Critical Theory Catastrophes & Luv From Afar

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Dear Duke of Swarthmore,

So today in my Analysis of Queer Pacific Islander Literature of the 19th Century seminar, someone projected their conception of the self onto my self, but to me their own self signifies the other, so like, if the other projects a concept onto the self who serves to function to the other’s self as the other, does the self lose the concept of selfhood in experiencing an unbinding of a bound identity, or is there a way to bind one’s sense of selfhood so that the other does not unbind the self?

Seeking Self Identity

Images by Allison McCarthy

Dear SSI,

So my trophy wife’s off perpetuating the phallocracy through the hand-manufacturing of lace doilies, and since someone who has the actual capacity to work outside the household needs to bring home some fucking bacon, it’s up to me to answer this shit. Granted, some people can get by through fantasizing about the sexual behaviors of the genus Cavia, but I am not one of them.

So actually, I have no idea what you’re talking about and am presuming that you don’t either. I’m tempted to just tell you to come back when you can speak in the vernacular, but in the event that a sad and lonely child is lying under this deluded piece of imitation intelligence, I’ll swallow my vomit and try to work through this.

You’re having some sort of identity crisis because, faced with the opinions of other people, you’ve realized that you might not be… uh… you? Oh, hell, you have no actual personality and lack the quality of being a somewhat interesting individual, so you’re speaking in jargon to hide the fact that you have nothing to say.

Well, that profile fits a good number of the people at Swat, so I’d say you have nothing to worry about. Your selfhood or whatever can’t be corrupted by people who are as empty and boring as you are. You know, it’s like poor people looting a store that’s been empty and boarded up for a decade.

Advice? Watch Derek Jarman’s “Jubilee.” It’s an educational film that depicts what the world would look like if overrun by Derrida scholars. Decidedly post-apocalyptic. Oh, and Queen Elizabeth I comes to post-modern England with her court midget and an alchemist to survey the damage. When you’re perpetuating a trend that could lead to the fall of Mother England and compel Elizabeth I to discover time travel in a last-ditch effort to save the Empire, you know there’s something wrong with you.

Anyway, once you’re finished watching that, you’ll probably be exactly where you were. So go back to doing what you’re doing, maybe with the consoling thought that you’re lost in your own shallowness to the point of immunity from outside forces. Either that, or learn a trade, such as cobbling. I hear cobbling is radically authentic.

– The Duke of Swarthmore, OCD, PTSD, BPD, and Bestselling Author

Dear Duke of Swarthmore,

I am having serious dating troubles at Swarthmore. I’ve fallen into a serious rut: let me explain. It always goes like this: I see a Swattie from afar, and I become very interested in them. But, when I try to stalk them unnoticed, they try to engage me in conversation. And pretty soon they’re reciprocating feelings of sexual attraction, at which point I lose complete interest in them. Help me Duke of Swarthmore, I think I might be a secret stalker.

Luv From Afar

Dear Luv From Afar,

It’s times like these that make me think we need a closed group for stalkers. However, for better or for worse, I think your particular neurosis is far less romantic… though I would still really like to see you argue that SBC proposal (”$300 for binoculars, $50 for industrial bleach, $150 for chloroform”).

Since you’re a Swattie, I’m going to make the operating assumption that you’re consumed with raging self-hatred. Combined with a paradoxical dose of delusion as to your own self-importance. As such, it’s probably easier to think you’re a creepy stalker than, y’know, deal with your actual problems, which are probably more mundane than you think. Way to exotify yourself, asshole. (By the way, you probably are a stalker, but that’s not the point.) That being said, I have no idea what the fuck is behind your weird goggles-and-bushes shit, and I really don’t want to send you a reply e-mail asking you for gushy details about your sad childhood.

Bizarrely enough, I think you may also be suffering from an affliction more foreign to this campus than Trichomoniasis: attractiveness. Since from the tenor of your message you must be one of the top-ten creeps on campus, the only reason I can fathom anyone would even come close to you is because you’re an elite liberal arts Adonis. (Other individuals on said list include that one professor who you always find wandering campus at midnight when you’re coming back from Olde Club. You know the one. The Duchess and I play a game where you spot said professor, racking up more points the more horribly awkward the time, place, and context you spot him in. Fun game.)

If the Jolt still existed, I’d tell you to check for your name on a hot list or something to convince yourself of this point, but really it’d be filled with references to some chick named Ariana, and then we’d all just start talking about worst fucks and mowing down freshmen, and, Jesus, you’re crazy enough as is. The point is, you’re probably hot… at least relative to this Carnival of Ass. (Excepting LaSS… they do dress to impress.)

The take-away? You’re probably too hot for this school but you can’t use that to your advantage because you’re way too fucked up in the head.

You need to get satisfaction, by fucking. If you’re unsure of what that is, call up the SHC most attractive to you and they can give you a demonstration, I’m sure. I can only hope that getting that close to someone (CONSENSUALLY, motherfucker) might overload your neurosis and break it so you can start using your looks to screw every halfway-attractive boy/girl/sentient on this godforsaken campus.

Also, please see a therapist, so you can stop bothering me. Thanks! – The Duke of Swarthmore, OCD, PTSD, BPD, and Bestselling Author

Dear Duke,

I am a socially inept and alienated individual who has been struggling to make meaningful connections with my fellow humans for the past 19 years. I grew optimistic in coming to Swarthmore, anticipating scads of instances of rewarding and healthy social intercourse. I was terribly shocked when it occurred to me that such intercourse was not to be had here. After several semesters of striving valiantly to “make connections”, I sunk into a deep despair. I soon became convinced that initiating physical intimacy with everyone around me as a substitution for the emotional intimacy that I believe I shall never obtain would be the only solution to my problems.

Yet, after 17 and 1/2 sexual liaisons, all terrible, I feel empty and used. The only solace in my life is the thought of contracting leprosy and living among fellows who, feeling as isolated as myself, will have no choice but to enter a meaningful relationship with me. However, I am now afraid of ever being touched again ever.

What do you think I should do?

Alienated Resigned Gentlewoman Of Swarthmore


Stop trying to disregard the instincts that, thanks to roughly 1.5 billion years of sexual reproduction and evolution, are inherent in any sexual liaison. Sorry, but as a human being, you can’t be a pleasure-slave to your nymphomaniacal r-complex without your limbic system causing emotional complications. Trading in the concrete for the abstract is entertaining when you are bored and have ready access to alcohol, but, as great as it looks in theory, you might just be too damn human to pull off physical intimacy without emotional attachment.

Incidentally, if you must stabilize your pathetically emo self with sexual overload, don’t engage in “connections” within a community where almost everyone is batshit insane. Combining your own neuroses with those of another will result in a disturbing amplification effect. Probably you’ve already experienced this, if leprosy is looking appealing, but you’re probably too instinct-driven to notice. I’d say use your despair as a reason to obtain SSRIs from CAPS. The resultant sexual dysfunction might help you clear your head.

Should you rather continue to fall prey to your sex drive, remember that leprosy is really hard to catch. You should bring a syringe with you when you go to visit your neighborhood lepers and inject yourself with their blood. But don’t date your blood donor: if they are insane enough to actually consent to this madness, they might be too insane to date.

Personally, I think you should take your fear of intimacy and ride with it. And then read Sartre’s Intimacy. It probably has some weird crit-theory interpretation that I don’t want to think about, but the common man’s reading (i.e. my reading) is that people are absurd in general, and approximately psychotic when it comes to relationships.

Just run for it. Cardio feeds the soul.

– The Duke of Swarthmore, OCD, PTSD, BPD, and Bestselling Author

Got any burning issues that you need answered by someone who obviously knows best (if only by his/her/hir̢۪s prodigious amount of honorifics)? Write to the Duchess of Swarthmore, Esq., PhD, OB/Gyn (or her angry husband) at!

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