (with the exception of best-selling special issues like said grad-school rankings). Underscoring this lag is the fact that my essay’s subject is a group of online message boards that discuss applying to grad school. These were very real-time and very soul-crushing, as I remember them, but we applicants couldn’t stop talking about rankings, publishing, conferencing, and everything else.

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
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One Response to Prepreprofessionalism

  1. Dear Craig,

    I recently ran across your article on Pre-Professionalism published CL, summer 2009. While I am a veteran of misreadings of my published work, particularly of the more truculent of my writings, I found your misreading of my article published in Minnesota Review in 2000, well, as you say, “egregious.” You write:

    Lambert, clever but uncharitable, uses a cadre of psychoanalytic concepts to argue that, for Guillory, “over against the real production of legitimate interest, the pseudo-production of desire consistent with graduate student production belongs to the Imaginary . . . because graduate students ‘lack’ a job” (2000, 251–52). Like Hoberek, Lambert strips Guillory of his empathy and shifts his target from the profession to its graduate students, turning Guillory into a handy straw man with a handier neologism. In the same way, Guillory’s attackers often ignore his discussion of politicized desires, even though he considers them “equally important” to professional ones (1996, 92).9 As English has become more marginal, Guillory suggests, it has fore- grounded “a political thematic in the classroom and in publication—a the- matic defined by the familiar categories of race, class, gender, or sexuality” (93). Despite Guillory’s explicit interweaving of politicized and professional desires—he positions them in a relationship “of resonance, of mutual inten- sification” (93)—critics continue to read his essay like a menu, picking and choosing what they want.10

    What you define as “Guillory’s explicit interweaving of politicized and professional desires” is the actual target of my criticism, since Guillory’s reading is blatantly structured by a classical (Freudian) concept of the symptom in hysteria (hence, the allusion to Freud’s essay in the title of my essay). Thus, according to Guillory’s own argument, the politicization of faculty desire and the professionalization of graduate student desire were, indeed, “in a relationship of resonance and mutual intensification,” which is to say, in Guillory’s argument they were both determined as symptomatic expressions (i.e., hysterical reactions) to a reality principle that Guillory’s own position of authority represents. The intention of my rhetorical (and political) intervention at this particular moment–since Guillory’s short op-ed was even functioning as a reality principle in the profession at that time–was to make explicit what was already implicit in Guillory’s casual analysis; moreover, my “clever use of a cadre of psychoanalytic concepts” was employed to call attention to the non-technical and over-determined subjective use of “desire” by Guillory in this article, emphasizing the reduction of economic causality to the subjective effects that are symptomatically expressed by only the most marginalized members of the profession (graduate students, women, and minorities). Here, I do not employ a “straw man” argument, but rather a psychoanalytic technique of counter-transference in interpreting “the resistance of the analyst” himself.

    What troubles me is not your misreading of my intervention–since clearly my argument was too subtle!–but rather the incredible effort you demonstrate in rehabilitating Guillory’s earlier position and authority precisely by cleverly (?) misreading his own argument against his historical interlocutors. Underlying everything that Guillory argues is an assumption of a proper and legitimate form of desire that is already invested in the pre-professionalism of a proper class subject–this is the only “real” pre-professionalism that one cannot learn in graduate school, nor emulate by overtly democratizing knowledge in the profession, and explains the legitimate trajectories of those, like Guillory, who find themselves occupying elite positions in the profession–and not by chance! If you invest Guillory’s position with renewed authority and legitimation, precisely in response to the contradictions you now experience in your own preprofessionalism, perhaps it is because you yourself need such a form of legitimation to defend yourself against the idea of a future career as Assistant Professor of English at University of Dogbreath, Idaho.

    Gregg Lambert
    Dean’s Professor of Humanities
    Founding Director, SU Humanities Center
    Syracuse University

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