Fragment: Academic Charisma

“The traditional exam had been heroic oral theater, analogized by jurists to the three trials of a crowned athlete in Roman law. That heroic theater, colored by metaphors of blood and ordeal, seems to have hurt few. The modern exam has become a mundane, meritocratic exam associated with sweat and labor, but it can make one nearly ‘sick to death.’ In extreme forms, such as at Victorian Cambridge, such exams can recur to motifs of heroism. But the first generations that endured the Prussian Abitur and the modern Oxbridge exams described the process as torture. As survivors and administrators of such exams, we should not discount the reality of mental torture in modern practices. Torture acts to break spirits and wills. Following chapters investigate more closely the rehabilitation of some of the tortured.”

Clark, William. 2006. Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 139-40.

Procrustean Measures of Fortune

This one is older than most of the other poems I’ve posted in the Starry Messenger to date, but with all of the acrimony surrounding the Teaching Assistant strike at the University of Toronto, it seemed a timely piece. Having heard a bit of the backroom dealing that went on during the lead up to the decision I have to applaud the bargaining team’s integrity. There are major and systemic fault lines running through the administrative structure of academia at present, and for many years they have only been grinding harder against the very people whose daily efforts actually serve as the foundations of university life.

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