What would happen if literary geniuses were interviewed by academic search committees? The summaries might look something like this:
Name of applicant: Austen, Jane
At times a charming candidate, but too coy to fit into our department of women’s studies. A bit too pleased with herself, say the senior members of the committee, and clever but already outdated, think the younger ones, who tried to engage her, but received pithy witticisms rather than engaged debate. She displayed a queer aversion to critical terminology, and sketched the layout of the hotel conference room and lobby as she fielded our questions. Occasionally amusing, with a tact that may not help her to be valued as a serious scholar, she seemed uninformed by contemporary models. Her research on the paradigms of marriage and status among the landed gentry proved disappointing in person. When asked how she would integrate an understanding of alterity into her work, she remarked that it concerned other than her immediate interests.
[. . .]
Name of applicant: Socrates (surname?)
At first the candidate’s own list of questions felt refreshing, but soon became counter-productive to the interview process. His spirit of inquiry masked an indifference to time constraints and a passive-aggressive need to dominate the conversation. As another candidate cooled his heels, the request for him to conclude his thoughts on the ideal society scarcely registered as we wondered if, then began to wish that, someone would spike his drink.
[. . .]
Name of applicant: Whitman, Walt
An exhibit for gender studies, but not a likely teacher of it. The candidate just tried too hard with the committee, telling us we were all part of one great democratic body. We are long over the metaphysics of flagwaving in critically minded academia.