(mao mischaracterized dinner parties)

Sometimes I worry about whether I’m intelligent, or more precisely, I worry about whether I am sufficiently demonstrating my intelligence. “I’m smart!” I want people to know that, but then again, what difference does it make? Who cares? Most people are intelligent. It isn’t very interesting.

It seems to me that academia is a lot of posturing and reminding people how smart you are. This frustrates me. Can’t we talk about movies? Social welfare? Poetry?

I think it is important to be able to talk to anyone about anything. Not because you know everything about everything but because you can listen with awareness and sensitivity and engage with people on their own turf. This seems like a peculiarly female way to look at intelligence: it’s dinner party intelligence. But how much do you really want to talk about, say, Lacan?

This is why I often think I am not cut out for academia. There are people who really do just want to sit around and argue about Heidegger all day, every day. We can talk about Agamben if you really want to. But let’s talk about painting, or textiles, or birds.

This is also a departmental divide… why I feel completely at home in neither Comp Lit nor English. Running into a Buffalo Comp Lit person at the coffee shop would inevitably lead to a West Side Story dance-off of theory terminology. But then you can’t just throw around words like deterritorialization in an English Department like UVA’s– and sometimes one does actually need to use those words.

Now I’m just babbling…

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7 Responses to (mao mischaracterized dinner parties)

  1. Gillian says:

    See I know I’m smart. I just want people to think I’m pretty.

  2. Jessica Smith says:

    ah. i’m so glad someone knows what i’m talking about! (and is willing to say so!)

  3. Simon says:

    this happens in the sciences too, to a certain extent, but, you know, making some reference to physics when you’re at dinner is a bit like making a bad pun. Everyone groans and moves on.

    That said, I think being in a Ph.D. program means really loving loving it some non-negligible fraction of the time and wanting to talk about it then. (The other fraction is misery.)

    PS: good luck with the OV layout!

  4. Simon says:

    I should clarify that the misery re: the “why why do all my fellow gradstus want to talk about this goddamn subject all the time they have no fucking lives I hate it hate it hate it” is just so terribly familiar.

  5. Gillian says:

    My best friend from grad school is the only person who would stop talking about Lacan, or the retrospective narrator, or the scope of her thesis to drink a beer. Then we would discuss really important things. Like Madonna. The singer, not the archetype.

  6. Jessica Smith says:

    simon– ha– yes– i’m beginning to like physicists. (and i’ll send you an email when I have OV ready to go, if you’re still writing an essay for me?)

    i’m glad it’s not just me.

    one of my favorite profs at buffalo was rodolphe gasché, who’s very smart, but talks about all sorts of crazy shit. you *can* rope him into talking about kant for a few hours at a time. or you can talk to him about the German education system, warfare, ballet, etc. i value that. (he also wrote me a very nice recommendation. i value that too. but it’s also nice to know that although you were talking about explosives when you might have been talking about Heidegger, you did manage to make a smart person believe that you, too, were smart.)

  7. speterme says:

    When I was going to the University of Minnesota, one of my professor’s told us that a liberal arts degree was really just the thing so that we could converse at cocktail parties. (Dinner wasn’t so fashionable then.) The key to me is to find applicable scenarios for listening and sharing a wide array of knowledge. So, there was physics talk at my son’s car derby, gravity not being a relevant force relative to the speed of the car, but momentum (mass x violicity) might be. Then, running into some old friends at the Bryant-Lake Bowl and talking about their son and his found object art works and relating those to Ron Padgett’s biography of Joe Brainard and Brainard’s Prell bottle sculptures. It’s all about being a human in the world. For Gillian, to quote Mike Watt and fIREHOSE: “‘Member, just me and you talkin’ ’bout Madonna!”

    pac, lov and undrstanding (nvr giv up!)

    Stv Ptrmir
    no man’s land
    minnapolis, mn
    usa

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