What do academics dream about? To judge from my own experience, their nightmares typically follow the same sort of script that students' nightmares follow: You suddenly realize that you're late for class, yet a molasses-thick atmosphere prevents you from rushing to your room! Or you show up for class only to learn that you've forgotten to read the assignment! Or that you haven't prepared for a schedule exam (to give it, rather than to take it, of course)! Or you suddenly realize you don't know a damned thing about what you're supposed to teach! Aaaaagh!
I've omitted the classic "show up for class naked" nightmare, as that scenario holds few horrors for me. Having swum competitively for many years as a youth, I have had ample occasion to overcome any fears about having strangers look at my body. I hasten to add that I'm not an exhibitionist, especially because I recently—and unwittingly!—gave a lecture with my zipper undone. I mean only to say that I don't lose worry sleep about such things.
Only rarely have I had an academic nightmare peculiar to teaching. Recently, for instance, I woke up distraught from a dream where I was involved in an anguished debate with my colleagues about the tenure application of a junior member of our faculty. It just goes to show that committee work, always a nightmare of sorts, sometimes becomes a nightmare in actuality.
Happily, though, I also have pleasant dreams about my job. You might think that those dreams would follow the usual time-worn scenarios of unencumbered sex, unhindered power, or unlimited wealth, albeit with a few books scattered around as academic props. I guess I have more prosaic concerns on my mind, however. Consider, for instance, this thrilling dream I recently had: I sat at my computer to continue working on a paper I must finish by April 1. When I opened the relevant file, however, I saw to my wonderment that it was already thirty pages long! It was all in good prose, too, complete with footnotes in proper Blue Book format!
Wow. You can bet I woke up from that one with a racing heart and a big smile. Alas, though, it was and remains a mere dream. In actuality, the deadline still looms and I stand to miss out on a lot of dreams before I'm done racing to meet it.