The act of discernment is not merely punished; it’s made infelicitous.
February 20, 2020
Walking a fine line between theory, activism, and literature
He leaked humanity
It wasn’t “New Critical” thing-in-itself close reading, because poems weren’t things in themselves, they were living subjects, and as full of contradictions and private dramas and unconscious desires and hauntings as any other.
October 16, 2019
This was one of Bloom’s gifts, to hear in any single work many voices. Poems were not themselves. A voice was not just one voice. And Bloom as Falstaff was not Bloom either, only a mask, a shadow: “I call to the mysterious one who yet / Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream / And look most like me, being indeed my double, / And prove of all imaginable things / The most unlike, being my anti-self, / And standing by these characters disclose / All that I seek”—that’s Yeats, whose theory of antithetical characters was one of the sources to Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence.
Power seems to follow men, whose informal networks easily slink into the shadows.
You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now.
October 4, 2018
On “Sokal Squared”
Even where they exist as departments, fields like gender studies are less institutionalized, more poorly-resourced, and more disadvantaged in hiring, promotion, and funding compared to mainline counterparts like psychology—doubly disadvantaged in the case of even newer fields like fat studies, also targeted in the hoax. They also tend to employ more women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, whose individual marginalization is compounded by the structure of academic institutions. The low impact factor of most of the journals that published the hoaxers’ papers testifies not just to the barrel-scraping to which they were reduced when more prestigious journals rejected them, but also to the struggle their fields face in the broader academic community. This is to be lamented, not celebrated, for these fields do in fact produce valuable and effective scholarship.
June 29, 2018
Stanley Cavell, 1926–2018
Philosopher Stanley Cavell, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard, who died on June 19 at age 91, published his first book, Must We Mean What We Say?, during the strike. The book’s essays cover a broad range of subjects, from modernist music and Beckett’s Endgame to Kierkegaard and King Lear. But one area—political theory—is noticeably absent. And yet, two essays, which were composed over the course of the ’60s, speak directly to the most pressing political issues of the decade: civil rights and the war in Vietnam.
March 8, 2018
Events without a subject are random. But subjects are just as artificial as endings.
I hate travel (ethnography), yet here I am (philosophy).
Gone is the task of providing “equipment for living,” in the words of Kenneth Burke.
May 26, 2017
On graduate labor and the Yale commencement protest
On Monday, Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, strode down the tree-lined streets of downtown New Haven, garbed in voluminous robes, a massive pendant, and a velvet cap with a gold, dangling tassel. Before him walked a scowling bulldog puppy that strained against its leash. Handsome Dan XVIII, the university’s mascot, was processing in his first commencement, and both figureheads were being very, very good boys.