HOMO ACADEMICVS

A Serial Novel
George H. Jensen, Jr.
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Preface

Trapped within the lights of his self-interest, he is entirely blind, as blind as those whose blindness he denounces, to the space within which he is situated, yet within which may be defined the objective relation which connects him to them, and which is the source both of his insights and all of his oversights.

     Pierre Bourdieu

In the above quote, Bourdieu makes a rather academic statement about academics. It is, in my experience, all too true. Kenneth Burke says it more simply, "A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing." It is true of academic life. It is also true of life.

Homo Academicus, a novel about academic life and mourning and other things. It was published on this site serially from September 6 to May 16, 2016, similar to how novels were published in late nineteenth-century newspapers. Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, and Anthony Trollope published novels in this way.

Some not-yet-dead authors are experimenting with the serial novel concept by publishing short novels with short chapters on the web. Homo Academicus is a more traditional novel in terms of length, but it is also an experiment in digital hypermediation. (How academic is that?) In other words, to elaborate (as we academics like to do), this site will explore reviving and rethinking the serial publication of a novel in a digital environment.

The first part of the novel, The Consecrated Heretics, takes place during the 2016-2017 academic year. As you read, you will notice references to recent events in the news. This is not a traditional feature of serial novels. It is part of how I hope to stretch this kind of publication. Readers might feel that the action is happening in real time.

On the top right side of this page, you can access and read the chapters that have already been released. You can also find the schedule for the release of the rest of part 1 under Table of Contents. In the same area, you can sign up for email notifications as the remaining chapters are published.

While the novel can be read on mobile devices, reading it on a desktop, laptop, or tablet will be a more full, multi-modal experience. That's a good thing.

This is a work of fiction, but I realize that we often, as Bakhtin says, read works of fiction as if they were autobiography. I have taught at six or seven different institutions in my career. I guess I could look at my CV and give you an exact number, but it's not that important. Here is the point I wish to make: The unnamed university in this novel is all of them and some places I never taught and none of them. Being none of them, it is not the one you might think it is.

The characters, even the guy who might seem a lot like me, are creations. I don't eat Cherrios for breakfast. I promise you. This is my typical breakfast: 1/3 cup of oatmeal (uncooked, an acquired taste I developed when I visited Denmark, the "old country," as my uncle called it), some walnuts, Chia seeds, about 1/2 cup of berries, 1/2 a banana, and coconut milk. And coffee, of course. I have friends who can validate this. I promise you. If you tell me you know (in real life) one of the characters (who are but words on these pages), I am going to call bullshit on that. I was there when this thing was written. I know better. They don't exist outside the world of this novel. I promise you.

Toward the end of A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean's father says, "You like to tell true stories, don't you?" Norman answers, "Yes, I like to tell stories that are true." A River Runs Through It is a work of fiction that we want to read as nonfiction. Maclean was warning us to be careful about how we read his story. Yea, what he said.

To elaborate, which, as I said, we academics like to do, a true story and a story that is true aren't necessarily the same thing. This is not a true story. I have tried to make it a story that is true. And, maybe, a little funny, too.

From time to time, I will be commenting on the writing and reception of the novel on democraticvistas.com, my blog.

I will also post updates on Twitter @ghjensen #homoacademicus.

I wish you happy reading.

Copyright 2016