WELT-berühmte Verliererin!*

*(World-Famous Loser)

This morning my old friend from Austria, Dominik, alerted me to the fact that I’m “world”-famous in Germany now–by which I mean, a sort of fun/also sort of mean article about me has appeared in Die Welt (The World), which is a national newspaper in Germany with a conservative bent (though “conservative” by German standards, so somewhere to the left of President Obama and to the right of Banksy).

***UPDATE*** I don’t generally look up the deets on people who write anti-Schuman screeds because there are so many I haven’t the time, but my friend Jason was kind enough to let me know that Mladen Gladic, author of this hack job, is a CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENT in German at fucking Princeton (who, despite being at Princeton and thus better than everyone, can’t spell my goddamned name). A fucking Ivy-league, native-German “more talented” pre-lifeboater who thinks he can publish something in Germany and get away with it having “gravitas” even though it doesn’t interview me (and he lives one time zone away!). Oh my god, you guys, this is so classic. Oh Mladen, such an amazing and well-deserved takedown of me that comes from a sincere position of concern and not a petty desire to elevate your own standing in the field, you should be so proud of yourself. I’m sure you’ll do amazing on the market now that you’ve aligned yourself against a loser like me.

****

AAAANYWAY…

At any rate, Gladic, a fucking current graduate student in my field at fucking Princeton, describes my “private war” against the US system of higher education hiring (sort of accurate, though at this point I have many allies in my quest to get the MLA interview obliterated, including, as he points out, Michael Bérubé). Largely the piece is quite funny, in that dry German sort of way, but I am fairly annoyed at this characterization, though it is one shared by many:

“Ihr Krieg wirkt wie der einer schlechten Verliererin, die es nicht ertragen kann, dass die attraktiven Posten an talentiertere Bewerber gegangen sind.” (Her war reads like that of a sore loser, who cannot stand to see the attractive jobs go to more talented people, with thanks to Dominik for refining my translation.) So, this is kind of disheartening, as the entire purpose of my “private war” is to demonstrate that the market is so over-saturated with talented people (yes, including me, though I am no more or less than the other 500 schmucks out there attempting to do the impossible), that it is not about who gets the jobs, it is about the fact that because there are so few, failure to get these jobs is the norm, and should not be viewed with shame, and should not be viewed as, “Oh, well, the talented people got the jobs and I didn’t.” Fuck this guy. Which reminds me, I do like this characterization: “Dazu trägt auch der zwischen Übergewitztheit und Vulgarität changierende Ton ihrer Texte bei.” (This comes through in the interchange between hypercleverness and vulgarity in her writing voice.) But THEN this happens: “Zu oft haben sie den Sound derjenigen, die glauben, Liebe zur Literatur, Eifer und Intelligenz berechtigten schon dazu, eine Lebensposition zur Pflege und Weitergabe der in schwer lesbare Texte eingekleideten eigenen Vorlieben zu erhalten.” (Roughly: too often, her posts give the impression that love for literature, zeal and intelligence entitles one to the lifelong position in the care and dissemination–and pet interpretation– of difficult-to-parse texts., and thanks to Bob Lemon for refining my translation..)

Again, much of my writing is in the service of why that exact viewpoint is abusive, toxic, damaging and unfair. He then goes on, hilariously, to admit that my systemic critique stands, that I have a point about the bizarre ritual and absurd focus on image at the MLA. But the Tonpolizei takes up like half the piece, Mannklär-ing to the readers of Die Welt that all is right in the academic meritocracy, where talented people get positions as long as they act the right way, and those who don’t need to get over being “entitled” to them.

I can see why some people view what I’m doing as sour grapes, because if I can be relegated to the status of poor loser, then that means the system is still ordentlich, vernünftig and gerecht. If, on the other hand, one were to admit that I am simply telling the truth about things everybody knows but nobody will say aloud because of “professional decorum” in a profession they will never get–that I am not, in fact, screeching entitled-ly about a job I still want, but rather in open and sincere mourning for the ten years I wasted in its service–then that reveals a system of Chaos, Unvernünftigkeit, Ungerechtigkeit. But, why listen to me? I’m just a loser anyway, though now a World-famous one.

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18 thoughts on “WELT-berühmte Verliererin!*

  1. I’m going to repeat what I put on facebook, since I think it’s worth repeating:
    I think there’s a certain cachet in being misrepresented INTERNATIONALLY. So far, I’ve only ever received domestic abuse. The vital sentence is of course buried under the inevitable pearl-clutching guff about tone:

    “Dass Schumans Tiraden gegen die Konferenz nur ein Symptom für tieferliegende Probleme im US-Hochschulwesen sind, beweist nicht nur ihr Erfolg, denn einen akademischen Job braucht sie nun gar nicht mehr.”

    The admission that you don’t actually need one of these paltry positions anymore of course undermines any notion of your being “a bad loser,” which is, again, inevitably, invoked earlier in the article. Good to see that the German journalists can be just as incompetent at their Anglo-American counterparts.

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  2. I am, however, going to pull utterly non-existent rank and suggest a different translation for the following bit, because I think it contains the inevitable dig at academic prose:
    “Zu oft haben sie den Sound derjenigen, die glauben, Liebe zur Literatur, Eifer und Intelligenz berechtigten schon dazu, eine Lebensposition zur Pflege und Weitergabe der in schwer lesbare Texte eingekleideten eigenen Vorlieben zu erhalten.”
    “Too often, her posts sound like one of those that believe that love for literature, zeal and intelligence entitle one to a lifelong position cultivating and disseminating one’s own preferences in texts that are hard to read.”

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  3. I have no doubt that piece will draw attention from The Other folks in the German academy–talented students and academics who are stuck in an even more hierarchical and tone–policing environment. Die Welt will inadvertently show these souls that anger can be expressed and they might, just might, be willing to embarrass and decry the injustice of the German academy–where opportunities are even more infinitesimal and the level of hierarchical ass–kissing and complicity is such that it makes the US seem as if were indeed the academic land of the free and home of the brave (sadly, we know it’s the land of the wealthy and well-connected in that and many other regards).

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  4. I have determined that I might be smarter than other people. It was obvious to me in graduate school that we were there to be TAs, and that this was financing the university. I just read on Karen Kelsky’s blog that it took being a department chair at an R1 for her to figure this out. Meanwhile, most TAs when we first started unionizing, would not even sign a petition supporting health insurance for TAs, on the theory that potential future employers might find out that they had done this and blacklist them. At a certain point the said TAs should stop seeing themselves as victims duped by professors — they were more than complicit.

    But it is difficult, I suppose, to give up certain kinds of hopes. I have gotten many academic jobs, but never the kind I was interested in, and it’s a serious career change to move from the research to the teaching tier, there is a wide gulf that nobody wants to admit is there because you are “still in the profession.” It is difficult to concede that this situation could not be my fault — if it only were, it would be within my power to correct.

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  5. Once had a Canadian journo make fun of my work (analyzing the band Interpol’s music [I’m a music theorist]), and even did a phone interview with the guitarist telling him about my analyses and trying to get him to laugh at it also. Total jag. Love your work, mad props.

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    1. One of my friends used to date Carlos from Interpol back in the day; I met him a few times. AND my husband, many years before I knew him, was in the NYU philosophy club with Carlos. Our sole NYC overlap in his 21 years there and my 7 was Carlos from Interpol.

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  6. Congratulations! And I love the “Welt-berühmt” pun.
    I follow German reporting about the US, not so much via Die Welt, but Spiegel Online, and I must say that I am perpetually appalled by the superficiality of it–if there is a finer point that CAN be missed, it WILL be missed.

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  7. Ah, I knew I recognized your name from somewhere!

    Ich mag wie er dir mit Anlauf in verbal in den Rücken tritt, nur um dir dann schlussendlich doch recht zu geben. Und wie er dich auf einsamen Posten darstellt, als gäb es sonst niemanden der sich über diese Zustände beschwert.

    By the way, if you ever need an alternative translation for manspaining, Herrklären is apparently a thing. 🙂

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