Savage Minds

by Kieran Healy on May 17, 2005

“Savage Minds”: is an elegantly-designed new blog run by six anthropologists. Its roster includes Alex Golub, whose site I used to read more often in the days before blogs, and who once “wrote a post”: containing the following story:

bq. Met with my advisor the other day to go over a conference paper I gave him that would eventually be turned into a chapter. He said that it was ‘better than ok’, which is the most positive comment I’ve ever gotten from him. Much better than when I was writing my MA, when he’d give me back drafts with comments like “don’t ever give anything of this quality to me again ever”.

I sometimes relate this anecdote to graduate students in order to preempt any passive-aggressive whining about my comments on their work being insufficiently kind and appreciative.



Patrick 05.17.05 at 11:27 am

My favorite comment on my thesis was from my methods professor after reading my first draft:

“We let you into this program? Was I absent that day?”

That was one of his nicer comments to any of his students!


Jessup1897 05.17.05 at 11:32 am

Whenever my adviser is unhappy with what I give him he says, ‘very good work, an interesting example of cultural studies’.


Harry 05.17.05 at 11:44 am

As a beginning of second year undergraduate I had a tutorial on th following two papers:

Frege “On Sense and Reference”

McDowell “On the sense and reference of a proper name”

My tutorial mate failed to turn up: the tutorial ran for over 90 minutes of me reading my essay, punctuated by my tutor (who may very well be reading this, and is known to a good number of readers, so I shan’t name him) saying, at the end of every sentence things like “Um, I don’t think you’ve quite understood McDowell there” and “Well, that can’t be right, can it, because…” And I mean, at the end of every sentence.

Finally, the ordeal was over, and tutor wished me a merry Christmas break, and, as I opened the door, said, “You did very well with that, much better than most people do at this stage in their studies”.
The most encouraging thing anyone said to me as an undergraduate. I tell my undergraduates this story sometimes, as a preface to my complaint that I feel I am not allowed to be rude or sarcastic to them.


des von bladet 05.17.05 at 11:51 am

Harry, if there is a somewhere where the beginning of the second year is one (1) tutorial away from the Christmas break, you surely owe it to prospective undergraduates to at least name the institution.


Russell Arben Fox 05.17.05 at 12:02 pm

My dissertation advisor once returned a paper to me covered with the usual assortment of scrawled comments, with one brief additional note at the bottom of the last page, right beside the grade (A-): “Provocative–yet flawed.” Later, on another paper, he wrote almost the same thing: “This is a provocative, but flawed, paper.” It became my mantra through the rest of my time at graduate school. My wife at one point considered having it printed on a t-shirt for me to wear on my birthday.


missgrundy 05.17.05 at 12:54 pm

Having progressed from being a little star in an MA program to being a doctoral student at a major institution, I endured two years of exclusively negative comments before a professor wrote: “This is a well-argued review of the literature. A.” I framed it.

A student once did a parody of my comments at the end of essays that had the other students screaming with laughter, so there must have been an element of truth in it — I was basically twisting myself into a pretzel in order to be critical in a very, very nice way. 25 years later, I’m a little more direct, I think . . .


yoyo 05.17.05 at 4:09 pm

First thing my tutor did was tear my paper while muttering “terrible, terrible”


Tom T. 05.17.05 at 7:16 pm

The title is perhaps just a bit breathless. Clicking on a link called “Savage Minds” and finding “Met with my advisor the other day to go over a conference paper I gave him that would eventually be turned into a chapter,” is a bit like clicking on “Make It with Women in Prison” and finding Martha Stewart crafts activities.

Comments on this entry are closed.