not really quite so exciting

I recently read Rachel Pastan's novel Lady of the Snakes, which was enjoyable enough for a Possession wanna-be. I did think Pastan's awareness of the complicated lives of young academic women was noteworthy (although some of the breeding details I thought were heavy handed -- really, does "linea negra" have to show up not just once but twice in the book as the main signifier of pregnancy? that was just clunky writing).

But once, just once, I would love to read a novel featuring an academic in literary studies whose work seems remotely like what I and my colleagues do. In satires of academic politics (like Moo or The Straight Man) the literature profs usually are depicted as raging Marxists or Old School defenders of Truth and Beauty. Most people I know are some complicated mixture of both those things (plus many more). And Possession and its many imitators turns the study of literature into an historical/archival treasure hunt, complete with stolen or forged or hidden documents, literally or figuratively backstabbing colleagues, and biographical information as the be all and end all of literary study.

It's just not really like that, in the real world. Very few of the interpretive or historical or theoretical questions that motivate people in my field could be answered by the discovery of a particular lost document. If they could, they wouldn't (for the most part) be considered a complicated enough question to justify one's research.

But I guess having the heroine of a novel sit on her couch for hours reading obscure poems and thinking about their interconnections doesn't make for nearly as an exciting plot arc . . .