Merely Your Humble Master

Ah yes. Another one of those “time is passing me by” weeks. (Perhaps such times happen so often because they occur as weeks instead of simple, quick-and-dirty moments.) They pop up now and again, probably with more frequency as I get older. Most of them have to do with me not being quite so up-to-date on electronic gadgetry or my ardent refusal to pepper my every text message or IM with acronyms. (Does the fact that I wrote the acronym “IM” instead of “instant message” undermine my self-identification as a techno-curmudgeon?”) Still, this is a big one for me because it’s a peers’ rite of passage that I will never partake in.

A handful of people in my “cohort” from the University of Chicago anthropology department defended their dissertations this week. For those not in the know, the word “cohort” is used by the anthro department to describe a group of students who come into the program in the same year. I think the word is supposed to indicate that said group has a unique identity and bond born of the communal suffering of the first year of graduate school. Ahem. Bullshit. Really, it is snobby way to make a group of would-be scholars seem like a native tribe with unbreakable ties of intellectual coming-of-age ritual. It also may just be a handy way to identify the people you should murder, maim, or plagiarize in order to increase your chances of getting an NSF grant or Fulbright Fellowship. Anyway, I heartily congratulate the new doctors (or at least the ones I liked).

There are plenty of reasons that I left grad school. I was too immature when I started. The U of C, in all its joyless obsessiveness, really wasn’t the right school for me, though it was rated the best of my choices. I didn’t have the temperament for academia. I simply wasn’t bright enough to compete for funding or jobs. If I did manage finish, I wouldn’t be able to make a living as an anthropologist anyway, especially with accumulated student loans. And my project was absurd. Actually, here’s proof of that last one taken from my MA thesis:

Inside jokes, as I have outlined them here, can be described as words or phrases that indexically invoke earlier interactional contexts in which humorous meaning precipitated. Understanding of such jokes hinges upon the shared experience of such a past text-in-context rather than ordinary linguistic competence. Thus inside jokes may index social relations by marking those who can and those who cannot perceive the deictic relation between a text-in-context as it unfolds in the here-and-now realtime and a past text from which its original humorous meaning derives. Additionally, as was the case in the SportsCenter example, any given (re)entextualization of an inside joke can have the effect of role recruitment by bestowing upon the initiated hearer the requisite knowledge to perceive or undertake future entextualization of the inside joke.

Hellllllooooo, book contract and movie deal! Scintillating, huh? And that's supposed to be a description of something that's funny! Actually, the word deictic always gave me an adolescent chuckle because it's pronounced "dyke dick." See what I mean about maturity?

I had a good run of it I guess. The first bit of advice I got from a prof was "Don't call me dickhead." Then there was my advisor telling a story to me about his swollen testicles during a session of a reading course in his office. (Sorry kids, for me at least, "reading course" is not a euphemism.) Oh, and there was the somewhat sodden (and besotted) professor who confessed, also during a reading course, that "Parker Posey could do no wrong." It is often depressing that I never finished because it would have been a palpable accomplishment to be contributing to a greater body of knowledge about human behavior, but I guess my talent wasn't so much in my research as it was bringing out the crazy in professors.


At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Jolene said...


Readers, if you want to have awesome inside jokes like THIS one, don't go to grad school - take classes in improv!

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, cry me a river, Mr. I-already-have -an-advanced-degree.

If you do suggest to go back and accumulate more debt, may I suggest law school?

Then you can take your cohort out to dinner.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger evandebacle said...

Maybe you weren't reading closely. I have an advanced degree in anthropology. Even I'm not sure that's a real subject.

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Rev Transit said...

Shoot, you could have told people you were a credentialed Doctor of Comedy. That would have been a great schtick.


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