PhD students and professors sometimes betray a certain infatuation with the “big names” of academia. It goes beyond admiration into the realm of hero worship, and it’s a bit silly. We’re getting too old for it.
Especially by the time the dissertation has been written. Shouldn’t we expect a measured nonchalance toward the whole notion of big names and so-called great ideas? Shouldn’t routine exposure to “greatness” have a demystifying effect on PhD students and professors?
Noam Chomsky and Harold Bloom, for example, are tacked on to conversations or asked to be the editors of an impossible number of books, either because people worship them or because people know that people worship them. They function like commercial adverts instead of scholars.
It’s not to say that Chomsky and Bloom don’t have interesting ideas or important things to say – but a large number of academics have interesting and important things to say. Brilliant insights should be collected and epiphanies compiled, of course. But by the very nature of those accumulations I would anticipate less, not more, captivation over a scholar or handful of thinkers.