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 374: Packingtown Review Contest in Critical Writing

Department of English, UH 2027 MC 162, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan,Chicago, IL 60607

Packingtown Review Prize for Critical Response 

Acclaimed poet and UIC alumnus Paul Hoover has donated his poem “The Windows (Speech-lit Islands)” to Packingtown Review’s contest for the best essay on the poem. This poem can be accessed via the contest page at

Please submit a critical response between 1500 and 2500 words discussing Paul Hoover’s “The Windows (Speech-lit Islands)” in light of the poet’s aesthetic and in the context of contemporary poetry.

The winning critical response will be featured in the first issue (November 2008) of Packingtown Review alongside the poem, as well as on the Packingtown Review web site. The winning author will receive two copies of the journal.  Two runners-up will be posted on the Packingtown Review web site.

The jury will consist of the current editorial staff of Packingtown Review.

The deadline for the submissions is March 31, 2008 (postmarked). Winners will be announced on the Packingtown Review web site on May 31, 2008.

The contest is open to the public and there is no fee.

Please mail your submission to our journal address or e-mail it to:

Day 370: NIU Shooting and UIC Threat

Another shooting. Another set of guns that were legally purchased. Another round of useless arguments about gun control that leave the status quo unchanged due to assinine arguments that claim that the problem will be solved by teachers carrying guns to defend themselves and their students.

Here a massmail we just received at UIC:


This afternoon, an anonymous e-mail was received by a number of people at UIC,
threatening violence on campus sometime this spring.

While we have no way of knowing at this time whether this is a genuine threat, the
UIC police department is pursuing it very seriously. A full-scale investigation is
underway in conjunction with the Chicago police, and patrols on campus, already
stepped up in the wake of Thursday’s tragedy at Northern Illinois University, have
been increased further.

In the meantime, all campus operations will continue as normal. However, we ask
everyone to be attentive, and as always, if you see criminal or suspicious activity,
please notify the UIC police immediately at (312) 555-5555 (or 5-5555 from campus
phones), or, if you are off-campus, dial 911. For general questions about safety and
security, the number for UIC police is (312) 996-2830.

Please also be aware that an update from me on campus security in the wake of
yesterday’s shootings at NIU was transmitted earlier today and should be arriving in
e-mail boxes sometime tonight or in the early-morning hours, and already is posted
on the UIC Emergency Information page (link on the UIC home page). This note gives a
further overview of security measures in place on the UIC campus.


XXXX, Chief of Police

To all those opposing gun control: what am I to do in the face of a threat like this? Should I arm myself, just in case there will be an attack? Even if this were the logically correct thing to do, consider this: I am not a U.S. citizen. I educate your children and am one of those people who will not be able to purchase a gun to defend themselves from those people you refuse to disarm for reasons I do not comprehend.

There is no reason on earth why any civilian in any highly developed country should carry a gun. There is no reason why civilians should have access to guns, especially not legally. It will never be impossible to get a gun, but we can sure as hell make it harder. If you do not agree with this logic, we must also stop trying to regulate access to illegal drugs and instead provide all cilvilians with methadone syringes–in fact, if we claim that regulating guns makes no sense because people will always be able to get their hands on guns we would have to abandon any commitment to law and justice just because people will always be able to break the law. Most highly develped countries understand this. How long will fanatical devotion to tradition (which in the U.S. actually just describes cultural practices that are little more than 200 years old) stand in the way of logic and progress?

Day 347: It’s Bakhtin Time!

Yes, it is true: the dialogic imagination is in the house! (Maybe, if we’re all really lucky and keep our fingers crossed, the dialectic may even stop by–that is, as long as the dialogic does not deteriorate, as is common, into the logic of the carnivalesque).

Ok, enough pseudo-comedic references to weird Russians. The point of this post: the course blog for my Multiethnic U.S. literature class is off the ground (and, in case I have not yet mentioned this yet, my Intro to Multiethnic U.S. literature course this spring is now 25% more multi-ethnic–for the same price–what a great deal!). Students have posted their first response papers and now it is up to the online community to test their logic. What this means is, that I invite you to read some posts and comment on critical method, logic, ask further questions, or voice your criticism. This, of course, should not be competely devastating (remember: they are beginning literature students and this is a general education course), but, as you will see, there are problems with logic and underdeveloped arguments that need to be pointed out–i.e. students need to get into the habit of thinking through their arguments/analyses/logical frameworks in detail and more carefully before releasing them into the world. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. The next set of papers on Octavia Butler will be posted by Monday.

to visit the site, click this link:

Day 341: Multiethnic Literature

This semester I am experimenting a bit with alternative teaching and writing formats in my course on Multiethnic Literatures of the U.S. I have created a course blog that will be (at some point–hopefully) pretty much completely student-run. Students are signed up as contributors/authors and will post short responses, as well as longer critical essays on novels. The point of the blog is to ensure that students don’t simply write each paper in one long all-nighter every four weeks. Instead, I want them to be responsible for taking care of and respond to outside comments on their writings (and to each others’ posts). This will hopefully get them into a regular writing routine, which, so I hope, will result in more carefully framed research questions and more complicated critical arguments.

I therefore invite all of you to visit this blog and participate in the discussions, since even very brief comments, ideas and, criticism will help them think through problems more critically. To that end, this blog will not only focus on literary and cultural issues, but also invites students and outside readers to discuss the social and political problems that are mediated by cultural production. The general topic of my course this semester is “race, diversity, neoliberalism.”

You can visit the blog here:

Check back often for constantly updated student writing (the first batch of papers will be posted next Thursday)–we all greatly appreciate your feedback. Also, feel free to spread the word about this, send the url to people you know, or maybe even advertise the blidget (the blog is also available as a blog widget for your own blog, facebook, etc.)–this would help us a lot and hopefully ensure that we get some outside comments. Thanks–cj

Day 299: I’m Sorry

I know I’ve been increasingly digitally (as well as physically) anti-social for the last, well, weeks and months, actually. My thoughts are just completely colonized by job market and writing issues and this to the extent that I am finding it hard to sleep at night. This week I’ve in fact been trying to contact Sam Elliott, asking him to read me Cormac McCarthy novels to help me fall asleep (which seems like one of the most effective forms of relaxation to me–it’s a voice thing). Alas, it seems as though this plan will not work out. He’s busy with some movie.

Apart from harassing actors, I am currently trying to write an article on 9/11, the desiring structures the event produced and their effect on contemporary cultural production. I also gave my first finals this week and have to grade them along with my first stack of final papers (I’ll be getting more next week–those that are still in preparation will probably be sent to me in draft form over the weekend for comments and suggestions, so I’ll have to do a round of pre-grading as well). Additionally, I have to start working on two other writing projects, which I may initially have to put on the back burner for a while, since I have my departmental mock job interview on Thursday. Our department sets these up to prepare us for the real thing. They assemble a committee that will simulate real conditions (or ideally, conditions that are tougher than that). Fun fact about my committee: one of the members will be Gerald Graff. Despite the fact that this scares me somewhat, I figure if I am able to do half way well in the eyes of the actual PRESIDENT of the MLA,  the actual MLA interviews should not freak me out too much any more, right?

Ok, that’s about it for now. I’ll try to be better about posting in the future–the overall pace of my life surely has to slow down sometime and leave me room for posting etc. again, no?

Day 279: No Underwear

After a few weeks that were very busy again (and after another weekend spent at a conference–this time here at UIC) I took a close look at my apartment today, something I haven’t done in a long time. Result: I really need to do some cleaning and a LOT of laundry (since it is getting too cold here to keep going commando). After this conference, I was actually looking forward to having some time for other kinds of writing again (i.e. an article I have to finish, as well as further revisions to my dissertation). It seems, though, that I will first have to devote some time to housekeeping and grocery shopping (which will probably also be good for my health, since pizza by the slice and other forms of takeout, the only food I have been eating for the last few weeks, probably does not contain the nutrients my body needs at this point).

Quick report on this conference: my argument that biopolitics is an analytical paradigm utterly unsuited for the analysis of contemporary power structures (and the ways they are exercised) did not keep people from giving papers on contemporary power/political issues that were based on an uncritical use of this very concept, there were some scary talks fetishizing empiricism and reducing issues of power in governmental information gathering to a problem of trust and informed consent, and some male participants insisted on being referred to as “she” (which I sadly could not consider as revolutionary an act as I was apparently supposed to). Overall, it was a good conference, however annoying the overall praise of a politics of diversity may have been (which too many people still seems to think results in some form of liberation, not realizing that it is actually the politics of neoliberalism).

I will now go grocery shopping and buy some healthy things that will hopefully help me finally get over my cold, which, per Anna’s suggestion (my favorite this far), means: brandy. cheers y’all

Day 275: Another Conference

Last week’s conference went relatively well. The presentations on the panels I organized turned out to be very interesting, the people were nice, and I actually got some valuable feedback on my own presentation. No rest for the wicked, though, as the next conference is coming up this weekend. I will be giving a presentation and moderating a panel on Friday, which means that I should really get my talk together. This, however, is being complicated by two things: 1) I am still sick as a dog (whenever I begin to feel better, I have to pull an all-nighter, or spend a few days with only three or four hours of sleep per night and the flu comes back because my body seems to be too tired to kick it out completely) and 2) I am beginning to wonder if giving a paper on the end of biopolitics (as a valuable/contemporarily suitable hermeneutic principle) was the best choice for a paper at a conference where biopolitics is the dominant analytical paradigm (the Project Biocultures conference). But then again, the organizers felt they should include my paper, so I guess I should not worry about this too much. Upside: it is rather unlikely that no one will want to ask questions/have comments after the talk.

Other than that there is really not much new to report that does not revolve around my efforts to get rid of my cold (I am taking vitamins, airborne, drink lots of fluids, and even eat fruit (yes, fruit–me!), but I still seem to be unable to get healthy–I have been trying to do things my sports coaches would have advised me to do back in the day, hence I tried to “run it out” by the lake for the last three days, but surprisingly this did not work either–I may try rubbing some dirt on it a little later, usually a coach’s second universal remedy.).

Day 263: It’s Job Talk Day

Yes, the day of the (departmental/practice) job talk is here. It is almost done (I have to do some last minute editing) and it may not be all bad. I have been crying a lot, since I wasn’t able to fit in a lot of cool stuff I wanted to talk about. Also, my skin is irritatingly dry. Sadly, I found that I get really good ideas under the shower–and I was in need of lots of good ideas. I also had to cut out all movie clips, photographs, music, etc., which is especially disappointing, since I really wanted to justify ending the title of my talk in “…Extravaganza 3000.” I only have some transparancies, which would call for something more like “…Extravaganza (not so much) 1973.” So I decided to drop that part of the title. Anyhow, I gotta get back to the revising and then figure out what to wear (I’m color blind, so this could end up being the “extravaganza” part of my talk). Oooooh, the anxiety.

Day 198: New Semester

Today marks the beginning of a new semester and of what will (hopefully) be my last year at UIC. It is not that I don’t like teaching here but I am really looking forward to getting a job as an actual professor, which does not pay me dumping wages. No, it’s not all about the money. It’s just that starving is only fun for so long (even within a clearly bourgeois frame of mind where starving merely equates to “paying one’s dues” and not truly to starving, or a situation of permanent lower-class exploitative labor–but still: enough already). I do have a teaching gig here for the next two semesters but I will begin throwing myself on the job market beginning in late September and hope to have an actual job somewhere in the US (or somewhere in the world) come March/April. Initially, I was worried that the last year here would be bad for my teaching morale, as I expected that I would invest less time in it, be less enthusiastic and too distracted by the terrors of the job market and the insane amount of work left to do on my dissertation, but after having been on dissertation leave for a while I am actually really looking forward to teaching again. Hence, I put together what I personally think are two fun classes and I am quite excited to work through the assigned material with my students. Of course, this first-week excitement tends to fade quickly once one realizes that the intro class (which is one of the classes I will be teaching) is full of mechanical engineers and business majors who take it as a requirement and care fuck all about literature–but that is a given by now and I have developed some counter-interpellation strategies that tend to work pretty well. We’ll see how that goes this semester.

Consequently, this week I will begin by teaching some Raymond Williams and Fredric Jameson for theoretical context and we will begin to read Barthelme’s The Dead Father and Sam Shepard’s play “True West.” Should be a good first week–(famous last words).