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Saturday, January 3, 1998
By Paul Ford
Dear Graduate Student,
Three years ago, at Yale, a young woman working on her thesis, "The Sexual Politics of Ghost-Written Slave Narratives," was found half-clothed at the Yale library, severely dehydrated, and covered in dirty notecards. She had gnawed through the binding on Glas. In the ambulance, she told the paramedics to let her off, because she was "late for class." She had not left the library for sixteen days.
She didn't see the warning signs.
Lots of people like her deny their problem. You hear them in the college library, talking about someone who "washes his hair with postmodern conditioner," or someone else who has "gone Derrida." They think it can't happen to them--but it already has.
It might happen to you. But it doesn't need to. Postmodernism has detectable signs. Do you:
- Begin your paragraphs, "In Europe, as opposed to America..."?
- Use the suffixes "ism," "ist," or "esque" after proper nouns?
- Suffer from typographic pretension ? Have you ever titled a paper "Reading/Writing/Women's Epistolary Literature: Post(al)-Feminist Perspectives"?
- Feel unhappy, and live and work with other unhappy people?
- Refer to anything besides writing on paper as a "text"?
If you answered "yes" to two or more of the above, you may have the Postmodern Condition.
What's so bad with being "PoMo"? Consider these questions:
- In addition to a strong tradition in critical theory, don't the French also have a phone system and a nuclear testing program?
- Does anyone in your field enjoy their work?
- If your life was greatly changed by reading a book, was it much of a life?
- When did you last do anything with your hands besides turning pages?
If you've been locked in the library too many times, it may be time for a change.
You can find a new life where simple, decent things have value again--trust me. I was the woman they found in Yale Library. My name is Alice Baylor, and I started the Postmodern Awareness Center to help suffering people return meaning to their lives. To hear my story, and many others, send the enclosed reply card as soon as you can.