Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education

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The Highs and Lows, Humors and Horrors. After his critically acclaimed Manifesto of a Tenured Radical, Cary Nelson teams up with Stephen Watt to produce a still more wide-ranging and hard-hitting book on higher education. In a witty and devastating dictionary format, Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education, details the highs and lows of virtually every controversial topic in academia. Mixing skepticism with respect, analysis with humor, and praise with criticism, Academic Keywords takes a brutally honest look at the academy. Arranged alphabetically, this unconventional reference features definitions of many of the hottest buzzwords on campuses around the country. From academic freedom to tenure, affirmative action to sexual harassment, Nelson and Watt redefine familiar concepts and make unfamiliar terms central to our understanding of higher education. Intervening on the major debates that have infiltrated American campuses, they place controversial issues on the table, taking them up individually as well as in relation to one another. Despite the resulting bleak, even apocalyptic, portrait of academic prospects, Nelson and Watt remain devoted to consciousness-raising and re-education, offering an impassioned wake-up call for those both inside and outside academia. Altogether, Nelson and Watt argue that there is hope in organized collective action and urge the rethinking of how we'll participate in the university of the future. Certain to raise the backs of many administrators and ruffle the feathers of anyone who still believes that the purpose of academia is purely and simply the advancement of knowledge, Academic Keywords is not just a dictionary and not just a critical assessment of the current state of academic life. It is an essential handbook for anyone maneuvering the battleground of contemporary university education.
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Editorial Reviews

William Kerrigan
The wooden prose of Academic Keywords lacks altogether the brilliance of Williams or the bite of Bierce.... The reader is left to ponder just what personal advantages there might be in offering such a book at a time when three decades of theory have ground to a halt in identity politics and there may no longer be much for serious leftists to gain in listening to the droning on of ersatz disciplines such as queer theory.... For those pursuing academic careers of full-time political anger, this may prove a useful guidebook.
Lingua Franca
Library Journal
How would you define academic freedom? Do you know the true meaning of faculty or sexual harassment? These are three of 47 words and phrases explained in this unusual work. Nelson (English, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Manifesto of a Tenured Radical, New York Univ., 1997) and Watt (English and cultural studies, Indiana Univ.) have composed a dictionary they describe as a cross between Ambrose Bierces 1911 The Devils Dictionary and Raymond Williamss Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976). Like its predecessors, Nelson and Watts work incorporates (sometimes irreverent) definitions of words and phrases of importance to the academic world to help both academics and the public better understand education today. The definitions range from a few sentences to miniessays several pages long. Some entries include See also references to other definitions. The authors feel that higher education is in serious trouble, and their book works successfully as a consciousness-raising vehicle. We make no apology for and offer no retreat from the very bleak, even apocalyptic, portrait we paint of higher educations prospects, they write in their preface. Recommended for academic libraries.Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS
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. Among the entries are academic freedom, downsizing, mentoring, responsibility-centered management, and yuppies. Mildly cross- referenced. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415922029
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Pages: 336
  • Lexile: 1360L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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