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Excerpt from:  “From Ph.D. Program to B.A. College, or, The Sometimes Hard Journey From Life in the Carrel to Life in the World,” ADE Bulletin (Spring, 1994):  20-24.


As a student deeply immersed in nineteenth-century British studies and literary criticism, I certainly expected at the end of my doctoral labors to be effortlessly translated, like Enoch, into a higher kind of academic heaven-haven, levitated up and out of my library carrel at [the University of] Chicago, hurtled toward success down the acoustically lined tube, and gently lowered into another library carrel at good old Research U, presumably in a beautiful city with a good symphony and affordable housing, where1 would be a faculty member adored by a handful of student researchers who would hang breathlessly on each of my well-polished, professionally impeccable words.


Not one Chicago professor—though some of them exemplified kindness itself and all seemed sincerely eager for their students to succeed—ever suggested to me the reality that I would find in a real-world classroom, much less helped me prepare for it. My first morning on my first job, I found myself most conspicuously not sitting in some airtight, fellowship funded library carrel but, instead, standing in front of a composition class at 8:00 a.m., to be followed by another one at 9:00 a.m., at the brand-new University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, facing freshmen only nine years younger than I, whose Polish and Lithuanian and Slovak names I could not pronounce and who expected me not only to know something but to know how to teach it. They expected me to know how to make whatever I knew interesting and compelling, not to my PhD orals committee, the existence of which they did not suspect and would have found meaningless, but to them, sitting proudly in their brand-new college chairs, not high school desks, their faces shining with all their insecurities, ambitions, and hearts' desire for the American good life as that article had been described to them by their civics textbooks, by their mostly working-class parents, and by ten thousand television commercials for Jell-0, cars, and aspirin, all depicting a lifestyle—never a life, always a style—consisting mainly of buying things, getting ahead, and being profoundly happy by fitting into the right jeans or the right  social group.