A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education
Routledge – 1999 – 336 pages
Know what academic freedom is? Or what it's come to mean? What's affirmative about affirmative action these days? Think you're up on the problem of sexual harassment on campus? Or know how much the university depends on part-time faculty?
Academic Keywords is a witty, informed, and sometimes merciless assessment of today's campus, an increasingly corporatized institution that may have bitten off more than its administration is ready to chew. Cary Nelson and Steve Watt use the format of a dictionary to present stories and reflections on some of the most pressing issues affecting higher education in America. From the haphazard treatment of graduate students to the use and abuse of faculty (as well as abuses commited by faculty), Nelson and Watt present a compelling and, at times, enraging report on the state of the campus.
"Academic Keywords demands and deserves serious attention. Nelson and Watt diagnose with keen analyses and illustrative anecdotes a set of ills that threaten the health, if not the life, of the American university. [P]erhaps what is most impressive about this justifiably angry book is the idealism that accompanies its outrage. In their entries on "Doctoral Dissertations" and "Mentoring," Nelson and Watt show that their critique is rooted in a deep commitment to higher education, and specifically to graduate education. The changes they advocate and urge are aimed at improving, perhaps even rescuing, an institution they seem profoundly to care about." -- College Literature
"Smart, incisive and brave, ACADEMIC KEYWORDS probes 47 aspects of academe in droll entries that range from half a page to more than 20. Nelson, a sly University of Illinois liberal arts professor best known for MANIFESTO of A TENURED RADICAL (1997), and Watt, an Indiana University English professor expert in postmodernism and drama, write like whistleblowers with diplomas from a semi-Marxist cell that alternates Groucho with Karl." -- Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"…sure to make even the tweediest spit their twice-boiled departmental coffee across the office." -- Toronto Globe and Mail
"Academic Keywords won't be a favorite of the corporate university and its proponents, but it is indispensable to those who wish to salvage higher education for open intellectual exchange and real learning." -- Judith Roof, author of Reproductions of Reproduction
"A dictionary that redefines the basic vocabulary of academic life, Academic Keywords is also an action handbook for faculty reformers, student activists, adjunct organizers, and even thoughtful administrators." -- Karen Thompson, President, Part-time Faculty Union, Rutgers University
"A terrific book--funny, sad, useful, outrageous--one of the best reflections on America's contradictory university system. Read it and weep--or laugh--or, best of all, act." -- Paul Lauter, editor of the The Heath Anthology of American Literature
"Required reading for parents, teachers, lawmakers--true to the bone--an utterly frank, witty, and thoroughly engrossing portrait of the appalling experiences of today's students and educators." -- Mark Bousquet, founding editor, Workplace: The Journal of Academic Labor
"Thorough analysis." -- Bimonthly Review of Law Books
"More of an encyclopedia, with the alphabetical articles weighing in at several pages each. They combine scathing humor with serious criticism of the academic system, respect and praise for some elements of it, to begin thinking differently about the process, hope for reform, and practical measures to take." -- Reference & Research Book News
of the landmark reader, Cultural Studies, (1992) as well as Higher Education Under Fire (1994) and Disciplinarity and Dissent in Cultural Studies (1996), all published by Routledge. Stephen Watt is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at Indiana University.