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Jeffrey J. Williams Name Recognition I have written a number of books and articles, and I have acheived that limited kind of fame whereby certain people in academe know my name and my work. —A literary scholar in his memoir Academy Babylon If, as a kind of academic Rorschach test, one were given a list of names—say, Stanley Fish, Homi Bhabha, Andrew Ross, and Judith Butler—what would be the first thing to come to mind? Most likely the academic star system, specifically in literary and cultural studies . By now, the star system has become a naturalized feature of the academic landscape, something that everyone, from deans and provosts to grad students, is aware of, and it is generally acknowledged to be one of the more striking epiphenomenon in academic life over the past twenty years. It arose, according to the standard account, in conjunction with the growth of the "Small World" conference circuit and the advent of literary theory, and elevated to center stage an order of academic celebrities—Derrida, Fish, Spivak, et al. appearing in auditoriums near you in the 1980s, and Bhabha, Butler, Ross, and others in a slightly younger generation gaining leading roles from the 1990s on. It also seems that academic stars have broken through to larger public audiences, occasionally appearing on TV and in other mass media, with some of the trappings of popular celebrity, most notably profiles and photo-ops in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and elsewhere.1 Yet, while widely acknowledged, the star system has incurred mostly troubled reactions. On the milder end of the spectrum, it is taken as a version of gossip and thus dismissed, sometimes with amusement and sometimes with irritation, as superficial. Under more serious consideration, it is seen as a popular cultural phenomenon imported to the academic sphere, and then criticized as a foreign or specious measure imposed on scholarly work. Most extremely , it is viewed as evidence of venal influences encroaching on the pesumably purer academic realm, and condemned as one further sign of the decline of the academy and contemporary intellectuals therein. Overall, the star system is seen as a rarefied phenomenon applying to the academic rich and famous, separate from the normal and more staid careers and practices ofwork-a-day academics. For instance, Andrew Ross comments that "the phenomenon of academic celebrity in some respects [i]s an extension of the genre of academic gossip, which is a culture unto itself—this extraordinary 186 the minnesota review phenomenon wherebyhigh-powered intellectuals spend a lotoftheir downtime trading scurrilous and detailed rumors about far-away colleagues" (84). That is, Ross sees the starsystem as an unsurprising and even normal part of academic culture, although he locates it as peripheral, a function of "downtime" rather than work time. Still, while he frames his remark as an imperturbable observation of the state of the profession, for him it takes a negative cast—scurrilous rather than frivolous, or simply an exchange of information. Less imperturbably,Judith Butler declares that "it's unfortunate that this sort of culture emerges" (MacFarquhar 7). Responding to Linguafranco's coverage of the fanzine, Judy, devoted to her, Butler objects that "It draws attention away from my work and puts it on my person" (7). Like Ross, Butler separates the question of celebrity from work, but rather than seeing it as a normal part of academic life, criticizes it as a categorical error or confusion with popular culture , wrongly taking "academia to be a kind of star culture" (7). Similarly though more somberly, Peter Brooks deems the advent of star culture "regrettable." Like Butler, Brooks indicts the influence of popular culture, although he broadens the charge to include the general ethos ofpostmodernism, diagnosing the recent trend of autobiographical criticism as an "academic version of the postmodern replacement of personhood by celebrity—as if one did not really exist until celebrated in People magazine" (520). Taking a step further, the most severe responses find the star system not simply to be a case of mistaken identity but to reflect the insidious seepage of capitalism into the sacrosanct environs of the academy, thus revealing a fundamental corruption. Perhaps the most prominent...