DeLillo in White Noise is both funny and astute about the physical embodiment of academic specialization:
The chancellor had advised me, back in 1968, to do something about my name and appearance if I wanted to be taken seriously as a Hitler innovator…. We finally agreed that I should invent an extra initial and call myself J. A. K. Gladney, a tag I wore like a borrowed suit.
The chancellor warned against what he called my tendency to make a feeble presentation of myself. He strongly suggested that I gain weight. He wanted me to “grow out” into Hitler…. I had the advantage of substantial height, big hands, big feet, but badly needed bulk, or so he believed—an air of unhealthy excess, of padding and exaggeration, hulking massiveness.
Which makes me wonder, how should I shape my physical appearance to be appropriate to the kind of academic career I want? Or, have I already, by my sartorial choices, sealed my academic destiny? A troubling thought.
Which brings me to this article discouraging people from doing PhDs (via). Read more↴