Academic Mondays: Robert Boice?


I do not now manage my time as I would like to, due to (a) my Reeducation related disability, (b) what my assigned schedule is, and (c) what customs are in this culture.

And I tend to be flexible and relaxed, yet structured. But this culture expects almost complete flexibility, at least from women; the only way people defend successfully against that, I note from observation, is via rigidity disguised as softness (hence the term “steel magnolia”).


In any case, I keep struggling to wrest control of my time from others, something I did not use to have to do.

In this effort I keep seeing references to the work of Robert Boice.


Boice tells you how to manage your work and writing time and what he says is largely true. People discover him and it is a revelation for them.

What I do not understand is this: how did they manage to finish PhDs and become professors without having discovered what he has to say on their own? How did they manage decent grades as undergraduates?


Did they not discover even in middle school that any longer project, especially if you have several and they overlap, has to be done in small pieces and at a steady pace?

I am not trying to be mean or critical, I just really wonder, how did anyone manage to get ahead without the Boicean ideas, whether they had read Boice or not, predated him or not?


Boice’s point about “mild happiness” as the ideal state for work, of which the post just linked to reminds us, is well taken given that we are so well trained to believe we should suffer to work.

To experience this mild happiness, however, one must have a sense of the worth of one’s project and the validity of one’s interest in it. One must also feel worthy of doing it, an not feel guilty about that feeling.

One must also not feel guilty about having a deep interest in something.


My first education and also Reeducation taught me these feelings.

Since Reeducation I have had trouble attaining that state of mild happiness. I am overcome with shame and fear, for which I attempt to compensate by inducing extreme happiness by playing things like salsa records. This makes it hard to sit still enough and work methodically enough.

My student, commenting on a novel we are reading, says the character’s oscillation between shame and joy is an emotional effect of child abuse.


And I believe that the reason we are taught to affect suffering while working is that people see we are interested in our work and become both envious about this and jealous of it.

That could be why they say it is not work, and that we should be able to produce on a dime without having put put time into it (time we could have spent caring for them, or catering to them, for instance).

Perhaps my views are completely idiosyncratic.


13 thoughts on “Academic Mondays: Robert Boice?

  1. My younger friends all think of my blog as a frivolity that keeps me occupied in my old age. Most younger people are still trying to make their mark, and so disinterested activities don’t register with them as important.

    But the cumulative effect of my blog is great, at least on me. And I can go back and retrieve information from it that I would otherwise have forgotten or misremembered.

  2. I think much of academic work is objectively scary, because, I have been reflecting on lately, there is very much that is from a patriarchal perspective, and it can give a false map to one’s own subjectivity, making the world seem too paradoxical and other people’s reasoning processes seem convoluted and difficult. One has to realise how much of academic normality is actually false consciousness. Only then can one work happily, without the feeling of being overburdened by the weight of other people’s obscene notions about the world.

    1. This is definitely true and it’s why I am glad to have been in and around it long enough to remember the CR groups around this issue. More on this later. (I’m still at work, sneaking onto this blog to put up a piece of literature we looked at in class and that I think deserves to be read for pleasure Wednesday.) 😉

      1. Re this. I remember all the FIGHTS and SIT INs and things undertaken to make both academia and society at large more “inclusive” … in a time when the aim was to “revolutionize” both and make evident the connections between them. Now, it seems, “of course we all agree about all of that” but only in a genteel way, within the ivory tower, and so on, whilst we claim to “serve” society and who knows what. (This isn’t 100% coherent, I know.)

  3. So Blogger just ate my comment over at your site. Great post and comments, including yours (comment 2). But: isn’t it then the patriarchal sex drive, and isn’t any male one that isn’t patriarchal made as unknowable as the female one?

    1. Yes, actually your comment appeared after all, but blogger is putting up error messages when people post. I replied to it over there. To add a bit more, I think that there is no reason to assume that subjectivity = unknowability. I’m going more along the lines that subjectivity = no legitimisation, whilst objectivity =legitimisation of knowledge. So the point of being a patriarch is to have one’s knowledge legitimised by claiming an objective status for it.

      Now I think this is what patriarchy, in modern times, has been trying to do with male sexuality. It has endeavoured to associate it with the objective quest for knowledge, and thus to legitimise it, by making is seem objective.

      My view is that patriarchal thinking does not succeed here — that the way the patriarch experiences his sex drive remains subjective, not least because he changes the environment he moves into (he HAS to see women a certain way, in order to legitimise his sex drive). Also, because he does not engage in a genuine dialectic with women, but only seems to do so. Rather, he engages in a very subjective dialectic with his own internalised version of “woman as she has to be, in order for me not to lose my legitimisation”. He is not participating in reality objectively, because the reality that he would have to participate in has been labelled as polluting. So he invents a fantasy and participates in that, instead. A fantasy, however, seems to suffice him in terms of being a compromise between maintaining patriarchal mores and experiencing (albeit in a very safe and mediated way) a certain level of dialectical relationship.

  4. Blogger is still not working (and I don’t trust anything Google, or anything by Mark Zuckerman).

    “So he invents a fantasy and participates in that, instead. A fantasy, however, seems to suffice him in terms of being a compromise between maintaining patriarchal mores and experiencing (albeit in a very safe and mediated way) a certain level of dialectical relationship.”

    Very true, and very few men (including those who designate themselves as liberal and even feminist) realize this.

    But this still means, it seems to me, that actual women and also actual men are unknowable in the patriarchal schema.

    1. Well In general men are knowable, both to themselves and to other men, to the degree that they have organised the basis for a structural dialectic within culture. That is, men “know” themselves via their exploitation of women. The definition of what it means to be a man, in this context, is arguably degraded, but that does not mean that “men” do not know each other on the basis of having this social structure in place.

      It’s just that, from a female feminist’s perspective, these kind of “men” are not very interesting.

  5. Anyway, that came from Blogger not working and from the discussion of the patriarchal schema in academia; my question was:

    “I am not trying to be mean or critical, I just really wonder, how did anyone manage to get ahead without the Boicean ideas, whether they had read Boice or not, predated him or not?”

    And perhaps the broad answer (to the real question, why am I not satisfied with Boice) is that Boice presupposes one is a whiteman or can become one, and is not taking into consideration anything except the possibility that people have poor work habits, and people like that because then solutions to everything are within their grasp.

    (I’d like various people to weigh in on that, but this blog is not enough of a hot spot for that to be likely.)

    1. You are probably tired of me, here, but it strikes me that academics are supposed to work “cold” — that is, by shifting and categorising existing ideas. However, there is a different kind of intellectual (rather than “academic”) work, which involves working “hot”. That is, one is generating ideas and coming to terms with them.

      This kind of heat can seem polluting, because it involves emotional work. One has to then cool down enough to work in a more academic fashion with the ideas that one had generated by the first means.

  6. No, I think that is THE answer. But it leads to places the academic industrial complex does not want one to go.

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