It’s Your Duty to Be Miserable!

Chronicle of Higher Education, By William Pannapacker (Published on October 14, 2012)
Every fall, during convocation, as we professors parade in our academic regalia, I am reminded of the march of the penitents in Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal.

It is not just the medieval ceremony; it’s the reflexive small talk:
“Did you have a good summer?”
“Well, I got a lot of writing done. And you?”
“Yes, I delivered a book manuscript, I’m waiting for decisions on two articles, and I taught three summer courses.”
“That’s too bad. All that teaching must have cut into your productivity.”

As I eavesdrop on such conversations, I imagine them punctuated by the whish and crack of the flagellant’s whip.

Of course, I am a penitent, too. If someone asks, “How are you?,” I sigh, shrug, and say, “Busy, like everyone else.” If pressed, I will admit that I spent some time with my family—the way a Mormon might confess to having tried a beer, once. For more than 20 years, I have worn what Ian Bogost has called “the turtlenecked hairshirt.” I can’t help it; self-abnegation is the deepest reflex of my profession, and it’s getting stronger all the time.

Read more on the Chronicle’s website.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the positions of UFF-UF.