Read This, then That: Academia as a Horrorscape

For University students fresh out of end-of-year exam season, we’re sure that the spectrum of banal-to-acute academia-related horror detailed in novels Black Star and Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall is a little too close for comfort right now. However, these novels are not to be missed: we undergo our own academic exercise of comparing and contrasting them, below.


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Read This: Black Star by Maureen Medved (Anvil Press)Then That: Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall by Suzette Mayr (Coach House Books)From its complicated bureaucracy to its tenure-adjunct-TA-student pecking order, University life does have a whiff of horror to it (and we didn’t even talk about the boat shoes). Authors Maureen Medved and Suzette Mayr snatch this feeling from the dusty corners of a lecture hall near you in their latest novels, both headed up by women faculty member protagonists trying to get ahead despite both faculty and fantastical odds.In Medved’s Black Star, tenure-track Professor of Philosophy Delorosa “Del” Hanks attempts to finish her massive book on ethics and survive her tenure application review when a young adjunct “rockstar” academic begins turning heads in the department. The adjunct, Helene LeBec, is reminiscent of real-life philosophers of late, with a huge social media following and a “brand” – far outside the stuffy academia that Hanks has spent over twenty years trying to master. When a homeless youth takes up residence in the stairwell outside of Hanks’ lecture hall and stares at her whenever she passes, and more and more department members fall under the spell of LeBec, Hanks’ already shaky hold on her confidence in her work is rocked to its core.In the elevator pitch of Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, the titular Vane is in a similar place to Hanks – she’s an adjunct professor of English trying to make a name for herself in the department and prove she belongs. While the halls of Hanks’ school are haunted by the people within, it’s Vane’s school halls themselves that are haunted: with rabbits, with mould, with all number of revolting things. Vane’s clothing turns on her on a dime, a sinkhole forms in the parking lot, and her old, domineering thesis supervisor threatens to take away every achievement that Vane has scratched out for herself.After both books, yours truly feels glad to be out in the real world. After reading, both academics and non- alike will recognize the stomach-sinking feeling the novels inspire (and you might get a dark laugh or three, as well).
* * *Both Black Star and Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall are available now. For more Read This, then That, click here.