Meanings: “Academic”

April 4, 2012

“The poetics of post-capitalist hegemony is, and yet is not, the ideology of the public sphere.” I wrote that sentence myself!  Well, almost.

I used “Write yourself an academic sentence,” a website from the University of Chicago Writing Program.  You choose some high-powered, in vogue academic terms, and the website writes you a sentence, one that even sounds like it makes sense — or at least sense in what passes for academic prose. You can try it yourself.

Here’s what has to say about “academic:”

academic Look up academic at
1580s, “relating to an academy,” also “collegiate, scholarly,” from L. academicus “of the Academy,” from academia (see academy). Meaning “theoretical, not practical, not leading to a decision” (such as university debates or classroom legal exercises) is from 1886. Academic freedom is attested from 1901.

And here’s what it says about “the academy:”

academy Look up academy at
late 15c., “the classical Academy,” from Fr. Académie, from L. Academia, from Gk. Akademeia “grove of Akademos,” a legendary Athenian of the Trojan War tales (his name apparently means “of a silent district”), whose estate, six stadia from Athens, was the enclosure where Plato taught his school.

The A[cademy], the Garden, the Lyceum, the Porch, the Tub, are names used for the five chief schools of Greek philosophy, their founders, adherents, & doctrines: the A., Plato, the Platonists & Platonism; the Garden, Epicurus, the Epicureans, & Epicureanism; the Lyceum, Aristotle, the Aristotelians, & Aristotelianism; the Porch, Zeno, the Stoics, & Stoicism; the Tub, Antisthenes, the Cynics, & Cynicism. [Fowler]

Sense broadened 16c. into “any school or training place.” Academy awards (1941) so called for their distributor, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

When I read much academic prose, I think I’ll try to remember the bit about “a silent district.”

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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