Thursday, April 24, 2014 Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Coffee and tobacco

[W]hole theses, even whole departments of literature (general or comparative) should perhaps be consecrated to the study of coffee and tobacco in our literatures.

Jacques Derrida, in “The Rhetoric of Drugs”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Deconstruction pulls the chair out from under the reader, compels the reader to undermine his own habits of reading. By dissolving the overt categories of reading—plot, story, style, character, moral—deconstruction wrenched literature away from the amateurs and delivered it to the sole care of academics, who alone had the tools with which to approach it. Thus, it transformed the academic study of literature from a marginal scholarly apparatus of footnotes to the only game in town, thereby turning traditional readers into spectators.

Why Does It Matter If Heidegger Was Anti-Semitic? : The New Yorker

More fail from the same piece: I kind of love the first line in this passage, but “dissolving” is not a good verb and “categories of reading” is barely comprehensible. Do “amateur” readers read this way? By analyzing plot, story, style, character, moral—?? The charge of elitism here depends on a mistaking of deconstruction (again) for a literary critic’s tool. It is not that.

Is the author saying that deconstruction is “a marginal scholarly apparatus of footnotes” (maybe, deconstruction is certainly interested in the margins and the footnotes, but it’s probably not an apparatus), or that literary studies was that before deconstruction showed up and made itself “the only game in town”? Bizarre. But perhaps I’ve long been robbed of my traditional amateur sensibilities.

So the discussion has begun. But the underlying question is: Why the ongoing fascination with deconstructionism and with the work of the philosopher whose radical works inspired it? Why does this philosophical strain seem strangely central to the conception of modern criticism, even as it recedes in influence? And why do these thinkers’ personal lives and ideological compromises seem unusually relevant to their work, beyond the usual scandal-sheet Schadenfreude?

Why Does It Matter If Heidegger Was Anti-Semitic? : The New Yorker

A mildly awful article diving into the Black Notebooks debate — I hate to republish the link, but just look how the author treats deconstruction (which he misnames “deconstructionism,” not a thing).

Is deconstruction “strangely central” to modern criticism? If it were, it would have to be central strangely, since it is in part a way of exploding the structures that hold a center together at all. Is it criticism? Perhaps critique. Does deconstruction recede in influence? And if it does, I think, we ought to be asking why.

Richard Brody (a movie-listings editor) at the New Yorker, you are failing us.

Monday, April 21, 2014
Academics’ lives are seldom interesting. They travel of course, but they travel by hot air, by taking part in things like conferences and discussions, by talking, endlessly talking. Intellectuals are wonderfully cultivated, they have views on everything. I’m not an intellectual, because I can’t supply views like that, I’ve got no stock of views to draw on. What I know, I know only from something I’m actually working on, and if I come back to something a few years later, I have to learn everything all over again. It’s really good not having any view or idea about this or that point. We don’t suffer these days from any lack of communication, but rather from all the forces making us say things when we’ve nothing much to say. Gilles Deleuze, from On Philosophy (via litafficionado)
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. When the teacher asks “What is the author saying here?” no one ever suggests that the answer might be “He didn’t quite know” or “That sentence was part of a key scene in an earlier draft, and he forgot to take it out in revision.”

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators - Megan McArdle - The Atlantic

You gotta read drafts if you want to write drafts. (Right?)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
[I]f you’re reading along and you come to something that’s really beautiful, that really stops you in the eye with its prose, you see it’s true, then I’ll stop or make a note to stop later and open the notebook and copy it out, in quotation marks, of course, and write down – copy that out word for word, with full punctuation, in handwriting. And the reason that’s useful is it slows you down and helps you understand the rhythm of the prose and how a person constructed something that opened up in your mind in just that way. So copying out in a commonplace book interesting bits of writing that you find inspiring or interesting is the only piece of advice I have.

Nicholson Baker’s best advice: Writers must write every day - Salon.com

Here’s a passage I’ve saved in drafts for a long time, via austinkleon. According to Crowley and Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, commonplace books used to be called florilegia, which means “flowers of reading.” C & H say the practice of reviewing one’s commonplaces (perhaps while waiting in line, etc.) “serves as a mini-memory pad for stylistic invention” (305). 3 of the 5 canons of rhetoric right there.

Tumblr as commonplace book.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Risk the worst

Following a number of decapitations, downsizes, and strikeouts of the paternal, Lacan has suggested that the father finally is possibly better than nothing, though one is the worse for it. At the end of the day we are saddled, when we go after ground and figure, either with the père or the pire (the father or even worse). Everything indicates to me that you should go for the pire, risk the worst. Choose your weapons.

From what I reading, well, awhile ago: Loser Sons: Politics and Authority by Avital Ronell, p. 105

Monday, April 14, 2014
Much thanks to Interstitial: A Journal of Modern Culture and Events which has published my “Animal Autobiography,” a piece of flash theory (no more than 250 words long). Thanks too to my anonymous reviewers, who provided a dense and gracious 3 sentences of feedback a piece.
Flash theory is an exciting new rhetorical form. Interstitial describes flash theory as “a theoretical punch” rather than a twelve-round knockout, and as “a momentarily blinding exposure.” This was a pleasure to write, and to bring to fruition so quickly.
"Animal Autobiography" reads Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am across the writing of my own gendered autobiography. Hope you read and enjoy!

Much thanks to Interstitial: A Journal of Modern Culture and Events which has published my “Animal Autobiography,” a piece of flash theory (no more than 250 words long). Thanks too to my anonymous reviewers, who provided a dense and gracious 3 sentences of feedback a piece.

Flash theory is an exciting new rhetorical form. Interstitial describes flash theory as “a theoretical punch” rather than a twelve-round knockout, and as “a momentarily blinding exposure.” This was a pleasure to write, and to bring to fruition so quickly.

"Animal Autobiography" reads Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am across the writing of my own gendered autobiography. Hope you read and enjoy!

(Source: twitter.com)

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Here’s me burning something at Jody Shipka’s “Evocative Objects” workshop today!

Here’s me burning something at Jody Shipka’s “Evocative Objects” workshop today!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Levinas Critiquing Heidegger

rhet-eric:

To affirm the priority of Being over existents is to already decide the essence of philosophy; it is to subordinate the relation with someone, who is an existent, (the ethical relation) to a relation with the Being of existents, which, impersonal, permits the apprehension, the domination of existents (a relationship of knowing), subordinates justice to freedom. If freedom denotes the mode of remaining the same in the midst of the other, knowledge, where an existent is given by interposition of impersonal Being, contains the ultimate sense of freedom. It would be opposed to justice…. In subordinating every relation with existents to the relation with Being the Heideggerian ontology affirms the primacy of freedom over ethics. (Totality and Infinity 45)

Such a quote. You could swap “rhetoric” for “existents” and “philosophy” for “Being” here without getting too off-course here, I think.

This passage is a great example of the kind of critique of Heidegger I laid in part at Levinas’s feet here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Melissa Harris-Perry

Jezebel did a Q&A with Melissa Harris-Perry, and here is her excellent advice to emerging scholars. Republishing just the headlines here, but she elaborates on each answer at Jezebel.

youngscholar: What advice do you have for women starting their academic career? Looking back, is there anything you wish you had known when starting as an assistant professor?

MHP: Whoa, I could spend days responding to this question. Here are just a few pieces of advice:

1. Ask for resources. If they say no, ask again.

2. Find one student in every class that makes teaching worth it, and teach that student.

3. Get to know your chair, your Dean, and all the people whose research has nothing to do with yours.

4. Ignore the advice to avoid committee work.

5. You are their colleagues, not their daughter or their date. Be smart, not nice.

6. Keep friends, real friends.

7. Care for yourself.

8. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

"Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?" Lydon asked from the Winterland stage at the end of the Sex Pistols’ last concert. (Should that be the last question on our students’ course evaluation forms?) If Lydon’s disgust became self-realization, what about CCC's tradition of pedagogical critique: victims of our own drive to coherence, in bondage to our own fantasy of absolutes—what do we do when we realize it's our own pedagogy we've been critiquing, it's our own body we've been mutilating?

From what I’m reading today: Geoffrey Sirc, “Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where’s the Sex Pistols?” English Composition as a Happening, p. 251

Scholars of composition and rhetoric generally teach graduate and upper-division courses packed with students who are passionate about the digital publication and media composition now inevitable in every walk of academic, professional, creative, and community-engaged communication. Comp-rhet scholarship and teaching have revived English studies, not diminished it. Programs featuring advanced writing and digital-publication curricula have soaring enrollments, often rescuing undergraduate and graduate English programs from extinction.

The Moral Panic in Literary Studies - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Someone is appreciating our discipline in The Chronicle of Higher Ed.