Day 18&19: Six More Months of Winter


As the representation of the groundhog in this picture is supposed to indicate, I have recently seen the shadow of my dissertation and thus predict for myself six more months of winter, i.e., groundhog-like existence in a dark hole, accompanied by several hundred books and my laptop.

Yesterday I was sadly neither able to put up a substantial post, nor able to engage in the discussions people have suggested. I have finished one piece of writing, but the next two to three weeks will be quite packed with the anxiety-filled tension involved in finishing two chapters. I will try and be better about posting and responding, but as for yesterday and today: I’ve simply got nothing.

I do, however, have a new timeline for the completion of the dissertation, which I will try to enforce via small electric shocks. There is hope, but as is true for all hope, it needs to be realized through repression. Yes, I may be slightly cynical these days, but much like noise relates to prior periods of silence, hope mostly gets meaning in negative opposition to prior periods of its complete absence. I am looking forward to a large and meaningful amount of hope in the future.



  1. Hang in there, brother.

    Speaking of winter, the groundhog responsible, viz. “Punxsutawny Phil”, lives just a few hours away in, well, Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania.

    I was wondering about your fifth committee member. If it’s Phil, unlike WBM, you can eat him after your defense.

  2. That’s a good question. I have no clue! Within the department I am thinking Joe Tabbi, but I am not sure how I feel about that. Outside of the department, well, there are not many American Studies people I agree with these days. I have toyed with the idea to send an email to E. San Juan Jr.
    I am doing a lot of Deleuzian stuff, so maybe I should just strongarm Michael Hardt when he comes to visit us in April. =) Are you going to be here for that talk, by the way?

  3. Ooh, when is that talk? Actually need to read the Deleuze stuff on the animal in *Thousand Plateaus.*
    In particular, it’s relevant to my narcissistic relationship with Night Ranger the cat, and several dogs.

  4. Sometime in April, I believe. It should be listed on the departmental calendar. It is part of the second-year Ph.D. lecture series. So regular colloquium format in our tiny but beautiful room 2028.

  5. How long does your PhD program last overall? 2 years? Am still a bit envious;-) I know plenty of people who worked 5 years and more on their humanities PhD in Germany. Forced to do all the slave work for their “father doctor” and work on their thesis in between. But at least some of these folks had a reasonable publication least after those years (but you don’t get younger).

  6. 2 years would be nice. Getting your Ph.D. post M.A. takes at least 5 years in our program. You take two years of seminars and establish a base of professors, then you choose a 4-person committee and spend a whole year just reading hundreds of books fom the 4 corresponding areas of specialization, following that you take your qualifying exams in these four areas, if you pass those you become officially a Ph.D.-candidate, then you have to write your dissertation proposal and after that your dissertation. Takes a minimum of 5 years, but it tends to take people longer than that. So plenty of time to enjoy low wages, long hours, decreasing eyesight and ramen noodles. =) And yes, you get a lot older without ever having held a decent job. A very good education, though. (I need to keep telling myself that)

  7. Love those ramens…

  8. A steady supply is indeed essential in those professions. Food that you can keep in your (parttime) office and that won’t beginn to smell. Do the Asians know how important ramen are? My favourite is “Yum Yum – Duck Flavour”. I could actually have one right now, because there’s no duck in there. Just the flavour.

    That’s a tough program indeed, a rough rough leading to profound education indeed. Wheew. Looks like it is a program that indeed seeks to produce future professors, chapeau! I very much enjoy reading the exchange between you here, even if I don’t habe much to contribute to it. Today I read about a new Foschungskolleg in Vienna that is is opening in Autumn and my MA thesis would PERFECTLY fit into their scope.

    I might be tempted to apply, but only if I can at the same time find a company with which to conduct research. Something about Web 2.0., and industry-oriented (as I don’t see myself becoming a professor).

  9. rough road… read again before you hit ‘submit’, jana…

  10. Beware Gopher, of the warm blue glow of “electric sex” emitted by the millions of tv’s switching between American Idol and Wolf Blizter.

    Marcuse: “what is happening now is not the deterioration of high culture into mass culture but the refutation of this culture by reality. The reality surpasses its culture. (…)”

    Not sure I can tell you what history is, but I think you’ve already suggested the place of culture in it by musing: “much like noise relates to prior periods of silence, hope mostly gets meaning in negative opposition to prior periods of its complete absence” (Day 18&19: Six More Months of Winter). If the relationship between art or culture—whatever the hell those hugely loaded terms may connote—and history is causal in any way it must be through hope. It is culture that gives us hope. Culture, in a very “high culture” sense, then is what provides an escape as it were from reality. When culture’s only expression in a society is rarified and separate from other material experiences—an obvious example is the novel—a basis for distinction is readily at hand. When you read novels this is culture, everything else is information. As the dissemination of culture and information begins to share media—-books-newspapers-radio-film-television-internet–and formal characteristics–24 hours news cylces-talk shows-webcasts-voting shows-“live” and “reality formats of any sort—-the basis for distinguishing can no longer be rarified access. As such, the fulcrum of analysis of “the neoliberal problem” regarding culture is in format/media/genre/ because if, as your suggesting, the problem that neoliberalism presents is the “end of history” because it disallows a solid basis from which to distinguish culture from information then we need to be talking about more this integration between culture and information and less about race/class/sex if we wish to silence the noise of the unhappy consciousness that is neoliberalism’s siren song.

  11. Nice blogging name! =)

    Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that myself–the potential appeal of “high culture.” Yes, we all know that this has the potential to be elitist and that we should not do the whole Eliot/Pound thing as it has the potential to kill democratic political dialogue by alienating large amount of people that do not really understand the ‘Madame Sosostris’ passage. While that is a valid concern, we already find in e.g. Adorno a different perspective on this, which may be a precursor to arguments badly needed when addressing neoliberalism. When analyzed in reference to Adorno, neoliberalism operates upon the erasure of the margin and the functional inclusion of the transgressive, developing, as it seems on the surface, a democratic logic of equality. However, it quickly becomes repressive as a critique of the material logic of neoliberalism from within this all-encompassing structure becomes incresingly difficult. Hence the idea of a margin, of a locus of critique located outside the mainstream, becomes incrasingly appealing and potentially the only way to revive dialectical social critique. We always seem to get scared away from this idea of high culture, since it has the obvious potential to result in vanguard logic and become totalitarian, but neoliberalism is totalitarian in its own right and we should, I believe, engage in this debate on a more complex level. After all, neoliberalism is precisely what Marcuse describes as “repressive desublimation”–so what then does the potential face of “liberating re-sublimation” look like? And it this expression truly an oxymoron? May it have to be an oxymoron (i.e. address systemic contradictions) in regards to neoliberalism’s hegemonic logic? Can we imagine a liberating form of resublimation that does not, as shown in _V for Vendetta_, have to wear a Poundian cape?(I think Pound also wore a beret.)

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