I spent some time recently gathering up all of the responses I could find to the original piece of mine that caused such a fuss, so there’s a convenient list now. If I missed any, feel free to comment and let me know.
But I wanted to highlight one response in particular that I think gets at a lot of the things I was thinking when I originally wrote and that I’ve talked about in other spaces over the past few weeks. Over at The Professor is In, Ian Saxine has written a really great reflection on the problems of calling the genre “quit lit” using my piece as a jumping off point. It’s not just a term of art, in his estimation, but a careful framing designed to rechannel agency from the left behind, who could work to change the system, to the people leaving, who can’t.
This is not a hot take on Erin Bartram’s much read—and even more needed—essay, “Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind.” That essay stands wonderfully and poignantly on its own. I read it right before lecturing, and my students asked me who died. I suspect I’m not the only educator who had that experience.
Instead, this is a reflection on many of the responses to the piece, which I’d argue is revealing in a different way. I broke one of life’s most important rules and read the comments, as well as other responses in other forums like Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. And much of the response was thoughtful. What surprised me, though, even more than the fact that so many non-horrifying comments appeared on a thoughtful blog, was how so many writers from Inside Higher Ed on down have persisted in calling the piece “quit lit.”
In fairness, the label is often accompanied by a the qualifier “a new kind of” or something of that nature, but nevertheless the fact remains that many (presumably academic) readers keep resorting to that category for Bartram’s piece.
Read the rest here.