“Cash Is Better than Tenure”: (De)Constructing the “Posthistorical University” in James Hynes’s Gothic Academic Satire The Lecturer’s Tale


University of Bucharest


This article analyzes the manner in which James Hynes’s novel The Lecturer’s Tale (2001) can be read as a satire of what Bill Readings identified in his influential The University in Ruins (1996) as the “posthistorical university.” I argue that, in the contemporary context in which higher education establishments are becoming more like corporations and the idea of culture is replaced by the “discourse of excellence,” Hynes’s novel offers an insightful discussion of universities’ negotiation of the Scylla of the pursuit of profit and the Charybdis of self- absorbed literary theorizing and its association with political correctness, the exploitation of junior and non-tenured faculty,  and the quest for academic stardom. At the same time, I discuss the way in which the Gothic elements that permeate the novel fittingly double and deepen the critique of contemporary educational establishments and professors.

Keywords: academic satire, the Gothic, university of excellence, literary trends, academic superstars, privatization of universities