I know I've mentioned this on here before, but since it's that time of year again: if you or someone you love is going on the job market and if you have about twenty bucks to spare, or even if you don't, you should probably order a copy of this book (amazon link with five stars and great reviews here). When I was on the market fresh out of grad school, this book wasn't out, but I was lucky enough to be working with its author for my job search.
And as a nice complement, I point MLA-ers to my frolleague's highlarious web videos, 9 interviews.
1. Daniel Gross's book, The Secret History of Emotion, is an important one. A few of us in my seminar felt like he beat up on science unnecessarily toward the beginning of the book, and that surely there is more to say about scientific accounts of emotion than that they are reductive, but others made a good case that he had to do that in order to make room for his intervention on behalf of the humanities. (By the way, having a class full of productive critics totally rocks.) The end of the book moves toward a much tempered critique of work about emotions that relies on scientific findings, but the imbalance is noticeable and off-putting. We did wonder how Gross might respond to recent work in rhetoric that makes use of some of the very scientific work he critiques without ever losing sight of what rhetoric brings (and must bring!) to the table (e.g., Crowley's Toward a Civil Discourse).
When a fellow Aristotle scholar saw Gross on my syllabus, he said "you know that book isn't really about Aristotle," I was all "I know!" But approaching it from the depths of book II of A's Rhetoric makes it very difficult to read as a book about anything but Aristotle (despite its focus on 17th- and 18th-c rhetoric), because of its sustained case in favor of rhetoric's usefulness for conceiving the emotions as active energy that happens between people. My class has developed the parlance of "dispositions on dispositions," which is well supported by the first lines of Book II. Aristotle hangs with Judith Butler as Gross's heroes, a pairing that no doubt deserves its own post.
Since I don't have time to say more, I do welcome comments on this or other parts of the book--I know some of you have read it thoroughly (and this goes for people in my class who definitely have and other scholars who I believe have), so do post away.
2. My visit to IU was fast, fun, and pretty intense. When I first started in this business, I was not all that good at thinking on my feet, but now I feel a lot better equipped for doing that, in part because I've had a lot of practice, and in part because I acknowledge that no answer will ever perfectly address a question because of the intractable problem of other minds and the inherent difficulty of knowing where a question is really coming from (and the strictures that prevent us from saying that on the spot). But/and so it's a good idea to check in with the questioner's nonverbal cues and to keep checking back in verbally (and nonverbally--with looks and gestures) with the questioner even in the midst of other answers in order to keep interesting lines of discussion alive.
3. I have only once been stumped silent by a question, and so was quite relieved when the questioner interrupted the silence and said something along the lines of "Oh! Did I ask about the implications this research holds for ethos? I meant pathos!!" (Those of you from Purdue probably remember this.)
4. Even though I have just finished an entire book about Kenneth Burke, I still find it difficult to sustain a conversation with someone who *only* uses Burkean terminology. Now, this might just be my problem, but I still think it's important to make an effort to break out of the terminology. (This problem is not of course confined to Burkeans, but also to Deleuzians.)
5. When you are doing a presentation of some sort, if you're lucky, there will be a question or two that will "stick" and end up moving the whole project (or the next one) in an unanticipated direction. You might not realize this for several months or years, but it is still very cool. As a scholar I chase that feeling.
6. As an audience member and a student, nodders sometimes bug me (I say this as a partially reformed nodder), but as a speaker and a teacher, oh lordie, nodding and its bodily partners--hastily writing something down, low rumbles of assent, even good eye contact--are oh, so welcome.
7. I had a good conversation with someone this week about how the best classes are often the ones you're least prepared for. It strikes me that this only works if you are not expecting the class to go well because you haven't prepared. It also strikes me that I might test this hypothesis this week, since I'm flying back on the day of my seminar meeting.
8. Moderating a long discussion (which I did for Tuesday's panel on the Media and the Election) is kind of awesome but also a teeny bit stressful because I don't want to play favorites, and it is impossible to tell whose hand goes up first when they all shoot straight into the air.
9. If you have not seen David Sedaris on his current tour or had the good fortune of
knowing people who have recounted to you the highlights, I suggest you read his piece in this week's New Yorker on undecided voters, like, right now.
10. Come on, November 4!!!! I America can't wait much longer.
At the beginning of the semester, I had a problem in my seminar. Everyone wanted to talk too much, and there wasn't enough time. Grad students started emailing me to see if we could meet longer (I checked; we couldn't). I blogged about that problem here. In my request for a seminar next year, I have tried to remedy the problem by following the advice of my sabbaticaling colleague who left a comment suggesting that I request a 2.5 hour seminar. I also set up a facebook group.
Last week, we actually got through most everything for the first time all semester, and I started thinking that the early enthusiasm might be settling a bit; everyone's tired. It is, after all, mid-term.
And then this morning I got this week's batch of response papers. A few people went over my (strict!) two page limit. I scolded them, sent emails asking them not to do that any more. And then I read the things, and damn, were they good. But still, this problem is kind of like the one we had with the duration of each seminar meeting--people's exuberance is making them spill past the limits. It's very strange.
Today's topic is Daniel Gross's The Secret History of Emotion, and he's got everybody--including me--all stirred up. I think I better show up early.
I officially have more meetings and events than hours today. The first one begins at 8:30 a.m., and the last one will end around 9:00 p.m. The sum total is something of a drag. I am, however, looking forward to moderating tonight's IPRH panel on The Media and The Election featuring my colleagues Bob McChesney and Dave Tewksbury. If you're here, you ought to come--these guys know their stuff.
At the request of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities director, my two blogging reading group participant colleagues (Cara Finnegan and John Murphy) and I will be blogging the activities of the Rhetorical Studies Reading Group, which is funded by IPRH and is in its third year running. This year it is being coordinated by our colleague Ned O'Gorman (go Ned!). This is a large group that involves, all told, 25-30 people and that investigates the state of rhetorical studies. We have become quite good at linking in with visitors to campus whose research is related to rhetoric. We tend to read work by that visitor and then spend an hour or two with that person to talk about their research. This sort of informal format allows for a nice combination of discussion about theory and method, as well as a behind-the-scenes account of how research gets produced.
So good have we become at linking to visitors and at using the modest funds allotted by the IPRH for our reading group, that this year we are only going to be reading work of scholars visiting our campus. Past guests have included Jason Black, who studies American Indian rhetorical history; David Fleming, who publishes on classical rhetoric and on contemporary cities; Blake Scott, who studies rhetoric in the context of transnational pharmaceuticals; John Sloop, who theorizes sexuality, identity, and also communications technologies; and Phaedra Pezzullo, whose work on toxic tourism and environmental rhetoric keeps on raking in awards. This year we hosted Kirt Wilson from Minnesota back in September. While scarfing down Antonio's pizza, we got to talk with Wilson about his articles on Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and a truly brilliant study of mimesis in the African-American tradition.
Last night we hosted Anthony Corbeill, a classicist from University of Kansas whose
book Nature Embodied, in addition to having one of the coolest cover images, like, ever, is a remarkable and wide-ranging study of gesture in ancient Rome.
We were delighted that in addition to our usual suspects from English and Communication, Corbeill also drew faculty and grads from Classics and Art History. If the book spans five centuries of textual and artifactual evidence, our group blew that open, and the discussion spanned more than 2500 years. At one point it occurred to me that in addition to all the disciplinary affiliations, we had at the table an expert in just about every traditional historical period, and so what this meant was we were able to pool our collective knowledge to think even more broadly about rhetorical gesture.
In addition to excerpts from Nature Embodied, we also read an article of his on the relationship between grammatical gender and sex. This piece*, which appeared just this year in Transactions of the American Philological Association, consults with the Latin grammarians to locate the onset of compulsory heterosexuality in increasingly restrictive practices around the gendering of ambiguously gendered nouns. Nouns, he suggests, not only have gender, but they have sex, and he means that, wildly, in both senses of the phrase. It's a delight to encounter Judith Butler and Monique Wittig in a TAPA article, but it's altogether mindblowing to read hints about words copulating and reproducing. Josh Gunn, you would love this piece.
Corbeill was funny, engaging and (too) modest, and he displayed an astonishing ability to pull examples out of his brain files, many of which contain roman jokes (his first book was on laughter). It turns out Cicero was a funny guy with a butch daughter. For those of you on campus, Corbeill is presenting a talk today** on weeping statues. Given that my Aristotle class is smack in the middle of book 2 (and therefore smack in the middle of emotions) I'm a little weepy that I won't be able to make it. Please! Go! You won't be disappointed.
*Corbeill, Anthony. "Genus quid est? Roman Scholars on Grammatical Gender and Biological Sex." Transactions of the American Philological Association 138 (2008): 75-105.
**The Department of the
Classics takes pleasure in announcing a lecture by Anthony Corbeill,
Professor of Classics at the University of Kansas, on Friday, October
17, at 2:30 PM, in Room 223, Gregory Hall. The lecture is entitled "WeepingStatues, Weeping Gods, and Prodigies from Republican to Early-Christian Rome.
This morning on my run, I saw a guy struggling to push his dead car in the opposite direction, so I tied my running buddy Tillie to a tree and jumped in to help only to be informed by the out-of-breath fellow that he didn't "believe in making females work." "Call me old fashioned," he added while heaving. To which I responded, "well, then, it's time for a little lesson" and started pushing anyway.
A bit later a colleague and I had a lunchtime appointment with a downtown publishing business. So I met her at her parking garage and we drove to lunch. Our hosts wanted to show us around their office, and so we took a little tour. The place was cool--it kind of looked like the warehouse in The Office, except, alas, no Darryl, and no big scale for the entire staff to weigh themselves collectively (JM and I just watched this season's premiere).
But then we went into the office part, where my colleague and I sat on one side of a big desk. There were two of these big desks in the room, and I kept thinking something was off, until it hit me: these desks didn't have computers on them. No power strips or a/c adapters or cleared-away spots to suggest the use of laptops either. Nothing. Just a phone, pictures of family members, and horizontal blinds.I felt like I'd stepped from an episode of the Office to an episode of Mad Men, only without the martinis for lunch.
Last night I went with my friends K and M to see the Magnetic Fields at the Overture Center in Madison, a lovely venue. click here for photos. We were only able to stay for the first set because K's lung decided to rebel against her, but the set was long and quite good. They played a mix of songs from the new album, Distortion (which I haven't yet listened to), and also from I and the soundtrack to Eben and Charlie, and of course a few from 69 Love Songs (including, hooray, "Papa was a rodeo").
Stephin Merritt was a complete grouchy pants, complaining repeatedly when people would clap, and referring to the audience as "they." (As in, to Claudia Gonson, "if you wouldn't pause, they wouldn't do that awkward clapping thing.") But Gonson made up for that unpleasantness (I know, I know, it's his thing) with her clever and charming chatter about kettle korn and drag queens bitching each other out (the subject matter of a song from Distortion). I have to say too I am a complete sucker for the cello, and last night was no exception: musically, the cello pulled everything together, even as it made Merritt's sourness rise and evaporate.