In Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001), Chip Lambert, assistant professor of English (tenure track) in D-- College, has something of a professional identity crisis while teaching the intro theory course “Consuming Narratives” to first year undergraduates. A gifted female student makes him aware that he has been shoring the discontinuous fragments of contemporary critical and cultural theory to fabricate a positive ontology of his own. “This whole class,” says Melissa Paquette accusingly, “It’s just bullshit every week”:

Chip is shaken to realize that he had taken his father’s injunction to do work that was “useful” to society seriously enough, and that even as he was trying to theoretically infiltrate concepts of “usefulness,” and rework status quo definitions of “useful work,” he was heavily invested in an abstract utility to his cultural criticism. No, he did not think it was bullshit. The lameness of certain theories-“the myth of authorship; the resistant consumerism of transgressive sexual transactions that the college had hired him to teach”—sticks in his craw again when he tries later, self-loathingly, to deploy them to justify sex with the adolescent Melissa. He loses his job consequently, and hits rock bottom as philosophical theorist when his $4,000 and many kilos worth of Marxist texts fetch sixty-five quid in the second-hand market.