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Flying High and Flying Low: Travel, Sabbaticals, and Privilege in Academic Life.

I myself find safety in locating myself completely within my workplace.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Post-Colonial Critic

Introduction. Flight Check

In her recent collection of autobiographical considerations and occasions, Getting Personal, Nancy Miller has an essay with a lovely footnote. A version of her essay, she notes, was given as a paper in Dubrovnik. She goes on to mention how, in effect, the comfort of her room was unsettled by the view of a beautiful island. After several days contemplating the island, and then taking an eventual boat ride there, Miller comments:

I realized I had not sufficiently figured in the ambivalence of perspective that double siting creates: the politics of oscillation. (This could also point to another fable about feminism, the referent, and movements of political liberation, but I will leave that for another time.) I thank Myriam Diaz-Diacoretz and Nada Popovich for including me in this event. (120)

The event ostensibly takes place in Dubrovnik. But it can also be understood as the oscillating one that takes place inside Miller's head. The first thing to say about the relationship of academic life to travel is that travel participates in the great Outside of the life of the mind: the Real World, under the sign of the World Elsewhere. Typically, however, for an academic, the result is intellectual: travel finds its eventual place in the life of the mind. Of course, perhaps Miller only gave the paper at the conference in order to be able to go to Yugoslavia. Certainly academics like faraway countries and beautiful islands as much as everyone else.

Moreover, no more than anyone else, they cannot be held responsible for subsequent political developments, which in this particular case serve to make Miller's "politics" appear to be an unfortunately precious notion. But so it goes when anybody travels. Travel crosses boundaries, disrupts distinctions, and puts things in circulation that normally remain in place. Take the difference between being on tour and at a conference. Miller is not a tourist, yet in Yugoslavia she can be compared to one, if only because her temporary presence lacks permanence and therefore becomes vulnerable to some more strict, particular political account. [1]' Just so, it is difficult to extricate academic travel from tourism, for each is susceptible to, if not equally driven by, the lure of beautiful islands. As Dean MacCannell writes in his classic study, The Tourist, the value of such things as trips and conferences "is a function of the quality and quantity of experience they promise.[ldots] The end is an immense accumulation of reflective experiences which synthesize fiction and reality into a vast symbolism, a modern world" (23).

This essay, however, will not attempt to relate academics either to those who travel widely, such as professional athletes or business people as well as tourists, or those who travel for a living, ranging from flight attendants to secretaries of state. (For a broader account of travel culture, see Clifford.) Instead, I want to try to treat the expansiveness of academic travel within its own peculiar framework, where travel appears to exist as a marginal activity, and therefore an unstable one, requiring careful accounting to deans and provosts. A professor venerably abides in the modern world as one of the great rooted figures--teaching regular classes in the same department at one university, year after year. And yet there are many professors who travel widely and often, such as Stephen Greenblatt, for example, who fulsomely acknowledges colleagues and occasions in five countries (other than the United States) in his latest book, Marvellous Possessions. What can we make of such travel?

The first thing to say is that it is exceptionally privileged. If we inquire, for example, whether--if only as part of the "oscillation"--it is subject to some ambivalence with respect to others, we find none. In the text of the academic frequent flyer, the only others to be acknowledged are hosts from abroad, not colleagues back home. Indeed, those back home are liable to be implicitly rebuked. Consider Gayatri Spivak. No one in any discipline may take off farther and more regularly. Asked (in Australia) what effect travel has on her work, Spivak replies thus:

Well, you know, I think for a time I will stop traveling. I became caught up in this traveling circus, and I think I've kept doing it for so long because it undermined some of the seriousness with which I was beginning to take myself.[ldots] If you are traveling on all of these continents, moving from university to university, the one thing that strikes you is that each place takes itself to be the center of the intellectual universe! (Laughter.) (Post-Colonial 37)

Of course the laughter is meant to be self-explanatory. It is as if there is no more compelling personal reason for an academic to want to travel--to Dubrovnik, or just to Des Moines--than because she or he is fed up (presumably) with smug campus constraints and local pieties. Thus we can read Spivak's activity as enacted on the basis of a binary of outside and inside familiar from satiric novels about academic life; in order to study its representation, no distinctions will obtain in the following pages between memoirs and fiction, or journalism and scholarly studies. I will discuss the most famous recent academic novel, David Lodge's Small World, in a moment. In Lodge as well as in life, a circus at least has the exciting virtue of being on the move. An institution, on the other hand, must for better or worse remain forever in place.

What the interviews collected in Spivak's Post-Colonial Critic suggest is something far more provocative: academic life cannot be made good in academic terms. Hence, no "concept-metaphor" troubles Spivak more than that of margins, because, as she allows to Harold Veeser, her own life keeps reinventing marginality, in part as a form of mobility. Their occasion is a telephone interview. Prior to it, Spivak mentions a "quick trip" to France, eight months teaching at two locations in India, a semester teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, and finally a "nerve-touching" quarter at Stanford. The stellar example of Spivak's travel helps gloss the consistent, albeit far more furtive and unthematized, mention of the same subject in Miller--the London research seminar formally acknowledged, for example, at the conclusion of one essay, or a trip to Brazil sponsored by the State Department more casually noted in another.

These distinguished academic figures actually have more in common with Morris Zapp, Lodge's high-flying fictional hero, than with their colleagues who stay at home, as if bearing witness to something quite different: the specific governance, procedures, and character of individual institutions. In the following discussion I will represent these institutions, and the nature of life customary to them, in terms of the idea of a sabbatical. Furthermore, I will assume that high flying is simply impossible for the great majority of American academics, who, if they wish to take off at all, are given no farther horizon to imagine than that proscribed by the conditions of a sabbatical. Such conditions, in turn, are all of a piece with peculiarities of any one institution, whose felt centrality can only be regarded from a global perspective as a humorous delusion. Part of my purpose in the following discussion will be to interrogate this perspective, which seems to me inseparable not only from the travel that sponsors it, but the professional conditions that legitimate the opportunities, including the discursive conventions that establish them unquestioned, unchallenged, and virtually impossible to critique except as an expression of envy.

During a time when public support for sabbaticals continues to be questioned by politicians, the regular take-offs of high flyers have never appeared more mysterious. Worse, in the present decade when it has been estimated that upwards of 40% of all faculty in higher education are part-time, the far-flung routes of those at the top of the profession can easily appear almost indefensible. It is, after all, one thing to keep reasserting the discursive claims of "marginality" from a research position that virtually transcends institutional structure. It is quite another to be unable to escape a marginal teaching position at one institution. I intend to try to bring these two things together by reflecting upon the consequences of their separation for the profession. while business as usual continues for the careers of other academics, who at least can apply for a sabbatical.

Cary Nelson has lately made a powerful argument that it is imperative now for those of us who enjoy tenure-track positions, not to say tenure, to consider our careers in light of part-time people who will never get on track and recent Ph.D.s who will never even get in the door. "The life of a college professor," he writes, will almost certainly no longer resemble what it does now. Already the once transitory identity of job seeker has become semipermanent for many" (119). It does not seem to me equally compelling for us to assess our careers in light of exceptionally privileged scholars. And yet their activity seems to me arguably even more crucial to what Nelson terms the "ideology of professionalism" whose persistence he now finds an "impediment" to self-understanding, or to what James Sosnoski studies as professional orthodoxy, whereby master critics and token professionals must ignore the mutually exclusive dimensions of their common work.

My argument will be that privilege is inseparable from freedom to travel, and thereby to keep reinventing the same institutional space that constrains, if not contains, everyone else. "The highest reward of the profession," James Phelan has lately written, "is defined as getting paid a lot for relocating to a prestigious school and not having to teach" (215). What not having to teach means, in ideal practice, is being free to accept invitations to speak at special occasions and conferences all around the world. Exactly why should this be so? Why should it be travel, of all things, that discloses why academic life is not realizable in its own terms? If not, what precisely are these terms? Finally, how can the power of travel be comprehended not only within the sovereign projects of those professionally mandated to take off but also within the far more commonplace activity of those enjoined to remain on the ground?

1. Flying High

Distinguished academics have always been able to get out of the institutional circumstances that situate, yet do not limit, their distinction. Henry Rosovsky chortles at one point in The University as follows, concerning "abuses" of the frequent travel by university professors: "some of my friends[ldots] have been referred to as the 'Pan American Airways Professor of Sociology,' the 'Swissair Professor of Physics,' or the 'El Al Professor of Sociology"' (166). He has been speaking of sabbaticals. Whether such travel abuses them or whether it abuses regular campus duties, Rosovsky does not make clear. In any case, this state of affairs is not new.

What is new is that the frequency of high-flying has come to disrupt some stable notion of difference between teaching and scholarship. Morris Zapp explains:

There are three things which have revolutionized academic lire in the last twenty years--jet travel, direct-dialing telephones and the Xerox machine. Scholars don't have to work in the same institution to interact, nowadays: they call each other up, or they meet at international conferences[ldots]. I work mostly at home or on planes these days. I seldom go into the university except to teach my courses. (Lodge 43-44)

The vast scale of Zapp's own interaction is the precise measure of the authority by which he can make such statements. It is as if one of Rosovsky's friends is talking, rather than Rosovsky himself--who in fact cites Lodge, in order to reassure us that "the alleged abuses can be more apparent than real" (167).

How to speak of travel in terms of some idiom of abuse, without appearing to restrict its scale? The more narrow institutional context--from which Miller gets to examine her "siting" and apart from which Spivak explores her marginality--might in fact best be represented not by Rosovsky's witty exposition of the surfaces of university life but by Lodge's more inventive comedy of its outermost edges. So, in Small World Persse McGarrigle is bemused to hear Zapp's pronouncements. McGarrigle says he is in no hurry himself to see the world. He does no work on planes, and we are given to understand that the only thing he does do is teach his courses, which require that he be on campus all the time. Consequently, he can only travel by requesting a leave.

The narrative cannot very well deny him the request. Without a leave, McGarrigle could not easily be positioned as a member of the same profession as Morris Zapp, for Small World virtually converts academics and travelers into equivalent categories. The very subjects of the profession of English become stops along the professionalized Grand Tour. "Zurich is Joyce. Amsterdam is Semiotics. Vienna is Narrative," explains Zapp. "Or is it Narrative in Amsterdam and Semiotics in Vienna [ldots]?" (65) Conversely, what is the profession of English? A discipline that offers fresh subjects for conferences to attend, rather than classes to teach. The traditional narrative of academic life is something McGarrigle or Zapp leave behind, and increasingly the novel reveals that the older narrative has at most a vocabulary of only one word to describe their activity. Zapp reflects at one point on "the beauty of academic life," whereby, with just one good book, you could get a grant to write a second, and then, after promotio n enables you to design your own courses, you would be eligible for more promotion, more grants, and still less teaching. "In theory, it was possible to wind up being full professor while doing nothing except to be permanently absent on some kind of sabbatical grant or fellowship" (152). [2]

How better to characterize the superstar politics of academic life as they have evolved in the decade since the publication of Small World than to say that the top, flying high, is like being away on more or less permanent sabbatical? Some institutional connection is required; hence, even Zapp has to locate his activity by means of the customary idiom for how academics of all sorts have always been granted permission to "leave." But he does not have to make the requisite request because he is presumably expected to do research, not teach. (Or to teach as a function of doing research.) Therefore, the very word, "sabbatical," becomes a hapless designation to account for the activity of people already scheduled and salaried to live a professional life apart from circumstances weighed down with inexorable teaching demands, inescapable meetings, and assorted measurings of departmental coffee spoons, now all beauteously escaped, not to say transcended.

The travel in such a life can be conventionally referred to, and is, on a regular basis. The standard means is via acknowledgement. Thus, for example, Henry Louis Gates Jr. thanks two editors for their help on a special issue of Critical Inquiry, help consisting in part of "establishing a productive timetable that enabled me to undertake research in Africa as planned" (18). (He goes on to thank both his research and administrative assistants, for "enabling me to coordinate the editing of this issue while commuting for a semester between New Haven and Ithaca.") But the travel itself cannot be described as such, lest it exist in its own right, rather than being either, as with Gates or Greenblatt, a condition of scholarly labor, or, as variously with Spivak and Miller, as a precondition to be subsumed, transposed, elided, or otherwise theorized. Perhaps one of the reasons fiction better represents travel in academic life today is simply that in fiction the conventional framework of professional responsibilitie s can be happily ignored. Morris Zapp is interested in travel, not ideas. Or rather, insofar as it concerns ideas, travel to Zapp is the ecstatic, exteriorized exercise of a species of intellectual activity pure and simple, served up according to the menus of individual conferences but ultimately prepared for his own consumption.

This can be clarified by another example. Consider the relation between thinking and traveling recently expressed by Paul Theroux:

It is possible for a writer to think creatively only if he or she manages to inhabit a mood in which imagination can operate. My need for external stimuli inspired in me a desire to travel-and travel, which is nearly always seen as an attempt to escape from the ego, is in my opinion the opposite: nothing induces concentration or stimulates memory like an alien landscape or a foreign culture.(394)

Theroux is not an academic; therefore, he cares more about alien landscapes than getting away from familiar ones. Indeed, I believe he can so ardently disclose the possibility of having travel effectively represent thought to itself because he is not an academic. For an academic to speak so bluntly about the pleasures of travel, by contrast, would be either foolish or transgressive, even if the professional activity in which the most eminent ones are engaged now flirts with foolishness and implicitly seeks to authorize transgression.

Michael Malone's more recent academic novel, Foolscap, stages a consistent, if minor, comedy of these notions, as the provost of "Cavendish College," Dean Buddy Tupper Jr. tries to keep track of the highest flyer in the English department, Jane Nash-Gantz. At one point her secretary calls ("she had her own secretary!") to inform the provost that she has flown away to be a keynote speaker at an international women's conference in Warsaw, prompting Tupper to do a double take: "Warsaw?" (48). At another point, Tupper is given a stack of receipts, among them one from Nash-Gantz for a helicopter from Nice to Monte Carlo. Reason: "Plenary Speaker--Ovidian Joyce: Hermaphroditic." "What in God's blue heaven," Tupper thinks, "did that have to do with what she'd been hired for? Hadn't her vitae said her training was in American poetry? Well, pardon Dr. Tupper for asking, but as far as he knew James Joyce wasn't an American, or a hermaphrodite either" (295). Once more, nonetheless, he is compelled to acknowledge that N ash-Gantz is a celebrity who cannot be fired, and therefore a traveler, and therefore someone who crosses boundaries, disciplinary as well as administrative.

In other words, no matter how radically sovereign practice has transformed the coordinates within which the authority of travel takes place in academic life, respect must nonetheless be both expected and given to the enduring force of these coordinates and their conventions. Hence, Nash-Gantz submits her travel receipt, like everyone else. Hence also, it remains one thing for Kathleen Woodward to preface Aging and Its Discontents by acknowledging a fellowship from the Camargo Foundation as follows: "Many of my ideas for this book took shape as I sat in the Camargo Library overlooking the glittering Mediterranean in Cassis." But if there were times when the sea shimmered for her with the very shape of thought, as well as others when thought was happy, and Woodward with it, merely to lie idle and submerged, she is constrained to say so, lest she appear self-indulgent or frivolous. It may only have been necessary to travel to Italy, but, as a consummate traveler like Morris Zapp well knows, you have to receive the fellowship first.

Moreover, even somebody who has never heard of the Camargo Foundation and aspires to apply for nothing more than a one-semester sabbatical knows that Woodward would never have received her fellowship had she stated she wanted as much as anything just to travel to Italy--and perhaps, especially given the subject of her book, to feel young again. Whatever the best reasons that anybody is granted even the most humble, local sabbatical, the fact of travel is always potentially disruptive if not clearly sponsored by research. In this sense, perhaps the most exemplary thing about the narratives of high flyers is how they make it possible to glimpse the unsettling nature of travel, which is therefore monitored, defined, and restricted far more rigidly in the sabbatical narrative, to which we must now turn.

2. Flying Low

How has the sabbatical traditionally functioned to address not only institutional needs but the fugitive personal desires and designs of individual academics to get off the ground? One account of a friend's own flight is, I think, typical. In twenty years of teaching he has had two sabbaticals; every other semester he has had to teach--five courses per semester at first, four in recent years. During his last sabbatical, a few years ago, he did not want to write a book, as he had during his first. He did not want to write anything. But he had to "pledge" at least to work under a well-known writer, so that he could secure administrative approval of his request, under the official category of "returning to school." The man then made up a list of every place in the U.S. he ever wanted to visit, and proceeded to travel as far as Alaska, eventually spending time in Washington and Boston, and finally winding up in San Francisco. "The sabbatical did what sabbaticals are supposed to do--it changed my life," he concluded.

What my friend meant is that the sabbatical enabled him to come out of the closet. For him, isolated at a small Midwestern campus, such a result may have been only slightly less possible there than pursuing the most advanced theoretical work in Queer Studies. So it has always gone, in any case, with sabbaticals: an individual applies for one with the expectation that an institution is more interested to monitor the nature of the proposed professional activity than to shape it. Therefore, whether or not there is a campus-wide committee in place to rank the candidates each year, favored criteria exist at the very outset. Even if no administrative mechanism exists for punitive measures against wayward professors who have not fulfilled the terms of their successful proposals, a report to the president is increasingly common at the end.

Sabbaticals, however, have changed in recent years, both in structure and purpose. Hazard Adams explains in The Academic Tribes: "The classical sabbatical is a year abroad fortified with support from a foundation or a government. Faculty members go to great trouble and endure almost any hardship to experience the sabbatical in full" (107). But this was written twenty years ago, before state education budgets got smaller and professors got older. As a dream of some exotic sabbatical destination has been gradually replaced by the necessity for the most secure retirement plan, the year abroad has often shrunk to half a year, frequently spent closer to home, especially if your spouse has his or her own career to consider.

If we understand most present sabbaticals to be the product of financially lean and institutionally tightened conditions, it is very difficult any more to see any sabbatical in personal terms. Or to put the same point another way, any personal terms with respect to a sabbatical have now acquired the effect of bluntly transgressing the very rules that both authorize and circumscribe the sabbatical itself. This is why the prospect of travel proves so especially disturbing today; no activity allows the energies of the personal to be more manifest, more vagrant. Eric Leed writes as follows: "Recognition of the social subversiveness of travel, the fluidity of identity achieved through territorial mobility, has long been a justification for laws against itinerancy" (276). As we have seen, some representation of the fluid delights and subversive moments afforded by the very nature of travel is no longer effaced by those professionally empowered to engage in double-siting and remarginalizing on a regular basis.

A while ago a colleague told me that he was about to be eligible for a full-pay, one-year sabbatical, upon the completion of his fourteenth consecutive year of teaching. What did he want to do? He wanted to live in London. How to secure this unworthy goal? Was I sure, he asked, if proposing something to "benefit the college" constituted the category that merited the most points? I thought so. Now how to figure out why living in London could benefit the college. Our first thought was the same: do not mention either living or London. My own later thought was this: how would the sabbatical my colleague would most likely be awarded (on the basis of seniority, if nothing else) effectively subvert the official criteria? No matter that nobody would know, or perhaps even care (once he received the sabbatical). No matter that he was less self-conscious than my friend above about the chance of subversion, or less in need of changing his life.

Anything can happen anyway once a logic of "itinerancy" is set in motion. The magic potential of having your whole life changed demonstrates how a sabbatical has in fact always had within it the force to shatter some careful sequence of rules and regulations established at an institution, in part in order to contain this force. (That "procedures" can be waived, and often are, in the case of a request for a leave of absence, makes a leave crucially different from a sabbatical. A leave fails to pose the challenge to disciplinary or administrative regimes that a sabbatical does--although even a leave often makes provosts nervous; see Foolscap 302-04.) Travel best attests to the direction of this potential, whose sheer force is exhibited in the writing of distinguished professionals. [3]

These men and women are not only released from lesser constraints about the distance in which their work may be conducted. In another sense, they become burdened by the imperative to determine what kind of work they can come up with now that they are so free. It is no accident, for example, that so many memoirs by academics have lately begun to appear, either strongly inflected by travel, such as Marianna Torgovnick's Crossing Ocean Parkway, or completely formed by it, such as Cathy Davidson's 36 Views of Mount Fuji. (On the Duke English Department, see Begley.) We can only speculate how many other academics would like to be loose, in the words of Davidson's subtitle, to "find themselves" in Japan, or wonder what they would write about the experience of having been grounded for so long.

There is a telling moment from a recent discursive performance in Critical Inquiry by Spivak, whose entire contribution is described by the editors of the special issue as "a dazzling series of geographical excursions (from Algeria to Bengal to Singapore to Bangladesh to Italy to Canada--where our point of entry will be through someone who is Lebanese)" (Appiah and Gates 628). She is on the coast of the Bay of Bengal shortly after the terrible ravages of the 1991 cyclone and tidal wave, as well as on the third page of her attempt to answer the direct question she has been asked about what she saw. At one point Spivak muses as follows:

The work of rehab must continue. But with the vestiges of intellectual sophistication I possessed I saw through with distaste the long-distance theorist's dismissal of the aporia as anachrony or his embracing of it as the saving grace of a-chrony. I was adrift. I knew the ways of cutting the drift or d[acute{e}]rive, of course. Silence the subaltern by talking too much. Describe, account, print. (779)

The long-distance theorist refers not only, I think, to the critic Spivak has just cited, concerning what the Israelis have done to the Bedouins. The theorist is also a figure for Spivak herself to transmute, by means of the trope of travel. Like the perennial traveler, she is there, on the spot, using the authority of experience to enunciate a rebuke to theory, while at the same time she continues as a theorist herself, vestiges and all, supremely gliding among the shoals of subalternity. She acts out experientially the "move into globality" with a discourse (on eco-logic and borrowed cultural scripts) so saturated with travel conventions that the author begs, as travel writers always do, to be forgiven when she grows momentarily overcome with her own experience. Hence, just below, beginning another "bit" from Italy, Spivak prints the intelligence that in February of 1991 she was "in a pretty villa" on Lake Como, "owned by the Rockefeller Corporation, where I hope to be again."

Is Spivak doing travel writing? Yes and no. Sometimes, it seems to me, the "yes" counts, and counts for more, than the "no." Has her life changed? No. The point appears to be for us to see what might be termed the pathos of a sublime critical subjectivity suffering the rigors (including at times the pleasures) of a species of primordial, or maybe just postmodern, change. The point is not to comprehend Spivak's performance as the kind of star turn that has lately prompted Daniel O'Hara to compare the profession to professional sports: "A few 'irreplaceable' superstar 'free agents' and a mass of interchangeable 'utility' or 'role' players, most of whom do not have, and cannot get, long-term contracts (i.e. tenure)" (43).

O'Hara's idiom is strikingly similar to James Phelan's. At one point, Phelan rages as follows against the folly of how "market value" is determined in the profession: "professors are all finally free agents, able to move wherever someone else would have them, able to renegotiate their contracts whenever they can produce an offer sheet from some other school" (195). The difference lies in the analogy: Phelan's professor is an individual entrepreneur, while O'Hara's is a member of a team. In my reading, the activity of travel indicates how to split the difference: each figure is free to travel, albeit unequally so. The fact that the superstar can spend a month at Lake Como, presumably free of charge, and even mention it in print, does not ultimately contradict the structure whereby the team player can also spend a month at Lake Como, albeit paying her own way, while on sabbatical.

A sabbatical, in this sense, enables whatever high-flyers such as Morris Zapp or Gayatri Spivak are actually doing, no matter how little it has to do with the ways a sabbatical is mandated and rationalized as part of administrative governance back home, for the rest of the team. On sabbatical, if you have not been granted the license to be a free agent, you cannot be prevented from behaving as one anyway for a while. Granted, it may never be possible for you to renegotiate your contract; in this respect the same institutional space does not cease to comprehend you. (For a description of academic work along class lines, see Lauter.) Yet if we bring the two most unequal halves of O'Hara's team together, nothing so much as the common possibility of available freedom from the rules of the game testifies to the group's enduring cohesiveness.

Discussing the recent phenomenon of the "public intellectual," Jeffrey Williams locates it as a professional event in the following manner:

An inverse function of public access--while material access becomes more and more rarified to the university and to the professional field--is to promulgate a model of the academic celebrity, hypostasizing the model of intellectual star, with broad public appeal and name recognition, as an intellectual carrot--a kind of intellectual Horatio Alger story--for those struggling with the blunt exigencies of employment, for those unemployed or "underemployed" to dream and strive for, at the same time that socio-institutional conditions make that dream more and more fantastical. (72)

Aside from reemphasizing the key role of travel in this account, I would only add that travel has such prestige because it flaunts the distance of celebrity from the same conditions that make hypostasizing the dream possible in the first place.

Similarly, speaking of the huge salary differential between graduate teaching assistants and faculty members, Cary Nelson remarks thus: "what underwrites the fragile ethics of this whole enterprise is the logic of apprenticeship--graduate students are in training to become high-paid professors" (131). If we consider the huge travel differential between faculty members and superstars, we discover a variation of the same logic. If faculty are not so much in training to be superstars, they can take themselves in practice to be performing the same activities (teaching and publishing); in the future, some may, with luck and determination, rise higher. Arguably, nothing disturbs this logic more than another activity: traveling. In practice, all are simply not taking off at the same times to the same places. It must be admitted: those who fly most frequently and distantly can only do because they command factors or networks (having to do with professional eminence, institutional prestige, and so on) that cannot eas ily be analyzed, not to mention obtained. [4]

And yet, the moment of travel is at least available to all. A sabbatical guarantees it. With a sabbatical, the constitutive division between entrepreneurs and team players is addressed, and the immanent conflict within the team between superstars and role players is eased. It does not matter, I believe, if everyone does not travel on sabbatical, or even how, when some do. What does matter is the continuance of this very space in the structure of academic life for the potential expression of unregulated or unregenerate energies, whose provocation I have been assuming to be most fully represented by travel. Indeed, its prestige discloses that nothing about academic life is more valued or more mysterious to academics than exit from it. The more routes out and away, the more prestige. The more prestige, the more routes. It is as if what Rosovsky writes of as "abuse" is in fact continually rewritten by the highest practioneers in a profession as triumph.

3. Flying

Let me restate the basic thesis of this article: what we discover when we inquire into the conditions of possibility for global travel by academics is that academic life cannot be made good in academic terms. In Small World, this lack is the basis for the distinction between Morris Zapp and Arthur Kingfisher. Zapp, who lives to travel, does so because he works--whether at home or on a plane, planning how to transform the next grant into the next book, or the next paper into the next conference, or vice versa. The profession is affirmed whether he gets on a plane or not. Academic life in this sense contains him utterly, no matter how far away he actually goes.

Very much in contrast is Kingfisher, the doyen of international theorists, "the only man in academic history to have occupied two chairs simultaneously in different continents (commuting by jet twice a week to spend Mondays to Wednesdays in Switzerland and Thursdays to Sundays in New York)" (93). Distance is built into the minutest fabric of Kingfisher's career. Unlike the frenetic Zapp, who still takes off within an older, settled idiom of sabbaticals and grants, Kingfisher represents an apotheosis of the eminent academic who is truly beyond sabbaticals--and therefore, in this measure, beyond the kind of travel to which academics on any rung of the professional hierarchy can coherently either aspire or achieve. For Kingfisher, travel no longer operates within some known institutional structure that could be either affirmed or abused. Travel is no longer disruptive. Even Zapp has a home, no matter how much time he spends away from it. Kingfisher appears to be so exquisitely decentered (as well as mysteriousl y endowed) that he only has a destination.

Just so, it is not at all clear how intelligible in academic terms would be the great fictional prize of Small World: the UNESCO Chair of Literary Criticism. It is to have virtually no duties. Its $100,000 salary is to be tax-free. Perhaps most wondrously of all, the Chair will be connected with no institution, in no particular country; there is no obligation to use the office or secretarial staff at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO. Since the Chair is "purely conceptual," the successful candidate "would have no students to teach, no papers to grade, no committees to chair. He would be paid simply to think--to think and, if the mood took him, to write" (120-21).

Such a Chair only makes academic sense on the analogy of an impossibly permanent, paid sabbatical, now understood as an exclusive confirmation of the life of the mind--heretofore all-too-fatefully distracted by students and colleagues in its necessarily institutional, or material, context. Although the occupant of the UNESCO Chair apparently is to feel no particular conviction about traveling, there is of course nothing to prevent a dazzling excursion anywhere on earth into the heart of heterogeneity. The closest real-world examples of what the results of such an opportunity would be like are certain moments in Spivak, such as the following:

When you speak in the United States, and you speak in Britain, and you speak in Australia, speak in India, speak in Hong Kong, speak in Africa, speak in Cairo, speak in Saudi Arabia, you begin to realize the incredible arrogance of an arena that takes itself to be the world is something that one must undermine persistently all the time,

(Post-Colonial 115)

On the other hand, if there is nothing in theory to restrain a professor from taking on the whole world for its presumption to be the whole world, how can the occupant of the UNESCO chair be understood to be an academic at all? Just because this personage still attends conferences? If being an academic means that you are somehow embedded, at the very minimum in terms of affiliation to some institution, can you still be embedded on the basis of conferences alone? Consider Zapp's own Jerusalem conference on the Future of Criticism, which is, everyone agrees, the best conference because only one paper a day is scheduled to be delivered, while the rest of the papers circulate informally as the conferees lounge at the Hilton pool, shop at the bazaar, or explore Galilee. The pretext of the conference itself, and its focus on the single paper, would seem to be crucially constraining, continuing to operate in the event someone decides to skip the day's paper.

Yet we are entitled to wonder, I think, at least two things. First, precisely what are academic terms at such a conference? Can they not be dispensed with? Second, how does such a conference reveal something normally undisclosed about academic terms, and why should it matter? Let me consider Jacques Derrida's "Back from Moscow, in the USSR" with respect to the first of these questions especially. Derrida initially mentions that he was invited to Moscow for ten days at the invitation of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences. Citing by his title the name of the travel book to the same destination written by Andr[acute{e}] Gide over forty years earlier, Derrida accomplishes two things: he locates his text generically--as a "back from the USSR" narrative (with rich utopian overtones)--and then repudiates it for the same reason, for he himself comes too late in the tradition, and appears too personal to the degree that he comes as a travel writer at all.

The result is that Derrida produces what he terms at one point a "phantom narrative" (211). Once more, it is and is not a writing of travel (culminating in a "postscriptum" that tries to incorporate under three headings both possibilities at once). If his reasons have to do with the same political sophistication and tact deployed by Spivak, they differ in one respect: Derrida situates more centrally the matter of his location. At another point he refers to how "the Frenchman that I am still winks toward the American that he finds himself," only partially, I think, as a way to relay the reference of Gide to de Tocqueville (220). His subject is in another sense more basic: where was he teaching when he accepted the Soviet invitation? Was it the same place where he subsequently wrote his account--destined, as Derrida notes, for the University of California at Irvine? Derrida's text is not only another consummate product of high flying. It is a rare disclosure of its costs. Simply put, Derrida finds it so diffic ult to write of his travel as travel because he cannot easily locate his home.

What are academic terms on such an occasion? They are haplessly those of home, on the model of home as an institution. I do not mean that Derrida does not know where he is. I do mean that the lack of home explains why he must take up the question of "what I am doing with my life today when I travel between Jerusalem, Moscow, and Los Angeles with my lectures and strange writings in my suitcase at this precise moment in History" (202). Whatever he is doing, it is not writing travel, and he is not writing travel because he has no institutional home. "Back from Moscow, in the USSR" may be read, in part, as a lament. Released into a global perspective, beyond Dubrovnik, Lake Como, or any one place, Derrida suffers a kind of sublime peripatetic privilege--at least for an academic--yet this privilege only commands its authority within a clear, stable framework. In a sense, he has the UNESCO prize that everybody in Small World desires. (Or the Jerusalem conference without any papers but his own.) But the prize has n o public definition, no collective resonance. Hence, Derrida finds little alternative but to keep characterizing his travel experience as too private, while refusing to represent it as too inconsequential.

What Derrida has produced is a subjectively nuanced account of "out of frame activity," as discussed by Erving Goffman. Goffman has many fine pages on the complexities involved in inducing an activity into a frame. [5] What we read in Derrida are many fine pages on the complexities involved in inducing an activity out of a frame. Elite academic activity is only possible to the degree that it is organized in terms of the most minimal involvement with what constrains it in practical, everyday, institutional terms. Nothing constrains it more than the fact that academic life, even now (or maybe especially now) with e-mail, normally transpires in one place. (For another argument on the difference the "technostage" might make, see Case.) Academic terms are by this measure local or they are nothing. This is why distance away from them has such prestige. It is also why, at the Outermost frontiers, you can discover that what you have is mere experience: all activity without any frame.

Of course what ostensibly matters to the discipline is not that you travel, but that theories do. (See Said, in particular the chapter "Traveling Theory.") And yet what we discover repeatedly in the elite text of theory is that travel does matter. It has consequences, some not wholly personal, however elusive. There appear to be two possibilities: either you become, like the actors in Small World, wholly "engrossed" (to use another term of Goffman's) in the global script of professional distinction, or else you find yourself so much in thrall to the script as to be effectively baffled by your own experience. To turn, then, to a second question: what exactly does such opportunity reveal to the rest of us about academic life? It reveals the truth of Emerson's well-known words: "Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from the past to a new state." Most academics are situated in repose. Transitions are normally from classroom to classroom, not conference to conference, much less country to country. The only way to be possessed by a more powerful moment is to get a sabbatical.

At one point in Foolscap, Theo, the plodding hero of the novel, meets Jane, his high-flying colleague (accompanied by her secretary, worried that her boss will miss her flight). She is off to Barcelona, and concerned that she will be able to write her lecture on the plane. "You know what success is, Theo?" offers Jane as her secretary tugs at her. "Success is exhaustion" (106). Theo has no reply. If he could, what reply would we imagine him to make? That he is grateful for her exhaustion, even though he cannot share it, or can share it only in a minor key? That he is grateful to Jane because she writes the script from which he teaches--or will, once pedagogy catches up? But is it his gratitude that Jane wants? Perhaps she only wants Theo's recognition, although in this case it is not entirely clear what he would recognize, apart from the sheer glamour of Jane's travel, barely intelligible within the terms of his own commonplace experience.

It will not stay commonplace, however. Theo is off to England in the summer, and eventually--just as with Lodge-- Malone's narrative contrives to award him a special leave. It turns out that Theo's professional horizon is not entirely comprehended by a vocabulary of repose, no matter its difference from the mobile states and irreducible identity commandeered by his colleague. Should we conclude then that the travel in academic life represented in Foolscap is ultimately all of a piece? Yet a problem remains: even if the travel is, the celebrity is not. Compared to Jane, Theo seems to be the very image of the "token" professional, as over against her figure of the master critic (to recall Sosnoski's basic division). Indeed, Jane requires the witness of Theo's steady drudgery in order to provide a measure for the spectacle of her brilliant exhaustion.

Perhaps we can conclude thus: a final boundary that travel undoes is some clear basis for constructing the difference between those who take off in academic life and those who do not. Whatever we think of those moments, as I have been trying to embed them, when our luminaries come face to face with the thrill of professional transcendence, we must admit, I believe, that such high flying is not always conducted in utter disregard of us. Moreover, it does not of course have to do exclusively with travel. One of the most self-aware disclosures of this fact is articulated in a recent essay by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Considering the political agendas behind the recent ressentiment against higher education, Sedgwick writes about what might recommend faculty work to the nonacademic public, whose labor is largely stipulated by a remorseless, profit-driven capitalism. Undoubtedly, she says, our work has "resources"--of time, creative opportunity, and so on--not widely available to the rest of the marketplace. She cont inues: "Another way to understand that spectacle, though, would be as one remaining form of insistence that it is not inevitable--it is not simply a fact of nature--for the facilities of creativity and thought to represent rare or exorbitant privilege. Their economy should not and need not be one of scarcity" (263).

How to reply? Of course, in some fundamental sense, Sedgwick is correct; few kinds of social scarcity need necessarily be so. To me, however, the surprising thing is how she can set to one side the very ideology of professionalism in which scarcity is necessarily so--otherwise all would be privileged, with UNESCO Chairs of their very own in view. Or, to rephrase it in my terms, all would travel. Undoubtedly also, Sedgwick is right when she goes on (speaking of queer sexuality) to express the following sentiment: "So many of us have the need for spaces of thought and work where everything doesn't mean the same thing!" (264). The trouble with travel, however, is that it always means the same thing(s): release, expansiveness, freedom--power. This is why travel remains a prestigious activity in academic life, not to say the modern world.

And, I believe, this is ultimately why distance must remain so elusive and so prized--routinely within the grasp of some academics (if they can extend their hands from tenure-track positions) and yet always out of reach to all but a few. We in the profession are united about who we are because of our opportunities to travel, as well as our duties to our students, our service on departmental committees, and our papers in refereed journals. But these opportunities must remain scarce. It is not only necessary that classes continue to be taught and meetings attended. It is important that travel be situated as something rare, unsettling, inescapably personal, and potentially transgressive. Otherwise, travel would have no prestige, or rather, would lack the basis upon which prestige can be constructed and success demonstrated in the economy of the profession.

An examination of travel in academic life discloses, on the one hand, that the career plans for prestige are actually very few in number, and surprisingly consonant with flight plans. The classes we teach and the meetings we attend, on the other hand, will never suffice to get us off the ground, and yet these activities must provide for most of us the only mobility we need, or else have, whether we need more or not. The inescapable fact of our professional lives is this: as academics we will be driven by the circumstances, intricacies, and limitations of our institutions. By our travel away from our institutions, however, we will be known, even if the best regular route we can hope for is represented by a sabbatical.

Terry Caesar (, formerly professor of English at Clarion University, recently assumed the position of senior professor of American Literature at Mukogawa Women's University in Japan. He is the author of two volumes on academic life, Conspiring with Forms: Life in Academic Texts (1992) and Writing in Disguise: Academic Life in Subordination (1998). A third volume, Travelling through the Boondocks: In and Out ofAcademic Hierarchy, is forthcoming from State U of New York Press.


(1.) For an example of such an account, within travel writing by an academic, compare Jacques Derrida's remarkable presentation, especially the moment when he notes that the inscription of tourism in Andr[acute{e}] Gide's. earlier travel book on Russia calls for "a systematic reflection on the relations between tourism and political analysis" and then concludes as follows: "Such an analysis would have to allow a particular place to the intellectual tourist (writer or academic) who thinks he or she can, in order to make them public, translate his or her 'travel impressions' into a political diagnostic" (215). The academic text of travel, on the other hand, is distinguished by the lack of such a diagnostic, or of some awareness of the consequences of participating in a larger border-crossing global economy. On this last point, see Caesar 169.

(2.) Compare the bland way Rosovsky puts the same thing: "Faculty members love sabbaticals. Projects can be completed, sites visited, colleagues in distant places consulted. Professors tend to be enthusiastic travelers and their way of life encourages their natural proclivity" (166). What Zapp suggests, very much to the contrary, is that he is so enthusiastic about travel because his "way of life" does not encourage it.

Indeed, the narrative of virtually any academic novel enacts the moment whereby the hero has to get away from campus, in order to open fresh avenues of experience and new sources of identity. It is the moment, for example, in Bernard Malamud's Pictures of Fidelman when Arthur Fidelman (who arrives in Italy to be addressed as a "professor," although the narrative does not specify an academic affiliation) is forced to bear the judgment that he needs to lose the study of Giotto he has brought with him; as the man who steals it, and burns it, tells him: "The words were there but the spirit was missing" (41).

(3.) With customary acumen--if not obfuscation--Spivak gives the same point the following expression: "I myself see the step beyond the institution sometimes, not always, as capable of recuperation in a way that confronting the institution is not. It seems to me that within a cultural politic[ldots], which allows enchanted spaces to be created, sometimes alternate institutions which might define themselves as 'beyond the institution' are allowed to flourish so that the work of the production of cultural explanations within the institution can go on undisturbed" (Post-Colonial 5). There are a number of subsequent moments in The Post-Colonial Critic where Spivak stops just short of saying that she herself is a kind of "alternate institution," and her travel a very precise example of an "enchanted space." See also her latest book, Outside the Teaching Machine, whose Foreword acknowledges three different national contexts and restates her conviction about the importance of the "outside."

(4.) Such, however, is the state of professional eminence today that occasionally something of its conditions can be both exhibited and publicized. See, for example, how Bell Hooks refers to "the lecture circuit" on the first page of one of her latest books. How to gain access to it? Like most who have, Hooks does not say, and merely confidently asserts herself, in order to seek consolation--as she describes it--over her fears that she might be forever trapped in the academy; she has just received tenure from Oberlin College. Eventually Hooks moves on, and up to a position as Distinguished Professor at CCNY. She disdains, however, in such a judiciously personal book to write anything about either the wider occasions or the narrower ambitions in her being able to make such a move. For some specific mention of each of these, see the Chronicle cover story on her by Leatherman, and for some larger perspective on the dynamics of feminist celebrity, see Wicke.

Finally, for a rare notation about how unrepresentably seamless such "circuitry" is in academic life, consider Russell Jacoby's strictures about Gerald Graff's Beyond the Culture Wars. He concludes thus: "Graff prescribes hustling conferences of upscale professors fleeing their campuses as the cure, not the disease. He confuses networking with teaching, backscratching with scholarship, jargon with thinking" (188). In defense of Graff, it might be mentioned that only those who have not been infected by the "disease" can assert the conditions for health so confidently. Jacoby is not an academic.

(5.) See especially chapter 8, "The Anchoring of Activity," in Frame Analysis. For example, Goffman begins this chapter by noting the "apparent paradox" attendant upon any "gearing" of a "game" to its "surround." "In general then," he states, "the assumptions that cut an activity off from the external surround also mark the ways in which this activity is inevitably bound to the surrounding world" (249). Derrida's essay is in this respect all "anchor," an elaborate marking of its circumstances--literary, political, historical--in the absence of a central activity in which they are immersed.

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