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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Quote of the Day (One of the academy's dirty little secrets...) 
26th-May-2008 12:26 am
I took seriously this dictum, this kind of advice that we were given as academics when I started out. We were taught by a famous German professor who said, "If you want to get on in the academic world, you have make sure you write books that no one can understand." And I have to say that this was quite successful for me because I recently looked at some of my early books, and I found that I couldn't understand them either! - Anthony Giddens, sociologist
26th-May-2008 04:49 am (UTC)
That must have been Jörn Rüsen.... but wait, he was/is a professor of history ^^.
26th-May-2008 06:53 am (UTC)
*laughs* Obviously, I can't read that Wikipedia entry. So how do you know that it was him?
26th-May-2008 11:37 am (UTC)
Because when I was at university reading history to become a teacher, we had one course where each student had to read a different text of an eminent historian and summarize and give his impressions about it: I got saddled with that guy whom I had never heard of before AND I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS WRITING!!
I actually sat there, summarized what I had understood and asked the professor if he could explain what I hadn't gotten: and he said he didn't get it either (maybe he was lazy and hadn't looked into it, but he couldn't give more of an impression in any case).
I have read lots of German professors works and I never came across this problem again.

So it must be him ^^.
26th-May-2008 11:43 am (UTC)
There's actually an English book by him found via Google books, but I'm pretty sure he was translated, so you wouldn't get the full impact

I like the "Narrative Competence: the Ontogeny of Historical and Moral Consciousness" chapter title ^^
26th-May-2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Awww... *laughs* "Narrative Competence: the Ontogeny of Historical and Moral Consciousness" isn't that bad. That's just academese for how societies come to tell the sorts of stories about the past and about what's right and wrong that they do. ^_~

Seriously, though. I'm not a big fan of academese myself, and it seems to be falling somewhat out of fashion. Yet even now in grad school I have professors who demand it. It's how the academy reproduces itself...

I actually don't think Giddens was specifically referring to Rüsen, though. I looked up Rüsen on the English Wikipedia, and it says he was born in 1938--the same year as Giddens. From the quote it is clear that the German professor in question was well-established in the field when Giddens was just starting out, so the German professor had to have been older than Giddens.
26th-May-2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
Oh ^^, thanks for the translation.

Maybe Rüsen went and studied under the same German professor that Giddens was quoting? He must have gotten his style from somewhere. The rest of the German textbooks etc. for history were quite readable, after all. I was of course lucky to also take English, which doesn't seem to have that much Academese in the major papers, though I had to work at Noam Chomsky somewhat when I did my linguistics course.
26th-May-2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Maybe Rüsen went and studied under the same German professor that Giddens was quoting?

*laughs* That's what I was thinking, too.

It's interesting that you haven't encountered much academese. It's especially prevalent in the humanities and the social sciences in the West, from my experience. Habermas is German, right? His books, or at least their English translations, are tried and true academese. >_< Irritating.
17th-Jun-2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Dunno if you're still interested, but I found out who the "German professor" in this quote was: Norbert Elias.

17th-Jun-2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
I may not have heard of him before, but just looking at the names of the first book mentioned at that page which he published in German and then in English I can believe that Rüsen may have learned from him or that he is a German academic in the same vein.
17th-Jun-2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Certainly seems possible. I doubt the world of German academia is very big, in any case.
18th-Jun-2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
hehehe, compared to the size of the USA, I think I can agree.
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