Deconstructing Deconstructed Mind-F@#%s

In a recent blog post, Stanley Fish provides a highly readable, concise, and understandable summary of deconstruction by way of previewing a new book on the history of deconstruction in American thought.  The thrust is simple: Some Americans freaked about over French theory for no good reason.  In response to concerns that deconstruction means an end of the world, Fish writes:

All we lose (if we have been persuaded by the deconstructive critique, that is) is a certain rationalist faith that there will someday be a final word, a last description that takes the accurate measure of everything. All that will have happened is that one account of what we know and how we know it — one epistemology — has been replaced by another, which means only that in the unlikely event you are asked “What’s your epistemology?” you’ll give a different answer than you would have given before. The world, and you, will go on pretty much in the same old way.

That last bit hits the nail on the head: despite all our mental-masturbation over deconstruction, the world goes on.

Except that it doesn’t for some people.  Some folks, once they get deconstruction into their melon, don’t seem to be able get it out.  The way they see, understand, and even operate in the world changes.  Their day-to-day language is littered–literally, junked-up–with “signifiers,” “discourse,” and “subjectivity.”  You can’t understand a damn thing they’re saying, because they keep moving about, careful never to take up a position for fear that it would commit them to an epistemology (didn’t I promise never to use that word? Damn).  In these cases, there can be only two conclusions: (1) the person is way smarter than I am, and I’m just too dumb and slow to keep up; or (2) the person has gone off the deep-end.  Depending on my mood, I’m often inclined to decide on option 2.

Which is sad, because, as Fish implies and Michael Berube better explains, there’s a lot to like and some excellent potential in postmodernism, deconstruction, and the rest of the French theory grab-bag.  One of these days I’ll muse on what happened to my love of theory.  But for today, I’ll appreciate Fish’s worthy attempt to explain why we all–and particularly the deconstructed mind-f@#%s–need to relax.

My Back Up Plan?…ummm…

Over at PhDinHistory, Sterling recently put up a post about the trials and tribulations of getting an assistant professor gig.  It’s a great post with lots of wonderful graphs and charts; I suggest you read it.  Sterling concludes with some advice for grad students, including this tip:

The majority of newly-minted history PhDs need to have back-up plans for the first half decade or so after graduation. Nearly half of the assistant professors who were hired between 1999 and 2003 had earned their PhD in history five to nine years previous.

He’s right, of course, and I’ve heard this advice before.  Unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure what my back-up plan should be.  The funny thing–funny-depressing, not funny-haha–is that grad school doesn’t really give you the chance to come up with a back-up plan.  If you stick to the 4-6 year PhD plan, there’s no time to pick up another skill or gain some experience in a different job/field–you’ve got to spend your every waking hour reading, writing, and teaching.  At least that’s how it works for me.

Fortunately, I’m blessed to have a wonderful, generous, patient, and extremely talented spouse whose income should be able to support us if necessary. But I’m not sure what my comrades in grad school will do should they not find a job when they get done.  Or, for that matter, what I’ll do while my spouse is supporting my lazy-ass.  I suppose I could get a job in computers; I used to do IT support.  They still use DOS, righ?