The Beginning of the End of the Year

Back from Dallas...Now facing sundry deadlines, and a giant stack of incoming books, plus a certain amount of housekeeping. But at least I don't have to go to MLA.

This is the first time I haven't attended in five years -- and the last one to be held under the old system of scheduling it for the final week of the year. MLA '09 will be followed by MLA '11. And so MLA'10 will vanish, like a yacht of the damned in the Bermuda Triangle.

I'll miss some things, to be sure....It is often necessary to open a conference paper with some provisional notes towards a prolegomenon to the fundamental methodological questions that would first need to be addressed before beginning to frame whatever argument one supposes it might be possible to consider making, were there only enough time.

Of course, such things happen in print as well. You can skip the first dozen or so pages of some authors, confident that they will be taken up with little else but throat-clearing noises. (I recall that Walter Benjamin jokes about this somewhere, but then if Benjamin showed up at MLA in person people would snub him for not having the right sort of convention ID.)  But there's really no substitute for witnessing the learned gurgle in person. Authority is performative. A lot depends on deep, full-bodied resonance.

Meanwhile, the sidewalks of my neighborhood are largely empty, as if some kind of inverse rapture has occured, spiriting away all the servants of the Great Beast. It's cold, too. The snow from last weekend is still piled up on the street corners -- melt, freeze, melt, freeze. It seems like this could be elaborated into some kind of allegorical emblem of my experience over the past decade, but I should probably do the laundry instead. And reread Trotsky's Literature and Revolution while I'm at it. The chance to do this is pretty sweet, given the alternative I'm dodging. 
December 28, 2009 10:56 AM | | Comments (2)



Old graduate students never die, they just get tenure and reprint their last papers, I guess . . .

I always thought it would be fun to research humanities academic publishing and see if one could write a book on it called "Tenured Idiots". Although that would be too harsh, because mediocrity and idiocy are two different things, I suppose. I was recently invited to "Fan" an academic journal exploring issues of sexuality and religion, and as I read recent article titles, I couldn't help but wonder if they were written in all seriousness or not.

Enjoy Trotsky. That's an addition to my Marxist library I do not have, but should get; have you read Ernst Bloch's dialogue on Art, published by MIT Press? Pretty good stuff there.

Thanks for the reference -- I haven't, though I've read a little of Bloch's work (and about him in connection with Western Marxism) and can see where you would be interested in him. There is a recent volume of his from Verso that I saw mentioned in Terry Eagleton's new book, which chances are you would find very interesting. It includes a fairly extensive account of his involvement in the Catholic New Left in the 1960s, which at some point morphed into a completely secular Trotskyism, though in recent years he has been reconnecting with his theological concerns in a strong way (while remaining unapologetic about his later development). There's an interesting parallel here to Alasdair Macintyre.

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This page contains a single entry by Quick Study published on December 28, 2009 10:56 AM.

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