* So, look: I’m not saying the Democrats are definitely going to blow it. But they’re more than capable of blowing it.
Posts Tagged ‘theory’
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.
Sorry I’ve been so quiet! Between summer teaching and wrapping up a few big projects it’s been a very busy couple of weeks. Here’s every tab I had open!
* Graduate students in literary studies may often feel despair, even deadness and meanness, but an excess of cool seems like an especially implausible explanation. Far more damaging are bad mentoring, crippling overwork, social and geographic isolation, and the absence of opportunities to join the profession after spending a decade training. For too many graduate students, whether critical or postcritical, earning a PhD is the end — not the beginning — of a promising academic career. The skepticism that threatens graduate students and young faculty members results, therefore, not from the skepticism of academic theorists but from the skepticism of legislatures, administrators, donors, austerity-loving think tanks, and taxpayers. The Hangman of Critique.
* Jeff Vandermeer: Hauntings in the Anthropocene.
* Cleveland Police Are Gearing Up for Mayhem at the GOP Convention. Case Western in the News: Changes to campus operations during RNC. What’s a University For? Meet the Student Fighting Case Western U. for Shutting Down Campus to House 1,900 Police Officers.
* “Secretary Clinton Is A Different Person Than Donald Trump,” Says Bernie Sanders in Ringing Endorsement. GOP Establishment Relieved After Conventionally Abhorrent Beliefs Make Way Onto Presidential Ticket.
* Now, Baton Rouge. A 538 Special on Gun Deaths in America. The Tamir Rice Story: How to Make a Police Shooting Disappear. “One group is responsible for America’s culture of violence, and it isn’t cops, black Americans, Muslims or rednecks.” No lives matter. And from the archives: A Manifesto from People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction.
* Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative with the Truth. Donald Trump Heads Into The Convention With Barely Any Campaign At All: Many of the numbers listed for his state offices don’t even work. Did you ever have to make up your mind? Donald Trump’s Announcement of Mike Pence in 18 Tweets. “Trump’s campaign logo mocked on Twitter.” He’s Really Pretty Bad at This. Being Honest about Trump. Jeb! We Play the Trump Board Game So You Don’t Have To. Republicans Keeping Their Dignity. Teach the controversy: Is Trump Working for Russia? Understanding Trump Supporters: The Machine of Morbius. Back to the Future in Cleveland. The Last GOP President?
* Donald Trump Said Hillary Clinton Would ‘Make a Good President’ in 2008. Donald Trump should talk about Hillary Clinton’s email all the time. Here’s why. Pollster Frank Luntz: GOP has ‘lost’ the millennial generation.
* There are about 20 households where she now lives. Like Susie, most of the residents in Snowflake have what they call “environmental illness”, a controversial diagnosis that attributes otherwise unexplained symptoms to pollution.
* Education Department’s proposed rule for student debt forgiveness could threaten traditional colleges as well as for-profits, particularly over its broad view of what counts as misrepresentation. College and the Class Divide. Wicked Liberalism.
* As a result, in one of the richest countries that has ever existed, about 15 percent of the population faces down bare cupboards and empty refrigerators on a routine basis.
* Black Dishwasher at Yale University Loses Job After Shattering “Racist, Very Degrading” Stained-Glass Panel. Yale Rehires. Broken window theory: Corey Menafee and the history of university service labor.
Ghostbusters more than any other film highlights the growing devaluation of public-sector jobs at the hands of privatized for-profit entities operating for mercenary reasons. The protagonists of this movie spend their time removing unwanted, unpaying residents from spaces they occupied their whole lives (and longer) and placing them into a form of prison at the behest of the current owners who can get more rent from more affluent persons and don’t like the neighborhood being ‘brought down’ by those now-undesirable who lived there first. Not only that, but budget cuts have forced the New York Public Library to retain the dead as current employees, cutting into what should have been their final retirement, and the entire crux of the film comes from belittling and mocking elected officials’ uselessness in the face of corporations who can solve the city’s problems for cash and without all the useless regulation tying up the mayor, firefighters and police. Ghostbusters is essentially Blackwater for the dead, cleaning up the town of its unwanted past, making life safe for the corporate oligarchies.
* Prepare to cry: Appleton teen makes heartbreaking decision to die.
* To recap, the idea behind the Reverse Turing Test is that instead of thinking about the ways in which machines can be human-like we should also think about the ways in which humans can be machine-like.
* “He noted that further research is needed”: Women Wearing Low-Cut Tops In Application Photos Are 19 Times More Likely to Land a Job Interview.
* Am I a man, dreaming he is a Pokémon, or am I a Pokémon dreaming he is a man? Here’s All the Data Pokémon (Was) Leeching From Your Phone. Resist Pokémon Go. And as Adorno said: To catch Pokémon after Auschwitz is barbaric.
* OK, just take my money: Nintendo’s next assault on nostalgia is a mini-NES with 30 built-in games.
* Canon Police: Sulu’s Sexuality. But, you know, let’s not lose our heads. J.J. Abrams Won’t Re-Cast Anton Yelchin’s Role in ‘Star Trek’ Movies. For Some Baffling Reason, This Star Trek Beyond TV Spot Spoils the Big Twist. But the next one will be good, we swear.
* That piece I’m writing on Star Wars and canonicity will just never, ever be finished: Grand Admiral Thrawn Joins Rebels and the New Star Wars Canon.
* The headline reads, “Gonorrhea may soon be unbeatable.”
* Cancer, or, death by immortality.
* And Mightygodking pitches the dark, gritty Sesame Street reinterpretation you didn’t know you needed.
* Since, in fact, we lack the ability to realise even a single one of these demands in the foreseeable future, and since all other apparent solutions are unavailing, the unwelcome thought begins to insinuate itself — we are going to live in a world with Daesh and its massacres no matter what we do.
* Presenting The Bee. Exciting new “Beyond Criticism” project from Lili Loofbourow.
* Along the way to a world of driverless cars there are many potential roadblocks: infrastructure issues, different technical standards, restrictive state licensing policies, and more. But something more problematic might be the one most likely to derail this important technology: excessive lawsuits. To avoid the chilling effect that excessive litigation might have on this life-saving innovation, Congress may need to provide a certain amount of legal immunity for creators of driverless car technologies, or at least create an alternative legal compensation system for when things go wrong.
* There are no ifs, maybes or caveats allowed in American sports and now in American culture—you’re either a champion or you’re a loser: a nothing.
* Sad! These three campaign gurus for Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have had some time to reflect on their loss to The Donald. And do they ever have stories to tell.
* Not all heroes wear capes: Traveler sues TSA for missed flight.
* Mongolia will become a global pioneer next month, when its national post office starts referring to locations by a series of three-word phrases instead of house numbers and street names.
Why, it couldn’t be simpler!
* And the future just isn’t very stable: Carbon nanotubes have been pegged as the wonder material that could finally allow us to build a space elevator. A discouraging new study suggests these microscopic strands aren’t as resilient as we thought—and all it could take is a single misplaced atom to bring the whole thing crashing down.
* Donald Trump Isn’t Going to Be President. Trump Has Won and the Republican Party Is Broken. Clinton Releases a Brutal Anti-Trump Ad. 5 not-totally-crazy electoral maps that show Donald Trump winning. Could Trump Put Georgia in Play for Democrats? Only a Democrat can stop Trump now. Misperceiving Bullshit as Profound Is Associated with Favorable Views of Cruz, Rubio, Trump and Conservatism. The six days of Carly Fiorina’s vice presidential campaign, ranked.
* Why graduate students should be allowed to see the letters we write on their behalf. I was in strong disagreement with the headline but was won over by the text.
* Recommendation for a quick, great read: Nnedi Okorafor’s novella Binti, an Afrofuturist space-age riff on Harry Potter with more than a little bit of Octavia Butler in there…
* Another thing I’ve been enjoying, which you might too: “Hardcore Game of Thrones” on howl.fm. (First three episodes available for free here.) It’s completely sold me on the viability of a prequel spinoff, and I may actually like it more than the actual series.
* Two Great Tastes: On Civil War and Hamilton. Meanwhile, a great review from Abigail Nussbaum asks whether Civil War (which I liked a lot) has ruined the MCU.
* The Norton Writer’s Prize will be awarded annually for an outstanding essay written by an undergraduate. Literacy narratives, literary and other textual analyses, reports, profiles, evaluations, arguments, memoirs, proposals, mixed-genre pieces, and more: any excellent writing done for an undergraduate writing class will be considered. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,500. Two runners-up will each receive a cash award of $1,000.
* “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
* Unable to analyze meaning, narrative, or argument, computer scoring instead relies on length, grammar, and arcane vocabulary to do assess prose. Should you trust a computer to grade your child’s writing on Common Core tests?
* Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents). In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.
* Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight. This situation is absolutely untenable and I cannot believe the airlines are willingly participating.
* Maps of the end of the world. The post keeps going after the image!
* U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.
* Happy Mother’s Day: Kids’ Screen Time Is A Feminist Issue. Keep scrolling!
* University of Oxford acquires rare map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien. There’s still more after the image!
* Before Hamilton, there was… An Oral History of Rent.
* Grimdark realism isn’t realistic: where is kindness on Game of Thrones?
Ultimately, there’s not much you can say about Daredevil because its not-goodness derives from the fact that it doesn’t have anything to say. This makes it hard to say anything about the way it’s not saying anything. Based on the first season, I would have argued that the show uses the superhero genre tode-familiarize gentrification and the way crime plays into struggles over urban land use. Similarly, I would contend that Jessica Jones uses the superhero-detective genre to de-familiarize trauma and addiction. Coming out — dare I say, being flushed out — of Daredevil season two, I would say that it uses the Batman-genre to re-familiarize the Ninja-genre. And for all the violence it does to its characters and setting, the real problem is this reinvestment in the fetish of ninja violence. The show uses the spectacle ofliteral violence to render unnecessary the organic narrative flow of people just being people in the world. Instead of the hidden injuries and traumas of class, as they play themselves out across our lives, we get a story of a ninja fighting ninjas because, well, ninjas.
* CEI et al. argue that TSA’s final rule fails to consider one important factor related to the deployment body scanners: a potential increase in highway injuries and deaths. If that sounds crazy, let me explain. Past research suggests that post-9/11 airport security policies were so invasive that a number of would-be air travelers decided to drive instead. Given the fact that auto travel is far more dangerous than air travel,three Cornell University economists found that TSA’s invasive, time-consuming airport screening policies resulted in about 500 additional highway fatalities annually in the years following 9/11—more than a fully loaded 747 per year.
* Educated people are usually critical of absolute truths, no matter if they come from statistics or religious revelation. Facts need to be understood within a larger cultural context in order to be deemed plausible or implausible. Today, however, we see an increasing tendency to describe the world not in terms of cultural values, but in terms of fundamental truths. In the cases of fundamentalism and neoliberal education of excellence, as I’ve shown here, this “deculturation” takes the form of a dangerous combination of religion and pseudoscientific thought peddled as excellence.
* Sure, let’s clone Leonardo da Vinci. Things could hardly get worse.
* And some scenes from the Anthropocene: Zone Rouge: An Area of France So Badly Damaged By WW1 That People Are Still Forbidden To Live There. Fort McMurray Wildfire: 80,000 Evacuated Over Out-of-Control Blaze. Fleeing Fire in Oil Country. Alberta Wildfires Expected to Double In Size and Burn for Months. The First Coral Reefs Are Starting to Permanently Dissolve. Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard. Have a great week, everybody!
* I’m at MLA this week, giving a paper on Saturday evening on Richard McGuire’s fantastic graphic novel Here for a panel on “The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies.”
* Facebook ran experiment to see how long users would wait before giving up and going elsewhere, but people ‘never stopped coming back.’
* Keywords for the Age of Austerity 24: Sullen. Also, here’s John Pat’s current syllabus on Innovation: A Cultural History of the Contemporary Concept.
* I think this one is old, but maybe it’s not old to you: Soc 710: Social Theory through Complaining.
* That’s when New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed an amended lawsuit against the two companies, this time asking for them to give back all the money they made in New York State, to give it back to those who lost money and to pay a fine of up to $5,000 per case.
* Four years later, Liss-Riordan is spearheading class-action lawsuits againstUber, Lyft, and nine other apps that provide on-demand services, shaking the pillars of Silicon Valley’s much-hyped sharing economy. In particular, she is challenging how these companies classify their workers. If she can convince judges that these so-called micro-entrepreneurs are in fact employees and not independent contractors, she could do serious damage to a very successful business model—Uber alone was recently valued at $51 billion—which relies on cheap labor and a creative reading of labor laws.
* Tufts in the news! Researchers Teaching Robots How to Best Reject Orders from Humans.
* The novelistic sublime: Joseph Heller’s handwritten outline for Catch-22.
* Through the looking glass: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin misses last TV deadline for new book.
* The Sherlock special “The Abominable Bride” was terrible. Has this show completely lost its way? My DVR, in a noble effort to save my sanity, opted not to record it.
* When Gene Roddenberry’s computer died, it took with it the only method of accessing some 200 floppy disks of his unpublished work. Here’s how this tech mystery was solved.
* And of course there’s always more Star Wars links: The Feminist Frequency Review. Editing The Force Awakens. Listening to Star Wars. The Original Star Wars Concept Art Is Amazing. A Not-So-Brief History of George Lucas Talking Shit About Disney’s Star Wars. Is Han Solo Force-Sensitive? The Bigger Luke Hypothesis. Cross Sections of TFA Spaceships and Vehicles. Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate. Are droids slaves? Rey & BB8. Reading Anakin Skywalker after Jessica Jones. If you want a vision of the future.