Paul Youngquist‘s Provocation piece first appeared in the minnesota review in 2008 (Issue 70).Youngquist teaches English at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he writes on science fiction, British Romanticism, and other illusions. He is the author of Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism (U of Minnesota P, 2003) and Madness and Blake’s Myth (Penn State UP, 1989). In “Thinking Outside the Quad,” Youngquist muses on global education.
The notion came to me while I was on the phone with customer service for Citibank. I was walking across the empty quad trying to keep my cell squinched between jowl and shoulder, fiddling with the lock on my old leather valise—my father’s, really, but he’s long gone. “Andy” was having trouble locating a recent payment (“Amitava” more likely).
It was one of those piquant days at the beginning of the semester, the afternoon air tinged with coming cold. The quad felt bright and still. I had finished a summer of intense work on my manuscript, Neoliberalism and the Global Lyric, and I was feeling good about my prospects for promotion. It’s not easy being a tenured radical. I have deans to appease and undergraduates to offend. Most of all, however, I have books to write, and that’s not so simple as senior colleagues make it sound. I am close to finishing my second, making me ripe for promotion to Full Professor—in spite of Horowitz and his humorless ilk. I deserve it, having slaved away my virile years as an Associate. But I’m not quite there yet. I have to complete that sticky chapter on Poetic License and Creative Commons. Then the index.
“Sir! You there, sir? Very good, sir. No. I can find no record of a payment to Amazon of two hundred five dollars and ninety-five cents. You say it was for the collected works of Carl Max?”
“That’s Karl Marx, Andy, volumes one through six, and I distinctly remember making that payment. The old-fashioned way. By check.”
“Very good, sir. Please await the outcome of my patient inquiry while I put you on hold…”
I dropped my father’s valise and looked up, pasting the phone against my face. The quad was suddenly swarming with undergraduates. They surged out of classroom buildings, krill in colored T-shirts: muscles flexing, breasts bouncing, smiles flashing like newly-minted money.
They were back. I had to teach. When would I find time to write another word? “Sir, I am very sorry to report that despite my best efforts I cannot locate any record of a payment on the works of Carnal Mocks.”
“Andy, I will consult my records. Good day—if indeed it is day in Bangalore.”
I’d begun my day in gladness. Despondency and madness were right around the corner.
My book. My promotion. These damn students. Then it hit me. Why not ship these students overseas? Why not relocate higher education offshore?
You can read the full version of “Thinking Outside the Quad” here.