Monday, August 27, 2018

On the performativity of "What have you been reading lately?"

So, for some reason they seem to have made me a full professor since the last time I posted here, and the new president of Misnomer U. hosted a dinner for everyone who had just been hired, tenured, or promoted, which was nice of her. There was one bit where we were supposed to go around the room and introduce ourselves, and also say what we had been reading lately. Forthwith, some observations:

-- If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn't have aliens on the cover.

-- If you are a scientist or social scientist, you name a book related to your field of study.

-- If you are nursing faculty, you disclaim having any free time at all for reading, and pivot to talking about your children or grandchildren.

-- If you are in business, you also disclaim any time for leisure reading, but you make a joke about spreadsheets instead of talking about grandchildren.

-- If you are a university administrator, you say that you are reading the university Common Reading book, or something by one of the writers who will be visiting for the Writers' Symposium in October. Either way, it is very interesting and you are enjoying it very much.

-- If you work in tech support, you are allowed to read the kind of books with aliens on the cover.