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Ironic and Depressing Humor in Academia

January 27, 2011

I’ve been holding on to several tidbits of academical miscellanea and have decided to roll them into one larger post.

First is this PhD Comics strip that parses what your advisor’s email signature indicates.

After reviewing this chart, I reviewed emails from my advisors last summer and am both amazed that I was able to defend and grateful that that the comic didn’t come out while I was in the midst of a flurry of revisions.

The second piece is this Simpsons clip about grad students and PhD’s.

I never had three thousand papers to grade at one time, but I was a thirty year old with a ponytail making little cash.

Finally, there is Peter Lemche’s review of David Carr’s An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible in the most recent Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament. Lemche takes Carr to task in a manner reminiscent of Carr’s recent review of Joel Baden.

Reading the sections about the Pentateuch is simply revealing. It is as far from the status quaestionis as one could imagine. No German discussion is ever mentioned or referred to, neither Blum or Kratz or Levin, to mention only a few contemporary authors. Neither is Van Seters contributions ever referred to. As a matter of fact, the only critical book mentioned may be Robert Carroll’s Jeremiah commentary, now ostracized from the Old Testament Library commentary series.

Alas there is very little that speaks in favor of this outwardly inviting little book. It is simply out of touch with the present state of critical biblical scholarship, not only in comparison to the more advanced state as represented by this reviewer, but also more traditionally minded critical scholars.

I post the above quote not to relish in a scholar criticized for the same thing he recently levied against another. Rather, I want to highlight Mark Leuchter’s comments against what he calls a “rhetoric of ferocious reviews.” I assume that neither Lemche nor Carr knew of the other’s review, and this makes their similarities inadvertently ironic and even more depressing—perhaps justifing the humor that is elsewhere made at the academy’s expense.

(HT to Aren Maeir for the Simpsons clip and to Jeff Stackert and Seth Sanders for alerting me of Lemche’s review)

  1. January 27, 2011 9:20 pm


    Interesting chart. But it doesn’t work for me at all. I typically use “Prof. H.” with the students (U & G) that are high on my list. In fact, I only use initials when I’m stuck in the netherworld between using my preferred signature and my first name (which I don’t use with students).

    Anyway, I read the Lemche review (thanks to Seth for alerting me) and was absolutely appalled. Can there be no disagreement in our little world without viciousness? And in a book review, too (thereby making the review absolutely worthless, in my opinion). It is indeed troubling.

    Robert, or RdH, or -R


    • January 28, 2011 11:51 am


      Perhaps the rules for signatures are different in Canada? 😉

      I also found Lemche’s review failed to give me an adequate feel for the book. I found the blurbs at Amazon more helpful! I’ll confess: I don’t read a lot of reviews in SJOT. This style of review could be an editorial decision.

  2. Mark Leuchter permalink
    September 10, 2011 11:35 pm

    I like the chart but it doesn’t apply to me. I sometimes sign off with “ML”, but only because I so desperately want to be more like one of my idols, Frank Zappa, who always signed off as “FZ”.

    With all good wishes,

    The Right Honorable Mark Adam Xavier Leuchter (Esq.), Captain, USS Enterprise NCC 1701-C


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