Conspiring with Forms
Life in Academic Texts

Terry Caesar


“Caesar issues a most unusual and very welcome report from the soldiers in the ill-rewarded posts at the less prestigious colleges and ‘universities,’ providing valuable data for a history of everyday academic life in late twentieth-century America.”
English Literature in Translation


Breaking the silence on a number of sacrosanct aspects of higher education—and now and then raising the clamor about some highly politicized issues—Conspiring with Forms is a critique of both the academy and the discourse concerning its purposes and direction.

Academic life is embedded among forms, says Terry P. Caesar. It is a milieu of customs and conventions, practices and pretenses, all bursting with implications and hidden costs for the mainly mute and complicitous scholars who perpetuate them. Many of these forms are texts—proposals, letters of application and recommendation, dissertations, freshman composition themes, and prefaces and acknowledgments in books. It is impossible, Caesar says, to be an academic and not produce them or, more important, be produced by them.

To discuss these texts, Caesar combines theoretical sophistication with subjective depth and a measure of urbane wit. Essentially, he turns some of the techniques of contemporary theory and criticism back onto the system from which they evolved. At the same time, he draws on his personal experiences, supplemented with excerpts from actual texts of his own and others.

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $25.95

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Terry Caesar taught English and American literature at Clarion University and Mukogawa University in Japan. His books include Speaking of Animals: Essays on Dogs and Others and a memoir, Before I Had a Mother. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.