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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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Preface “Unnice Work” Knowledge Work and the Academy

Preface “Unnice Work” Knowledge Work and the Academy

(p.14) Preface “Unnice Work” Knowledge Work and the Academy
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

In David Lodge's 1988 novel, Nice Work, the heroine, Robyn Penrose, temporary lecturer in English literature, was challenged to confront the sooty business managed by its hero, Vic Wilcox, product of a Midlands technical college. Was this the utmost challenge that Lodge could imagine for the contemporary academic sensibility: to come to grips with the realism of “smokestack” industrialism as it has appalled fiction since the nineteenth-century industrial novel (Lodge's elaborate allusion) through at least D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers? If so, then we can adequately attribute Lodge's comedy to the slow, sly romance he builds between the academy and industry (and their protagonists)—to his deft dance of opposites that at last issues, if not in a classically comic wedding, then at least in the fleeting copulation of two faculties of expertise divorced since Victorian sages presided over the “idea of a university.” Just as Lodge's academic romance can be read in different tones, so too can our contemporary romances of knowledge work.

Keywords:   David Lodge, Nice Work, knowledge work, academy, industry, business

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