Day 36: Return of the Living Dead

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Dear all, I am reporting back for duty after a long hiatus. I am very sorry for having neglected my virtual home for so long, but I guess I got mine: my virtual plant died and my virtual goldfish, whom I forgot to feed, got really skinny. I will have to find a virtual blogsitter for next time.

What happened? Let’s see: I finished a chapter, sent in some applications for various potential monetary sources for next year (including a research grant), sent out a few abstracts for conferences etc. and attended an Asian-American Studies conference over the last two days. I also attended some lectures, including George Lipsitz. I was looking forward to that talk, as I really enjoyed his books The Possessive Investment in Whiteness and American Studies in a Moment of Danger. Sadly the talk was spectacularly underwhelming. I got another chance to speak with him during a meeting with grad students the next day, but what I got were sadly still more platitudes that could have been broadcast on Air America Radio (which is good fun–don’t get me wrong), rather than any rigorous critical insights. Too bad. I was, however, utterly impressed with the keynote speaker of the conference whose work I am hereby recommending to all of you. His name is Vijay Prashad and he is truly a great example of what it means to be a public intellectual. He is a historian/diaspora studies scholar, political activist, has published several great books (among them The Karma of Brown Folk and Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting), has published an insane number of critical articles, is a community organizer (used to work here in Chicago with Jesse Jackson), lectures incredibly frequently all across the nation (as well as in South Asia), writes monthly columns for Z Net and Counterpunch, has a nine month-old daughter and is only around 40. Truly impressive.

Apart from that nothing really happened in my life and I have to admit that I have no idea what happened in the world, so I will make this a short post today. I will, however, return to the Baudrillard strand I have neglected for too long and write something there. Haven’t been a good host, I must admit. Tea and crumpets anyone?

So: I will try and post daily again from now on, but you might have to deal with thoughts from/on my dissertation for a while, as I have to finish another chapter within the next, well, 10 days (it’s already 50% done, so I hope it won’t be as bad as the other one–you never know, though, the other chapter was also supposed to be shorter and ended up being 90 pages long). Sorry again for the long silence. It was sadly necessary. So everybody who is interested can now meet me over at the Baudrillard strand where I will continue posting while listening to Mainz vs. Bremen on phonostar.

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8 Comments

  1. Welcome back! I hope you’re looking, if not feeling, better than Big Daddy.

    The picture looks like he’s emerging from coffee, which, after 90 pages, I imagine is probably another likeness?

    I’m Pizering again, so the Baudrillard hook-up is appreciated. I do like crumpets, too.

  2. He, he! Yes, emerging from coffee is a good way to put this. Did you hear, by the way, that they are coming out with a sequel to _28 Days Later_ called _28 Weeks Later_? Is supposed to be shite, though. As far as I’ve heard they are also re-making Romero’s _Day of the Dead_, which itself seems to be shite to a degree that they are already talking about a straight-to-DVD-release.
    Looks like you had some good fun down there in Houston. Looks like the weather there is a little nicer than here as well. I am quite jealous.
    Hey, I have a question: I have to teach a 101 in the fall. Have up to this point gotten around that, but now, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. After telling myself that it may not be that bad, since I can teach whatever I want, which included wild plans to teach some really obscure German texts, Greek classics and Japanese literature, I realized that if I really want my students to “understand literature” I will have to really focus on genre, period and hermeneutical strategies. To that end: is it legitimate for me to teach this purely with a US context, i.e. fiction, drama and poetry as changing genres from 17th to 21st century? Any suggestions? If I truly make this international, which I would love to do, I fear this will be a big old clusterfuck with all these freshmen.

  3. I mean seriously, has there ever been a dumber title for a class than “understanding literature?” I don’t think Jameson, or Fish have accomplished that. I also think that that’s the point. So how the hell can we ever fulfill the expectations connected to that title, if all we truly can teach (and in fact should teach) is that literature is not to be understood, but to be perpetually interpreted as a mediation (i.e. the best title would then be ENGL 101 “You, literature and the world–THINK goddamnit!–a 12-step program to revive critical thinking skills in post-K-12-standardized-test-education”)? I guess we could make this a new critical exercise in close reading. The we should call it ENGL 101 “Intro to words on pages.”

  4. Ah, the joys of 101 planning. You may want to work “intro to words on pages” into your course description. I’ve found that the texts you teach matter less than getting students to actually look at them and respond to the words on the page, as opposed to grabbing a cliche and mixing it with some new critical tidbit they’ve picked up somewhere (“the forest is a symbol for the timelessness of love”).

    So rather than planning anything exhaustive (for which there’s little time) I’d pick a couple of texts to read closely (US or otherwise) and not sweat a whole lot about a coherent genealogy.

    That said, I do err toward themes. For example, I’m thinking about monsters for this fall–maybe Frankenstein, McTeague, In Cold Blood,–Monstrous realisms or some such. Just beginning to toy with the idea.

    I do like the international approach. My vote is to go for it. If you fall on your face, well, there’s always next semester. Could be real good.

    We can beer and brainstorm maybe when I get back (late May I’m thinking).

    I still have yet to see 28 Days. Once I’m set up at my new place, I may have a summer-onset zombie movie party. We can get optimated with Romero et al. And then plan syllabi, of course!

  5. oh yeah, Faust, I forgot to mention Faust, for the Monstrous syllabus.

  6. Hey, that seems like a great idea! I’ve been wanting to teach _Faust_ for while as well. You should also take a look at E.T.A. Hoffmann’s _The Devil’s Elixirs_. Good stuff–and not just because Freud used to like Hoffmann (you know, “The Sandman” and all).
    I think I might stay US focused. Just made a list of texts that does thus far not even include a novel. Hmmm… might be taking out that fetish on my 109 course.
    I will, however, teach Emerson. Have been wanting to do that for a while now. Have this strange desire to do weird things to good old Waldo. Apart from lots of short fiction I will be including a whole lotta poetry, I think (Fearing, Pound, Stevens, Rukeyser, Ginsberg, Baraka, etc.), as well as some plays (right now I am leaning towards stuff like _American Buffalo_, and _True West_).
    Zombie movie party sounds swell, by the way. Have not been getting my regular fix lately–especially not including optimation (usually just including a notepad and the tightly-clutched remote ready to pause, rewind and repeat passages).

  7. btw: make sure you watch _28 Days Later_ and not _28 Days_. 🙂
    The latter is a movie featuring Sandra Bullock as an alcohlic in rehab and puts the viewer in quite a pickle: considering the topic matter, it just seems wrong to consume the amount of alcohol necessary to make this movie bearable, or at least less painful.
    Compared to that horror the tasteful splatter of _28 Days Later_ is quite relaxing.

  8. Whew, that was close. Thanks for the save! (Something like preventing bitter-beer face: Mind the Bullocks).

    Will check out the Hoffmann. I like the fun with Emerson idea. Teaching a lot of poetry sounds masochistic, but people do it, I hear. 😉


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