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 420: The Universal

A while ago I promised to return to writing about issues of critical theory. Yet, I have barely done so. In fact, I have barely blogged as of late. I am not sure why. There is a lot of stuff going on, but most of it is too mundane to bore people with. I am trying to find an apartment in Canada (I am moving at the end of June), I’m in the process of scheduling a date for my defense, I’m making final revisions to my dissertation (mostly unnecessary, yet I can’t just let it lie around), I am copyediting the proofs of a book chapters that will come out soon (I may send links, but then again that may conflict with me trying to keep this blog largely anonymous), I am writing on form, utopia, totality and universals, and I put together several conference panels. So, lots of stuff to do but this stuff is largely not very interesting.

Therefore, here the beginning of a return to issues of critical theory. A beginning inquiry into the nature of the universal:

Thought is the proper medium of the universal. This means that nothing exists as universal if it takes the form of the object or of objective legality. The universal is essentially ‘anobjective.’  It can be experienced only through the production (or reproduction) of a trajectory of thought, and this trajectory constitutes (or reconstitutes) a subjective disposition.

Subjection, in other words, is contingent upon the fact that the particular can only be thought (and represented) in reference to the universal. Subjection is, therefore, fundamentally connected to Marxist accounts of subjectivity (and ideology) that make reference to the necessity of ‘totalizing’ in ways that are always already dialectical (and not noumenal). Now, what does that tell us about the distinction between the terms ‘universal’ and ‘totality’? As we find it, the distinction between both terms in critical theory is often qualitative or even merely rhetorical. There is, however, a logical distinction that, I suspect, has something to do with the above. Thoughts?

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 357: New Computer

Last week, I forget when, but I think it was Wednesday or Thursday night, my notebook crashed. I tried to fix as much as I could with my limited knowledge of computers (erase potentially bad drivers to fix the blue screen crashes, run a system restore, etc. ) but to no avail. I took it to a computer repair place down the street the next day and they promised me to fix it within 24 hours. Oh, that means I must have taken it in Thursday, since I needed it back by Friday (I was supposed to give a practice job talk for my committee at 2 p.m. on Friday). Of course, it turned out that the problem could not be fixed (which meant that my job talk had to do without the pictures and videos I had intended to include). Ultimate diagnosis of the status of my notebook: completely fried! Apparently, it overheated and literally fried my entire harddrive. Hence, for the last few days I have been running around sans computer and have to say that I have not felt this helpless and unproductive in years (no internet and not even a word processor that would allow me write and correct my job talk/handout). The technological overkill has brought us a terrible beauty, indeed.

Long story short: I had to buy a new computer (I bought a really basic notebook for now and hope to be able to buy a nicer Mac once I have more money in my account–should that ever happen). Positive effect: I finally have an English operating system and version of office (which means that I, too, can from now on outsource much of the spell-checking process to regions outside of my brain). Negatives: I have to get used to a qwerty keyboard, which is not a big deal, and I am still hoping that my files from my old computer can be recovered somehow, which IS a big deal (I did not back up my music and pictures–big mistake). Luckily, the nice people at the shop were able to rescue most of my dissertation (which, of course, I had backed up 300 times anyway).

All in all, I am happy to be able to write again (even though Word 2007 still weirds me out a little).

Day 352: Things Are Happening

I can’t really talk about what specifically is happening, since I don’t want to jinx it, but there may be at least a little bit of excitement in the future for me.

Other than that I am writing a lot–an article I am hoping to turn in by the end of this week, as well as dissertation stuff (putting the finishing touches on the first few chapters).

Giuliani and Edwards dropped out of the presidential race today.

The temperature here in Chicago dropped over 50 degrees in 9 hours yesterday (one of the most significant drops in temperature ever–we were below zero this morning and are still only slightly above that mark with windchills reaching minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit). I stupidly did not check on the weather online, so I left the house with a light jacket (and without any gloves, hat, scarf, decent shoes,…) when it was still in the upper 30s. After sitting in a coffee shop working for about 6 hours, I wanted to walk home last night at about 10 p.m. only to find that the outside had radically changed without letting the inside know and without asking it for permission. What I encountered when leaving the coffee shop was the most severe snowstorm of the season and the effect of the above-described temperature drop. Awesome! Consequently, the 20 minute walk home was accompanied by insane laughter on my part for the last 5 minutes, since I was honestly as cold as never before–ridiculously so. Result: I actually got pretty serious frostbite on my hands (which I used to periodically cover my face in order to keep the wind-induced tears in my eyes from freezing) and on my ears, which have already begun to peel. But I am not complaining. This is exactly why I love Chicago. Who wants to live in one of those entropic states where every day is the same with a stable temperature of 78 degrees?

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