“Successful” writing in the institutional system of the University takes two forms, one “positive,” one “negative.”
- In the “negative” form, the student, like Schreber in his paranoia, fends off disaster by appeasing the mysterious forces of the powers-that-be, producing writing by trial and error that mimics the conventions of academic style (as we know, the more “successful” students are those skilled in mimicry who learn the conventions without scruple and produce entirely what the institution says it expects from them).
- In the “positive” form, like Schreber in his Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, the student produces writing by courting disaster, by making mistakes their own in an effort to remake the institution in their own image.
(Does this characterisation sound right? If it sounds like paranoia—and wishful thinking—it aptly captures the institutional environment in which it was written.)