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In Walter Tevis’s short story entitled “The Scholar’s Disciple,” the protagonist—a graduate student known only as Webley—conjures the devil in his apartment. As the devil stands awkwardly before him with a “peace” button on his lapel, Webley makes one request:

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What I want you to do, primarily, is to write a dissertation for me. And, perhaps, a few scholarly articles.

The demon seemed to think this over a moment. Then he said, “What field, sir?” “English. English Literature.”

At first, everything goes swimmingly.

The dissertation, upon acceptance and publication by the University Press, created a considerable stir among a great many academic people, few of whom read it. Webley soon found himself in possession of a very congenial job, with a low salary and few duties. A month later he received a large fellowship from a foundation; and upon his first PMLA publication, the controversy-stirring article “Threads of Francophilism in John Webster’s The White Devil,” found himself with an Associate Professorship and even fewer duties.

Of course Webley gets more than he bargained for. Read the full story for free in College English. Then get back to your studies!


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College English, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Oct., 1969), pp. 51-55
National Council of Teachers of English