Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rhetoric was a calisthenics of manhood.

[I]n accordance with the way gender roles were constituted by their society, manhood was not a state to be definitively and irrefutably achieved, but something always under construction and constantly open to scrutiny, adults needed to keep practicing the arts that made them men. Rhetoric was a calisthenics of manhood. This is easier for us to grasp if we remember that the art of self-presentation through rhetoric entailed much more than mastery of words: physical control of one’s voice, carriage, facial expression, and gesture, control of one’s emotions under conditions of competitive stress—in a word, all the arts of deportment necessary in a face-to-face society where one’s adequacy as a man was always under suspicion and one’s performance was constantly being judged.

Maud Gleason in Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome, p. xxii

Writing that cannot end

It is writing that cannot end itself and is continually outside itself like a thing among things. An enormity without proportion, it is the very scratching sound we hear, from somewhere, when we write these things.

From Radical Passivity: Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben by Thomas Carl Wall, p. 28

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

As if one’s power to read had become defective

We would merely want to note that in the image, in the narrative, in the other person—as it were, “in parenthesis” (or in quotation marks) or, if you prefer, under erasure (because the parentheses are invisible and cannot be admitted into the narrative proper, yet introduce into the story an element that is felt without being acknowledged, like an aphonic voice that says “keep me in mind but do not think about me”)—one enters a maze of rumor and innuendo as if one’s power to read, to see, and to tell had become defective, aorist, metamorphosed, and supererogatory.

From Radical Passivity: Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben by Thomas Carl Wall, p. 12

This is a pretty weird book: which means I’m interested.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I believe that undergraduate students can benefit intellectually and personally from reading theory. Theory need not be an end in itself. Rather, a practically oriented critique allows theory and practice to mutually clarify and enliven one another.

In Defense of Theory – by Julia H. Chang - The Chronicle of Higher Education

I think we have a common cause here, but I also think theory can be an end in itself. There is value in reading even difficult writing for its own sake, and in asking students to read together. Difficult writing not only invites teaching about the context that has made it so difficult (i.e. gender performativity, the jargon of philosophy, and how credibility accrues in academic disciplines), but it also invites readers to experience struggle, failure, and reading without the comfort of identification/relatability. For some students (yes, even undergraduates), such an encounter with theory can be life-altering. I wouldn’t reduce the sounding of that call to enhancing whatever we ultimately mean when we distinguish theory from “practice.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yes, I am listening

One knows not where one is going, where each step of each written word will take one, but one writes, one takes the step beyond, in an attitude, one might say, of gratitude, friendship, and ultimate hospitality. That is, writing is basically, originarily even, just a response: a “yes.” A “yes, I am listening.” A double yes, indeed. “Yes, yes.” It is a welcoming gesture, even if nothing is said. 

From what I’m reading: Michelle Ballif’s “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography” in RSQ's special issue on Untimely Historiographies, 254.

Union of Theoretical Grammarians in Cambridge. B.S. Meniscus Films, Ltd. Documentary cast; 35 mm.; 26 minutes; color; silent w/ heavy use of computerized distortion in facial close-ups. Documentary and closed-caption interviews with participants in the public Steven Pinker—Avril Incandenza debate on the political implications of prescriptive grammar during the infamous Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts convention credited with helping incite the M.I.T. language riots of B.S. 1997. UNRELEASED DUE TO LITIGATION

Chipotle put a Steven Pinker quote on my lunch bag. Never forget that even Steven Pinker is Infinite Jest.

Monday, September 8, 2014
It is one thing to speak of Nietzsche’s famous paradoxes, which have been baked into the cake of our postmodern intellectual life, and it is quite another to think of how history and historians proceed.

From “Is History Ever Timely?” by Hans Kellner in RSQ's special issue on “Untimely Historiographies.”

baked into the cake of our postmodern intellectual life

In digital spaces, trigger warnings exist in order to facilitate deep discussions about conflict, allowing writers to write very openly about experiences of mental illness, violence, rape, and other topics for both broad and narrow audiences. They are a fairly simple form of metadata that Melanie Yergeau has compared to tagging; perhaps that is why TWs are so common on blogging platforms. They don’t work to allow or encourage readers to avoid specific content–only to know ahead of time what they will be reading. Yergeau has also pointed out that as academics we “tag” our work in lots of ways for both students and colleagues, both in the classroom and out. Trigger warnings ask us to imagine what might be triggering and tag that work accordingly, and not in order for those works to be avoided.

Responding to “On Trigger Warnings and the Halberstam Affair: a Panel Discussion” | Neil F. Simpkins

Trigger warnings as metadata. Love this.

Thursday, September 4, 2014
For some reason the library copy of Eva Keuls’s amazing Reign of the Phallus is like, glued to the inside of the library binding, so I can’t see the actual cover. But it can’t possible be for censorious reasons, because when you open the book, you see this.
The caption says: “Nude woman carrying a large phallus; caricature of female phallic aggression.”
From the introduction:

First of all, what is “phallocracy”? Literally meaning “power of the phallus,” it is a cultural system symbolized by the image of the male reproductive organ in permanent erection, the phallus. It is marked by, but is far more particular than, the dominance of men over women in the public sphere… the concept denotes a successful claim by a male elite to general power, buttressed by a display of the phallus less as an organ of union or of mutual pleasure than as a kind of weapon. (1-2)

For some reason the library copy of Eva Keuls’s amazing Reign of the Phallus is like, glued to the inside of the library binding, so I can’t see the actual cover. But it can’t possible be for censorious reasons, because when you open the book, you see this.

The caption says: “Nude woman carrying a large phallus; caricature of female phallic aggression.”

From the introduction:

First of all, what is “phallocracy”? Literally meaning “power of the phallus,” it is a cultural system symbolized by the image of the male reproductive organ in permanent erection, the phallus. It is marked by, but is far more particular than, the dominance of men over women in the public sphere… the concept denotes a successful claim by a male elite to general power, buttressed by a display of the phallus less as an organ of union or of mutual pleasure than as a kind of weapon. (1-2)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

tremblebot:

I’m gonna go off-brand for a sec and go negative, but, for me, one of the biggest takeaways from that Halberstam trigger-warning thing is that there is a qualitative difference between thinking as a negative response and thinking as a productive act. The piece reads like a flinch.    

In the end, what tremblebot has to say in these two sentences is probably all I can finally say about JH’s essay on trigger warnings. And it makes me think about the flinch as a gesture of thinking (or not), and the speed of thinking, of what is called thinking.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 Monday, September 1, 2014

The question as a modality of reception

Having upheld, throughout an almost thirty-year course of inquiry, he irreducible privilege of the questioning attitude, having written that questioning (Fragen) was the piety (Frömmigkeit) of thought, Heidegger at least had to complicate this axiom. First by recalling that the piety should from the start have been understood as the docility of listening, thus making the question, before anything else, into a modality of reception, a trusting attention to what gives itself to be understood rather than—or prior to—the enterprising, inquisitorial activity of a request or inquest.

Jacques Derrida, “A Number of Yes,” 127

Monday, August 25, 2014
We are in this life now. Graduate school is no different from the life of an assistant professor (if anything, graduate students have far more time than assistant professors); there is always the difficulty of balancing teaching, scholarship, service to one’s work, service to the community, personal time, helping one’s family, getting the oil changed, waiting for the fridge repair person. That never changes. So, instead, of hoping for some time that everything will be O.K., graduate school should be a time of acquiring the habits that will make all that balancing more joyful. Graduate school isn’t preparation for a career; it is the career. 9 to 5 by Trish Roberts-Miller, insidehighered
Thursday, August 21, 2014