Posts Tagged ‘they say time is the fire in which we burn’
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.
* Nearly one-third of public college presidents serve on corporate boards. Most of those companies exist in far-flung industries, and the issues at play are different: Why should college presidents involve themselves with shipping, with search engines, with banking?
* President of Ireland Affirms Value of the Humanities. Ireland, you’re not so bad yourself!
* LARoB reviews The New Mutants : Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics.
* Music to my ears: Why Story of Your Life May Be the Year’s Breakout Sci-fi Movie.
* The sheep look up: Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048.
* The Journal-Sentinel has links to its original coverage of the Steven Avery trial highlighted in the Netflix series Making a Murderer.
* In a statistical analysis that controlled for a host of other influences, we found this: Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying college athletes.
* Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Paranoid Style of American Policing.
* A favorite from the archives: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon.’
* Academic freedom and its limits: The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the University of New Hampshire’s 2013 firing of Marco Dorfsman, an associate professor of Spanish, after he admitted to altering a colleague’s student evaluations. Appeals court rules U of Hawaii was justified in denying student teaching experience to man who was qualified academically but whose statements about adult-child sex and students with disabilities alarmed professors.
* This one is almost directly out of The Sheep Look Up, if not Silent Spring: Many pregnant women across Brazil are in a panic. The government, under withering criticism for not acting sooner, is urging them to take every precaution to avoid mosquito bites. One official even suggested that women living in areas where mosquitoes are especially prevalent postpone having children.
* Frankly I’m amazed they’ve let this go on as long as they have: CBS bites itself in the ass, sues makers of crowdfunded Star Trek fan film. In other Star Trek news, I collect stamps now.
* Elsewhere on the copyright beat: The Diary of Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf Both Enter the Public Domain on Friday
* Meanwhile: Bizarre, Deadly Weather Is Sweeping the Country. The Scariest Part of This Season’s Weird Weather Is Coming Soon. The Storm That Will Unfreeze the North Pole. Even fireworks aren’t fun anymore. Happy new year, one and all!