What is the point of academic writing?

I’m fed up with this chapter I have been “on the verge of finishing” for the last three months. I’m fed up with the corpus the chapter deals with, a semi-pornographic magazine I loath and yet think is worth writing 30000 words about. I have become so damn familiar with my tools and objects of study that I no longer see the point. I am depressed of knowing once all this is written only those already agreeing with me will agree. Worse: only those already agreeing with me will be reading it. What is the point of academic writing? When I decided to move out of literary criticism I did it because I wanted to have a closer connexion with the real world. I was tired of that strain of intellectual elitism that idealises literature. I no longer agreed with putting the written word on a pedestal. I wanted to do research that had a certain impact, research that could lead to improve people’s life, for instance, the lives of those who, unlike myself, didn’t go university. I discovered Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Deborah Cameron’s work and thought that studying linguistics would imply a move towards an area that had more serious involvement with everyday life. I saw it as an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between academia and the real world. How wrong I was. Once enrolled in the university and settled in the country this university was based it appeared that CDA was not even considered linguistics proper, so I found myself writing, among other unwanted essays, a seriously-difficult-to-conceive essay for Syntax on the universality of the grammatical subject. Apparently, “real impact” would have to wait. Once I finished my MPhil in Linguistics I started my (funded) PhD in Cultural Studies, Feminist Theory, and Postcolonial Studies. Finally, I naively thought, my work is going to be moving out of the ivory tour of intellectual masturbation towards the terrain of the quotidian. If the object of study concerns the lives of so many people, I argued with myself, studying it would obviously have some impact, right? Once again, wrong. My work won’t have any impact. What seems obvious and is dear to me is clearly still miles away from being grasped by the vast majority of the people I wish would care. Nobody will care, apart again, by those who already care and already agree with me. Though I work on mass media and culture, and how these intersect with the political arena –the fields virtually everybody is concerned with– what I write will remain forever out of  reach. The language, the scope, the theoretical underpinnings, everything. So, again, what is the point of academic writing?

 

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