Taking Solace in the hardest of hard B pluses: A rant

There is a Cosby show episode in which Bill Cosby’s oldest son, Theo, is working at a particularly difficult project for school and tells his father that if he works really, really hard he might be able to pull out a C+.  Dr. Huxtable replies that he would be very proud if Theo were able to earn a C+ under these difficult circumstances.  Malcolm-Jamal Warner’s character responds in surprise to which the elder Cosby replies “I am prouder of a hard C than an easy A.”  Cue audience applause and end-credit sequence.


This is a rant.  This blogger in your interest area in voluntary cooperation with the U of C and other authorities have developed this rant in order to keep you informed regarding distinctions between real events and sitcom scenarios.  If this had been an actual sitcom, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by a polite little post about how working hard is its own reward and everyone one of us is a unique snowflake.  But this is a rant, sit down and shut up.

For those of you who followed the intellectual gestation and painful delivery of my analytic exposition on Lacan’s Mirror Stage in the Anal-ytic Exposition Dump series you’ve probably been wondering how all that turned out.  So the long wait is over–anti-climactically–as of this post’s title you already know how I did: a B+/A-.

More telling are the comments.  I would love to post them–all interspersed with my final version of the text–but I feel as thought I’ve already been walking the line as what might be considerate to make public knowledge with regard to my grades and graders.  So I’ll summarize them:

Exchange 1)

Preceptor to student: “I don’t like the style of your paper, it seems to place Lacan in conversation with Freud.”

Student to preceptor: “But Lacan believed himself to be a Freudian.  Lacan’s claims are only understandable as readings or corrections of Freudian theory.  Don’t these distinctions make the paper clearer and more insightful.”

Preceptor: “Yes, the compare and contrast nature of your paper is one of its strongest features–but I don’t like the style of your paper.”

Exchange 2)

Preceptor: “I am confused as to your claim that Lacan’s mirror stage demonstrates the profound importance of the Other in the constitution of the ego–other than the fact that the Other represents the other half of the psychical split always, already present in the ego.”

Student: “Yes.  Exactly.  How is that confusing?”

Preceptor: “…”

Exchange 3)

Preceptor: “You say that ‘ego is the name of an act of self-conceptualization.’  This is an interesting way of putting Lacan’s point as we don’t normally think of the ego as an action or a function.  I think you are right and I’d like to have seen what you made of this point.”

Student: “You do realize that the name of the paper is “The Mirror Stage as formative of the I-Function,” right?  I make the distinction because Lacan made the distinction and the whole paper bears this point out.  If I had added to Lacan’s conception of the ego as an action or function the paper would cease to be an analytic exposition and become my own philosophical project.

Preceptor: “…”

Exchange 4)

Preceptor: “I can see that you are at pains to abstract the Mirror Stage from any conception of infant development.  This is good and important.  I would like to have seen how the mirror stage could have been misunderstood as a metaphor for a developmental stage–just so that I could then say that I was unclear as to whether in your reading the mirror stage is a psychological model or an actual developmental stage.”

Student: “I’m sorry, I must have miss-heard you.  You want me to obfuscate Lacan’s point so that I can clear it up later?”

Preceptor: “No, I want you to put forward both conceptions so that I can plausibly claim that you were unclear.”

Exchange 5)

Preceptor: “You say at the end of the first paragraph that ‘the nature of the constitution of the ego results in striving toward a fictitious ideal, perpetually failing to reach it–because it is fictional, and the importance of the Other as a fictitious externality.’  Then you say ‘in other words’ the constitution of the ego yields a productive, yet unsatisfying relationship between the interior and exterior world.’ I don’t understand how this second statement is a restatement of the first.

Student: “The constitution of the ego is such that:

1) the ego strives toward a fictitious ideal or a) the ego is constituted as productive

2) the ego perpetually fails to meet its ideal or b) the ego’s is constituted as unsatisfied

3) the fictitious Other is important in the ego’s constitution or c) the relationship between the interior and exterior world [is important].

Are you not familiar with parallelism in sentence structure?

Preceptor: I am an analytic philosopher, so I guess the answer is No?

So, boiling it all down, “your paper is a really good effort and I am very impressed with the direction you are heading in” but implicitly “this really isn’t the way that I would have written the paper.”  It seems that my Preceptor has nothing substantively negative  to say about my content and only qualms about its mode of presentation.  As I’ve attempted to demonstrate in my hypothetical exchanges above, the answer to almost all of his “issues” could be “yeah, so?” or more politely: yes, but you’ve already answered your own question.  These analytical expositions are distinguished from our normal seminar papers in that our preceptor is said to grade skeptically as opposed to supportively.  Apparently “skeptical” in this usage also means “as one unfamiliar with the a distinction between style and content.”


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programing already in progress.


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