Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Your quotes of the day

I'm reading Alison Lurie's wonderful comedy Imaginary Friends, based on Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. In the 50s, he infiltrated a flying-saucer cult which specified a particular date for alien visitation: he posited that rather than give up their ideas when the aliens didn't visit, they'd incorporate the disappointment into their world-view and remain strongly united and convinced.

In Lurie's novel, the sociologists end up in a terrible tangle: implicated in various dubious ethical behaviour, directing the group's activities to some extent, and pursuing private motivations.

Being an academic, some sections touch on my own life…
The whole thing got to be like a relentless parody of higher education. There was the same intense seriousness about a body of accumulating data which was, to say the least, unverifiable; the same assumption that here was a small group of enlightened, thinking persons who understood the universe correctly… aren't most articles in professional journals a form of automatic writing? It is another self who speaks there, solemn and oracular, in a cryptic jargon the real man would never use.
When I passed my Ph.D orals I said to myself with relief that never, never again would I have to prepare for or take another examination. Still, for some time after that, I dreamt… that I was being examined in public, usually on some preposterous subject. 

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