Universities in the 1990s made great progress expanding the boundaries of the academic world. The rapid proliferation of interdisciplinary majors ending in the word “studies” has helped shape a postmodern (or “po-mo,” as it’s now called) view of intellectual inquiry. At the heart of these disciplines is the belief that nothing is not suitable for interpretation. Since everything is a text, we need be limited no longer to studying dead white males — anything ranging from Britney Spears’ lyrics to J. Crew ads to sitcoms such as “Charles in Charge” is suitable for deconstruction.
But what the University lacks is a program to study these new majors themselves. In their quest to make everything a text, they have left themselves out. For this reason, I propose a new department entitled “Studies Studies.” The major would provide an interdisciplinary approach to the study of majors ending in the word “studies.” The program would thereby take a daring new step in expanding the idea of “text” to the departments that study these newly defined texts themselves.
The overriding purpose of the program would be to study itself. It would, so to speak, be its own, as it were, text, if you will. In this way, Studies Studies would explode the whole dichotomy of student versus material; the material now is the student, and the student is the material. What better way to liberate the student from the hegemonic power structures of such oppressive works as “Twelfth Night” and “The Iliad”? Instead, Studies Studies replaces such work with what has been derogated “navel contemplation” in its purest form — the core subject of matter of Studies Studies would be Studies Studies itself.
What would courses in this major look like? Here are some examples:
Studies Studies 110: Introduction to Studies Studies and Jargonization
Prerequisite for all courses in the major. Students will be introduced to, among others, the words: “hermaneutics,” “Gramscian” and “mythopoetic.” We will also explore the vital import of the prefixes “pre” and “neo,” so that one can learn to invent such words such as “neocapitalist” or “presemantic.” By the end of the course, students will be able to construct sentences such as: “The dining hall menu discourse is contextualized into a subdialectic narrative that includes narrativity as a whole, allowing subjective hermaneutic negative socialization of the food object.” Most importantly, students will learn how to make their own jargon — “jargonization” — essential for higher-level study in the major.
Studies Studies 120: Studies Studies 115
In this course we examine how learning takes places in Studies Studies 115. We will take regular field trips to visit Studies Studies 115, and we will conduct extensive interviews and surveys with the faculty and students. Note: Ideally, students should take Studies Studies 115 simultaneously with Studies Studies 120. In this way, they can be both the object and the instigator of the study, thereby complicating the very notion of observer and observed and truly understand what it means to be “the other” — even as they problematize the very notion of themselves.
Studies Studies 400: The Senior Essay
Students explore a topic of their own choosing. Generally, the most successful essays trace the evolution of a particular text (let’s say Madonna’s “The Immaculate Collection”) through the history of Studies Studies. A typical essay might be titled: “The Circular Key: Nihilism, Textual Theory and the Neocapitalist Paradigm of Hermaneutics — The Works of Madonna in Studies Studies Discourse.” Of course, any essay must also analyze how the person himself wrote the paper, as he constitutes the newest element of how Madonna has been studied within Studies Studies. This gets at the essential difficulty of subconstructivist neodiscourse and is a fitting conclusion to the major.
Studies Studies is not merely interdisciplinary; rather, it implodes the very notion of discipline. For this reason, all courses count toward Groups I, II, III and IV. There are no deadlines in Studies Studies. Deadlines have always represented the hegemony of the oppressive postcapitalist professor over the precapitalist student. Indeed, Studies Studies problematizes the very dichotomy of professor/student, and students will take turns teaching the class. In addition, to complete the self-reflexivity of the major, students will do all the grading themselves. It is only in this way the major can avoid the plague of hierarchical interference with neo-Sontagian self-criticism.
Alex Liebman is a senior in Calhoun College.