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The other day I was talking with one of my best friends about academia. And how it kills absolutely everything it touches. You like Dickens? Take a class on him, that’ll fix that problem. You’re a fan of writing about and analyzing interesting cultural phenomena? Go to grad school, so you can learn to write so well you’ll be unintelligible. Want to share ideas with like-minded people? Learn how to speak jargon so well that you’ll never be understood by humanoid life forms again.

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You too can speak like a library with lungs, just like Borges!

Ah, sweet academia. Being outside it – at last? finally? unfortunately? – feels odd to me. For the first time in a long while, I find myself outside a scholarly community, living in “the real world,” even if only for two years, after which time I shall go to grad school and become a Slave to Academia once more. But this little respite prompts me to ask: is academia useful? For studying fairy tales? Folklore? Does studying something actually partially destroy it, as I’ve suggested elsewhere?

First of all, before you even say it: yes, I agree. Academics need to make themselves – and their work – more accessible. It’s part of the reason why I write this blog, and why I write it the way that I do. I write about what I’m working on, and I write to be read. Understood. Much though I love certain academic thinkers, they specialize in being obscure. Like Lacan! Reading Lacan is like doing mind-gymnatics: how well can you perform on the balance beam? Can you do a triple flippy thingy? Those who cannot do a triple-flippy-thingy are abject failures whose minds are worthless. Or so the prevailing attitude goes.

Some people seem to think of academia the way that Miranda Priestly thinks about fashion. Click here to listen to Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada explain it all, as she rants at her assistant for not caring about fashion. But fashion actually controls us all!

For those international viewers who can’t watch the clip, I’ve copy/pasted the relevant text here: Read the rest of this entry »


In Defense of Fairy Tales

Why do I write this blog, anyway? Why am I going to devote my life to studying fairy tales, writing articles and doing research that no one will ever know about or read? Why don’t fairy tale scholars do something more ‘useful’ – like cure cancer, or work at a battered women’s shelter?

Why do fairy tales matter?

It’s a tough question, actually. And tricky especially for me, I suppose. I was raised in a household where I was always told that I should grow up to give back to society. Studying fairy tales might be a lot of fun, but doesn’t seem to really give anything back to society. Or does it?

First, I want to dismiss the argument that a lot of people probably think of when they’re trying to justify their existences. The argument goes like this: “Well, it matters because it’s beautiful. Man cannot live by bread alone! Art and scholarship are needed, just like we need medicine and engineering.”

No. Art is a wonderful, glorious thing. But we don’t need it like we need medicine and electricity. And man can live without the artists, the writers, and the fairy tale scholars. Would they miss us? Maybe. After a while, probably. But taking away their doctors and engineers would be a lot more noticeable and hurt a lot more because society truly needs things like medicine and infrastructure.
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Warning: this blog contains fairy tales (which may be unsuitable for grouches), a flying pig (which may be unsuitable for realists), and textual analysis (which may be unsuitable for chemists). You stand warned.

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