Posts Tagged ‘Duke’
* A nice endorsement of Octavia E. Butler from Steve Shaviro. Some bonus Shaviro content: his favorite SF of 2016. I think Death’s End was the best SF I read this year too, though I really liked New York 2140 a lot too (technically that’s 2017, I suppose). I’d also single out Invisible Planets and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, both of which had some really good short stories. In comics, I think The Vision was the best new thing I’ve seen in years. There’s a lot I bought this year and didn’t have time to look at yet, though, so maybe check back with me in 2019 and I can tell you what was the best thing from 2016.
* Duke warns professors about emails from someone claiming to be a student, seeking information about their courses — many in fields criticized by some on the right. Some Michigan and Denver faculty members have received similar emails but from different source.
* I don’t think Children of Men was ever actually “overlooked” — and I’m shocked it was considered a flop at a time — but it certainly looks prescient now.
* From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck. Remembering Caravan of Courage, the Ewok Adventure Star Wars Would Rather You’d Forget. Anti-fascism vs. nostalgia: Rogue One. How to See Star Wars For What It Really Is. And a new headcanon regarding the Empire and its chronic design problems.
* The seduction of technocratic government—that a best answer will overcome division, whether sown in the nature of man or ineluctable in capitalist society—slides into the seduction in the campaign that algorithms will render rote the task of human persuasion, that canvassers are just cogs for a plan built by machine. And so the error to treat data as holy writ, when it’s both easier and harder than that. Data are fragile; algorithms, especially when they aggregate preferences, fall apart. Always, always, power lurks. The technocrats have to believe in mass politics, believe for real that ordinary people, when they organize, can change their own destinies. Whether that happens depends on the party that gets built, and the forces behind it.
* Four Cabinet nominations that could blow up in Donald Trump’s face. Fighting Mass Incarceration Under Trump: New Strategies, New Alliances. Why Donald Trump Might Not Be All That Good for Art. How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler. This all certainly seems on the up-and-up. And today in teaching the controversy: Nuclear diplomacy via Twitter is a bad idea.
* The arc of history is long, but Google Search will not longer return Holocaust-denying websites at the top of page one.
* It wasn’t just your imagination: more famous people did die in 2016.
I begin my review in this conflicted, confessional mode because both Tally and Wegner do; both foreground their personal relationships with Jameson, albeit with considerably more confidence and grace than I feel able to muster, situating his writing within the context of teaching within the university system to which he has dedicated his life. Jameson’s very public profile and reputation as “America’s most famous Marxist” actually makes him something of a rare exception in this regard: he is one of the leading members on the relatively short list of scholars who have been more influential outside their classrooms than inside them. For most of us the classroom is where the lion’s share of our work happens, however much our egos might prefer things to be otherwise. For most of us the classroom is the work.
I have a short review essay (weirdly personal by academic standards, at least by mine) about Jameson as thinker and Jameson as teacher, pegged to Robert Tally and Phil Wegner’s recent books on his career: “Doktorvater.”
This paradox returns us also to the question of what it means to be Jameson’s student, whether metaphorically as his reader or literally as his dissertation advisee. Early in Tally’s book he paraphrases other critics who see Jameson as “embrac[ing] all things—but, like a python, squeezing the life out of them” (20). What resists this totalizing enclosure in Tally’s treatment is Jameson’s foregrounding of the productive tension between history as a nightmare and the future as possible utopia, located in the present as a site of struggle—a critical perspective that remains vital and alive insofar as it is always both urgent and irresolvable. Wegner’s version of this same problem comes in his conclusion, where he quotes Evan Watkins’s observation that Jameson’s work is “an ‘anomaly’ among that of the ‘masters of theory’ for the simple reason that ‘you can’t follow this act.’” (Wegner 213). “Jamesonian” has simply never caught on as an adjective in the mold of Hegelian, Marxist, Freudian, Foucauldian, even Žižekian—even as many people (some of his many former students and dissertation advisees among them!) are clearly doing “Jamesonian” analysis. Rather than unfinishable, from this perspective Jameson’s project looks too finished, too complete: he ate the whole elephant, and left nothing behind for the rest of us. Wegner’s answer is to return to the question of fidelity and betrayal: to attempt to simply do Jameson is itself a betrayal of the Jamesonian ethos, and turn him into a “discourse of the university,” another kind of too-close, python-like suffocation. The alternative is to see Jameson not as a master or a mapmaker so much as, again, a teacher, who one day leads us to the gates of the school and then hurls us out into the world to find our own way. “Maybe you can’t do this for yourself,” Wegner quotes Watkins. “It’s not exactly clear what it might mean to ‘follow Jameson’s direction.’ But it is always possible to learn from his work how to do what you do far better and in more historically responsible ways” (qtd. in Wegner 213). As a conclusion to a two-hundred page exegesis, this is perhaps somewhat deflating—you mean this was all a dead end? a road to nowhere?—but for Wegner it seems something more like a rousing call to arms, a “joyful possibility” that speaks to Jameson’s “inexhaustible richness,” resulting in an exuberant final benediction: “May we prove equal to the task!” (213). Jameson’s very irreproducibility, his singularity, can become the engine for our own critical production, so long as we betray him right.