Day 435: AY!

Wow, I’ve been really bad at this whole blogging thing as of late. (I mean even worse than usual.) I have been insanely busy and practically spent every day in its entirety at coffee shops writing. I’m just finishing an article (which I will be sending out tonight). Also, I hope there will be some time left for me to do laundry, since I have to get up at 4 in the morning to go to the airport where I have to get on a flight to Long Beach at 7 in the morning. I’ll be at the ACLA convention over the next few days. I organized a panel there and will be presenting a paper (along with some other UIC folks). There will also be a few MLG people there, so it should be fun. I am, however, slightly worried about the presentation I have to give, the main reason for which is the fact that the presentation has yet to be written (and in a way that doesn’t make me look like an idiot). Well, I guess I have a longish flight and one more night at the hotel for that. It’s more a matter of copying and pasting anyway. The talk will essentially consist of an abbreviated version of an article that should be coming out as part of an edited collection sometime soon. I’ll advertise here it when I know specifics.

Oh, and in the same spirit, for those read German: check out Sebastian Domsch’s Amerikanisches Erzaehlen Nach 2000. Muenchen: Edition Text + Kritik, April/May 2008. It’s not quite out yet but should be within the next few days–you can pre-order it. Yours truly has a chapter in that as well.

I’ll be back next week with reports from the Western frontier (of the culture industry).

Day 423: The Last Lecture

Here Randy Pausch’s by now famous “Last Lecture:” “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This may be difficult to critique, but let’s try. I’d be interested in hearing how people actually read this phenomenon–the book just came out a few days ago.

Day 399: I Need To Vent

Not a lot. Just a little bit. About academia. Nothing dramatic happened. I was just a little upset by a number of talks I recently attended (well, upset may even be too strong–disappointed, rather).

I went to see a Franco Moretti lecture (on the history of the novel). Verdict: terrible! Bad, bad old-school literary scholarship and that from a person whose work I have admired for years (to be fair, I never considered him to be a cutting-edge theorists with truly radically innovative ideas–aside from the whole graphs and maps thing, which I will not discuss here, since there is a whole set of problems with this approach–yet, Moretti was still always my go-to guy for the good kind of historicism–I assume I don’t have to mention names in regards to the bad kind of historicism) .

Then I attended a Richard Godden colloquium (another person whose work I’ve admired for a long time and who has produced absolutely brilliant books in the past) in which we discussed with him some of his recent writings. Verdict: terrible+terrible! He was underprepared, the articles were full of theoretical errors (both in regards to Marx and Freud/Lacan) and the arguments presented were underwhelming at best. Upside here: he was at least a good sport about us questioning his work and engaged in a good discussion.

Immediately after the Godden colloquium, I rushed over to an event with Slavoj Zizek. At that point I was rather unmotivated, since Godden had disappointed too much and since Zizek, while often entertaining, had essentially been doing the same thing the last few times I saw him (i.e. semi-educated audience pleasing, “you’d think this is a true logical relationship, but it surprisingly turns out the opposite/reverse is how it works,” softcore Hegelian analysis with Lacanian fireworks for critical theory groupies). Surprisingly, however, Zizek delivered a long talk (almost 2 hours) that actually tried to engage rigorously with the problem of ethics (especially with Levinas) and, even more suprisingly, produced some actual cultural analysis (sadly, I think it is safe to assume that the only thing the autograph hunters that crowded the room remembered about this talk was Zizek’s reading of Rammstein lyrics and performances). “Cultural analysis? Duh!” some may say, “that’s what he does.” No, I would respond here. That is not what he generally does at all. Using culture to make a theoretical point is very different from using theory to make a point about culture and it precisely the latter Zizek did for once in this lecture.

Overall verdict of recent talks: a 33.3% success ratio is less than satisfying. So, all you critical theorists and cultural/literary critics who get paid a shitload of cash for your talks: step it up and deliver some effort and rigorous thought! This ain’t fucking Broadway!


Ha ha! Wouldn’t you know it: the only segment of the talk somebody filmed and put on youtube is the Rammstein part (and that was a very weak example in support of his argument–soft-serve Zizek, if you will). Here the segment nevertheless:

Day 394: White Folk

People have been talking about this blog quite a lot–even in academia, which is why this entry may be quite fitting:

There are some entries that are rather haphazardly put together, but a number of them are witty and entertaining. Enjoy.

Day 390: Tadadadadadadadaaaaaaa

Yes, I play virtual brass instruments.

Also, I have a job. I got the contract in the mail yesterday and signed it last night in one of my favorite dive bars. While signing the contract felt great, we had another distinct hint of a doubled “reaching/deferring objet petit a” moment (the plan for this event was to get, well, ridiculously lit, but that was not possible due to the fact that I have a lot of writing to do this weekend). So the “lighting” will have to wait a few more days. Still, I slept great last night (a job and a few beers/shots help tremendously in the nightly effort to forget the fact that I haven’t slept in a real bed for over five years now–aaah, the crazy luxuries of the gainfully employed).

But, to get to the job: it’s a tenure track, assistant professor position at Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s a great job and my final decision to go there was incredibly easy to make. It’s a beautiful university with an excellent commitment to both teaching and research (their site contains info about their impressive past rankings), the teaching load is relatively low, which means that I will have time to write and publish, the students are extraordinarily bright, and the department is very young, energetic and exceptionally friendly. The English department has recently hired (and will be hiring) a lot of young, promising faculty (last year they hired a 19th century American scholar from Hopkins, this year they hired a 20th century British scholar from Cornell and they are looking to add two new people in two additional fields next year). In addition to this, the established faculty members I met are very welcoming, collegial and do really interesting work (the fact that I feel a strong ideological connection doesn’t hurt either). They flew me in for three days in early February and, despite the fact that the schedule for the campus visit (teaching demonstration, job talk, interview, …) was packed, it immediately struck me how pleasant this department made this visit, which, as you know if you’ve ever done campus visits/job talks, is a quite remarkable feat and thus immediately signaled to me that this department would be a terrific fit. Ok, now I guess it’s back to writing for me. Oh, I forgot: I’ll be teaching 20th/21st century American literature (and occasionally courses in literary theory and cultural studies). Oh, and something else: Nova Scotia is gorgeous!!! Nature! I’m so happy!

Day 383: Almost

But still not yet. We’re still in the Blochian phase of things. I am still holding my breath. However, the Blochian phase is really not so bad. After all, forward dawning is not just the location of utopia but also the birthplace of desire and enjoyment (or so I’m told by people who evidently are not as chronically impatient as I am–but I can see what they mean–it also explains the link between pleasure and pain when considered from the perspective of the paradox of desire). Less cryptically: the contract is in the mail. It will get here by the end of next week. Only then, once my signature is actually on the paper, will I allow myself to celebrate, and only then will I reveal what has happened/is happening/will be happening. Should the contract get here before next weekend and should all go well and should I have signed it by next weekend, all of Chicago’s north side better put on a helmet, because this boy has a lot of celebrating in him that needs to get out (for a detailed discussion of why this is necessary see Bataille’s discussion of the concept of squandering excess for an economic system in The Accursed Share, Vol.1) . But until then the official part line remains: no congratulating and no celebrating yet. I’ll keep you posted.

Day 377: Pabst Blue Ribbon…

…was had in large amounts last night. Effect: brain damage that results in stylistically terrible passive constructions. Cause: cool shit has happened. Very cool shit. I, however, will not reveal what it is until everything is set in stone (which will happen in about a week or so). Hence, there is not yet anything to celebrate (the PBRs last night were “not yet” celebratory beers, Blochian beers, if you will) and nothing to congratulate me for (I’m still scared of jinxing stuff, even thought that’s almost impossible at this point). So, what this post is officially really about is Pabst Blue Ribbon: what a great beer. Everyone should have lots of it on a daily basis. Out of cans. In dive bars. Especially, when it causes yuppie-dive-bar-tourists drinking Sapporo and chilled shots of Patron to stare at you in disbelief. Oh PBR, how happy you make me. So, no congratulating, please. Only comments on PBR will be accepted.