School’s right around the corner, which for us English Majors means we have to brush up on the philosophical, historical, and sociopolitical implications of “corners” just to make an otherwise functional statement fit a word count. No, I don’t plan on doing that here… because I’m not bullshitting you.
You college students often hear your peers state “I bullshitted my way through that essay,” or “I ran out of ideas halfway through, so I just bullshitted the rest.” What, exactly, do your peers mean by that? It’s not like students are (knowingly, and for the most part intentionally) supporting false or incredible claims when asked to write a 15-page paper in 5 days. Shut up, I rather like being naive, thank you. No, something deeper’s at play. Here’s an essay on it.
I’ll start with why I sometimes say “I bullshitted that essay.” Usually, I’m talking about a literary argument that I don’t have any passion for— or even that much interest in. An example: a year ago, I wrote a 9-page research paper on the homoerotic nature of the vampires of Dracula, arguing that the titular villain inverts, as well as exemplifies, Victorian society’s fear of homosexuality. Nowadays, if you asked me, “Hey Nick, would you say that the confusing and twisting ways that vampiric blood makes women either more or less masculine would terrify Victorians because it shows that not everything can be kept in boxes?” I would say, “Sure, why not?” At the time, I had finished Dracula once before, but I had not completed my re-reading in pace with my class. I went in blind for a good segment of it, without even having the grace of a vampiric bat. The essay still took a lot of hard work, for revising and researching it, but not in service for something I would treasure.
When other students ask me about how to write essays, I usually point to a Brows Held High video and say, “Imitate that voice and teaching style.” For the record, I love Brows Held High, and I would never insinuate that the host Kyle Kallgren ever purveyed “bullshit.” My point is, Kallgren’s show is the kind of thing professors love. Well-researched, formal without being dry, endlessly inquisitive… if you must ramble for an essay, ramble like Kyle Kallgren. But if you do, you’re denying your own critical voice and your own train of thought a chance to communicate your ideas. Henceforth, you bullshit.
A lot of the online guides to Bullshitting Essays advocate using Wikipedia as a jumping-off point and accepting that your essay won’t be great, in addition to advising straight up plagiarism and lies. But if you want to bullshit an essay and keep your academic integrity, my advice is this: ramble. There’s no study without its own subculture, no tenuous connection that can’t be mined for its colonialist, racist, sexist, ableist, Marxist, atheist, anticonformist, realist, other-words-I-found-in-a-dictionary-ist implications. If you say something that can be sourced at all: Go to Wikipedia, check the Notes and References segment, find an article or essay that supports your argument, and use Citation Machine to get it in your Works Cited page. The more sources you have, the more your teacher will like you. Hell, I advocate saving time on essay writing by going over the page limit (as I repeatedly, inadvertently accomplish through this method). Your teacher will assume you’re working hard, and give you the benefit of no doubt and no Ds.
If you’re in college and you’re bullshitting all your essays, you should reconsider your chosen field. Consider that most of what I do for this blog is write essays on my free time. But if you must bullshit an essay, don’t trudge through it… let your mind flow freely, reaching towards all corners and letting new conversations rise, like the proverbial shit hitting the fan.
P.S. Here’s gothic-essay-2, the Dracula interpretation I mentioned in the post. I received an A.