Exorbitant Pretention: The Guidelines for an Academic Paper, A Transparent Approach

  1. Pick a topic that nobody knows anything about. This way, no one will question your authority. The early poetry of Ben Jonson is an excellent topic.
  2. Find a philosophy or school of thought that has no obvious connection to this topic. (In this case, Stalinism is ideal).
  3. Take out every book int he library on both topics. If Hillman is the closest library, remember that you can check out only 100 books at a time.
  4. Read the first and last pages of every one of these books.
  5. Photocopy these pages and highlight all the longest sentences. These should be quoted throughout the paper.
  6. Turn on your word processor and type out a thesis statement. (Example: “Stalinist principles are clearly evident in the early poetry of Ben Jonson.”)
  7. Revise the statement to make it seem like everybody takes it for granted. (“Since the rise of Stalinist power in the Soviet Union, and certainly long after its fall, scholars have avoided the obvious ideological connections between this sociopolitical movement and the brilliant early works of esteemed Elizabethan poet Ben Jonson.”)
  8. Dutifully write down the names of the authors of these books, and be sure to understand roughly what their abstracts say. As you introduce your paper, make sure you snub every one of them. (“Dr. Wechthaber’s copious and redundant analysis of Jonson is tangential at best. A child could observe the inconsistencies in his shaky prose.”)
  9. Begin defending your own argument. Statistics, graphs, and charts should be planted wherever the argument begins to make sense. (“The Stalinists made wise use of printed and cinematic propaganda. This bar graph depicts the patriotic films produced between 1939 and 1944.”)
  10. Intimidate your reader at every turn. Keep sentences running as long as possible, exploiting dashes, colons, semicolons, and ellipses for all they’re worth. (“Jonson would never have associated with Lenin, that much is clear from his tribute to Shakespeare—the third and 14th lines are especially suggestive—yet his political outlook and glaring expatriotism are unexpectedly pro-Marxist; nevertheless the link between Jonson and Shakespeare remains veritably untouchable, even invisible—as it were—to the average reader. This chart attests to the stupidity of ordinary people…”)
  11. Lots of footnotes are a must. Begin by footnoting every quotation, foreign expression and proper noun. As for the footnote itself, just make up anything. Rest assured that no one actually takes the time to read them. If possible, provide endnotes for your footnotes—this will add inches to the final paper.
  12. The conclusion is always the easiest to write. Just take your introduction and reverse the order of the sentences, so that the last sentence reads first. All active sentences should be rendered passive, and vice versa. (“No one can deny, given the evidence, that the poetry of 16th Century poet Ben Jonson contains principles later propagated by the Stalinist movement.”)
  13. Compile your bibliography. If all goes well, this should be at least three times longer than the paper itself. Multilingual citations are particularly poignant, especially when the language of the source has no bearing on the subject. (For example, books in Latin American spirituality should have Latvian authors, books on Bantu storytelling should be written in Korean, etc.)
  14. Now it’s time to give your paper a title. Every title in academia follows the same equation, outlined here: “X: The Y of Z and the N or M, a C Approach.” “Example: “Paradise Lost: The Existentialism of Milton and the Hermeneutics of the Fantastic, a Philological Approach.” Or: “Outlandish Poetry: The Stalinism of Ben Jonson and the Fetishism of Xenophobia, a Historiolingual Approach.”)
  15. Use an arcane one-liner by a famous personality as your epigram. (Favorite personalities are Martin Luther King, Jr., St. Thomas Aquinas, and Gandhi).
  16. If the paper is ever published in the form of a book, dedicate it to as many people as possible. Every one of them will buy it.


Isenberg, Robert J. The Art of Superfluity, and Other Writings. Middlebury, VT. Isenberg & Turner, 1999.


One thought on “Exorbitant Pretention: The Guidelines for an Academic Paper, A Transparent Approach

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s