Posts Tagged ‘Jameson’
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.
(…though Tuesday’s links are still perfectly good…)
* I’m really excited to see that the Jameson talk on the army as a figure for utopia I talked about at the end of my Battle: Los Angeles essay is becoming a book (with some collected responses).
* One of my favorite Ted Chiang stories, “Understand” has been adapted as a radio drama at the BBC. Go listen!
* If you’re local, don’t forget! Mad Max: Fury Road discussion on campus today at 5 PM!
* The FBI’s probe into the security of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mail has expanded to include a second private technology company, which said Tuesday it plans to provide the law enforcement agency with data it preserved from Clinton’s account.
* Two great tastes: For decades, researchers have debated whether a major asteroid strike or enormous volcanic eruptions led to the demise of dinosaurs almost 66 million years ago. According to a new study, the answer might be somewhere in between: The asteroid impact accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes, and together, these catastrophes led to the mass extinction.
* The Vancouver public-speaking and drama instructor sees his reasons for assigning Alcor US$80,000 of life insurance benefits to have his brain cryopreserved as strictly pragmatic.
* Kristof said that more preschoolers are shot dead each year than are on-duty police officers. For children aged 0-4, that is accurate for the past six years. For children aged 3-5, the statement is true in most years, but not in every year. We rate the claim Mostly True.
* Twenty-first century problems: Can Crowdfunding Save This Town from White Supremacy?
* A new working paper from the Federal Reserve Board that looks at what role credit scores play in committed relationships suggests that daters might want to start using the metric as well. The researchers found that credit scores — or whatever personal qualities credit scores might represent — actually play a pretty big role in whether people form and stay in committed relationships. People with higher credit scores are more likely to form committed relationships and marriages and then stay in them. In addition, how well matched the couple’s credit scores are initially is a good predictor of whether they stay together in the long term.
* This might be even worse than the drill bits: Greenfield Police Using Pink Handcuffs, Wearing New Pins For Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
* Get a head start on next week: “It’s time to abolish Columbus Day.”
* If I were going to encourage you to take any one class simply because it’s good for the freshman soul, I would say this: Take some introductory literature class that forces you to memorize poems, heaps and gobs and mounds of poems, old poems.
* This afternoon at two o’clock the New York State Attorney General will announce the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Committee to Save Cooper Union, a group of activist students, faculty, and alumni against the Cooper Union trustees. The settlement will impose various reforms to Cooper Union governance, establish an independent financial monitor for the college, and begin the slow, difficult process of re-establishing Cooper Union as a free, healthy institution. Incredible turn of events. The tragedy of Cooper Union.
* A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself. I continue to think Democrats are completely in denial about how bad this story could get.
* Massive hurricanes striking Miami or Houston. Earthquakes leveling Los Angeles or Seattle. Deadly epidemics. Meet the “maximums of maximums” that keep emergency planners up at night.
* The proportion of people with intellectual disability who have been treated with psychotropic drugs far exceeds the proportion with recorded mental illness. Antipsychotics are often prescribed to people without recorded severe mental illness but who have a record of challenging behaviour. The findings suggest that changes are needed in the prescribing of psychotropics for people with intellectual disability.
* Wow, finally: Octavia Butler’s Dawn is allegedly being developed for TV.
* Piggy, Kermit, and domestic violence. Next up: why Elmer Fudd hunting animals out of season is actually no laughing matter…