Friday, May 26, 2006

(Not) Grading

Near the end of my former life as a corporate tool, when I fantasized about being a critical theorist and academic and read Derrida on the sly, my firm hired a summer associate who had spent a semester studying with Derrida. Not only that, he told me, but Derrida had given him an "A" on his paper. I was jealous, then puzzled. This fellow turned out to be a dreadful lawyer, one of the very few not given a permanent offer at the end of the summer. This failure was not a skirmish in the "theory" wars (I'm sure I was the only person at the firm aware of or interested in the Derrida connection). This student received no offer because his research was unreliable, missing or ignoring important lines of precedent and misrepresenting counter-arguments. How could such a careless reader get an "A" from Derrida?

But, then, what would it mean to get an "A" from Derrida? Or a "B"? How did--how could Derrida grade? Did each paper receive an infinitely responsible deconstructive reading, passing through the ordeal of the undecidable before giving itself up to the impossible decision? It is exhausting even to think about. Or did he just slap an "A" on everything turned in on time?

Can you tell that I have a crate of exams to grade by Monday?

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