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.