Have you ever seen that episode of Friends where Joey admits that he doesn’t understand when people use “air quotes”? My professor uses these quite a bit in class, and when he does, I kind of feel like Joey. I don’t get it. I mean, sometimes I do, like the other day when this dude walked into class twenty minutes late, and the professor thanked the student for being “on time.” Sarcasm, no problem. I get it. But then other times, I’m not so sure. Here are a few examples from my notes of what I’m talking about:
1. Hemingway’s writing demonstrates tremendous “anxiety” about “gender” roles.
2. Jake Barnes’ “feelings” of profound “alienation” are exacerbated by his “problem.”
3. “Bullfighters” represented a kind of “masculine ideal” for Hemingway.
There are tons more, but you get the idea. I am afraid to ask about some of this stuff in class because I seem to be the only one who is confused. I even thought about going to his “office hours,” but they are at 7:00 in the morning on Sunday at some coffee shop across campus. Any advice?
Up in the Air
Dear “Up in the Air,”
I cannot say “for sure,” but it might be that in the climate of “heightened attacks” on “higher education” professors feel “vulnerable” and do not wish to be “perceived” as “editorializing” or worse “inviting” “controversy” into their “lectures” or “discussions.”
Or it might be a “tick.” But I’m just guessing.
If you are genuinely uncertain and the lectures and/or discussions do not offer any clarification, by all means ask your professor, either in class or after, and skip the “office hours” at the coffee shop.