Monthly Archives: March 2018

What is a scholar?

I see what the notes for that article are about: working in the neoliberal university. Now, at last, I can write the piece, and I should. Things to be fought in particular include various forms of so-called bean-counting and the excessive bureaucratic busywork, but more broadly we are fighting the neoliberal university. I think it is possible we may have to have real intellectual work take place outside universities, in the para-academic playground, perhaps, but if the university insists upon being as it is, some stance to take while working within it must be devised. If it decides to act fully like a for-profit, a strong union and very independent professional and disciplinary organizations are needed, that everyone considers their home (as opposed to considering the university their home). It definitely deserves no free work, and that includes its ridiculous new time-wasting schemes.

I must remember that I am leaving town with no hot water at home, and with the shower not working. That means the first thing I must do upon my return is have this worked on–as well as work on FMLA for the fall. I have a meeting at the community college Monday, April 9, at 6 in the evening and must remember it.

I must also call the city about the drainage and the tree branches that are caught in the telephone wires. I must contact Judith and Amalia about events September 18 and 19, remembering that the radio show is at 3 PM. I must wash my exterior windows and trim the bushes around the front door.

In the meantime besides packing, I must buy animal food and olive oil, and go by the office. I must check on the held-mail and the Phillips drill heads. I must write Kaitlyn on package delivery and keys, as well as Margaret with related instructions. Is this all? I think so. I will check into my flight online.

While I am gone I will do academic work and try to see at least one friend. I want to get exercise each day. I have to call Andreshia and Fidelity and Doug, and Dad has three appointments. I hope it is not too tiring, and that nothing strange happens. When I drive into town again I must remember to go to the gym, not home, because I will not have a shower at home.


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Books and journals going now

…because they are just too tattered, they are depressing me. They are wonderful and epoch-making as well, and I hate to let them go since they are like limbs. They are:

New German Critique 22 (Winter 1981), special issue on Modernism. Articles by Habermas, Giddens, Bürger, Huyssen, Nägele, Bainard Cowan, Michael Ryan, more.
Revista Iberoamericana 118-119 (enero-junio 1982), with classic articles on the avant-garde, wonderful (if outdated) texts I should really reread; 127 (abril-junio 1984), a marvelous issue on “la proyección de lo indígena en las literaturas de la América Hispánica” with articles on Mariátegui, indigenismo, and much more; 175 (abril-junio 1996), with additional wonderful articles on modernisms I want to reread.
Santiago, Silviano. Uma literatura nos trópicos.

There is so much that I don’t read or write because I do not feel at ease or at home. I am concentrating on holding things together, repressing the desire for life, and containing or tolerating pain and outright terror.

I read and wrote little for several years because I had a book contract. I was not sure I agreed with the revisions I had promised for commercial reasons, and I knew this project could not be finished in six months. But I could not say this, because I was afraid that if I said so out loud I would be accused of laziness or conspiracy to procrastinate, and would have to undergo torture for it. So I did not read or write for other projects, because I was to manage time such as to concentrate on this project; yet I could not find a way to plan the time since in fact, there was no feasible way to read enough in six months to consider whether or not the required revisions were desirable, let alone make them.

Without that six-month deadline, that recurred again and again, I could have worked these things out but the six-month deadline, with the exhortations about time management, laziness and conspiracy to procrastinate, but due to these exhortations I mostly transformed myself into a rabbit or cat, hid behind the couch, and panted.

After that I came here to Maringouin. I had wanted to do something more interesting but had been exhorted not to. I felt guilty about the pain I would cause others if I did not do as they wished, and fearful of the torture I would have to undergo if I caused them that pain. I came here to Maringouin on the theory that now, relieved of that deadline, I would write and read.

What I did was build program and serve others, because they were crying out in pain and requiring it and also because we were all threatened with annihilation if I refused, I was told. Now I do not know whether I would write and read the things I would write and read as an academic in this field if I were no longer employed in it, but I can no longer tolerate this repression.

Let us look at the ways in which I have been repressed by certain categories of academic work, or more accurately by their distortion under neoliberalism:

  1. Teaching. Your primary interest is to be a nurturing teacher of lower division students; your next interest is accompanying advanced undergraduates as they emote with literary texts. Those students may deserve someone to do this with them but it is not me.
  2. Research. You should publish, but not what you are interested in or think best. You should do only what is most marketable, because the objective is not knowledge but measurable production in the most visible English-language venues possible.
  3. Service. You should over-function. We will give you no credit for this, in fact we will penalize you for this, but we will annihilate you and yours completely if you do not over-function.

Mutilate yourself to survive the present, so you will still be alive to regenerate and flourish in the future, is the message I have always perceived. That, of course, fits my personal history but I think there is also a politics to this: teaching as caretaking, research as product preparation, and service as defense against siege.



Filed under Banes, Bibliography, What Is A Scholar?, Working

I am not chirpy

…I am disturbed about my father’s final illness for several reasons. One, we do not know how long this crisis will last. Will we get to a stable period, or will it be a crisis from here on out? If so, will that be for the next five years? If so, will that cost all of his money? Should we let his successor trustee take over the trust and if so, how much will that cost since the successor trustee is a bank? How much control will we have over his care if the bank takes over? Some of these things will reveal themselves but we’ve been going all out on seeing him, making sure he has everything, because this could be close to the end but we do not know for sure. The doctor says he is not hospice qualified but we still do not know. How to get used to this new rhythm, or anti-rhythm?

Then there is the fact that I know I will live at least as long as he will with nowhere near the resources. Will I ever have a life? For the last 25 years or so I have been just struggling to survive, I would not call it really living most of the time. Is this to continue, followed by a bad death? When do I get to start my career, so I can at least feel, by that point, that I have had a life?

There are a great number of nasty details about the emotions and conflicts that surround this. But it is the major passage of my life and there are all these conflicts about love and money.


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They have a first-year textbook called Contraseña, a conversation-through-film book called Más que hablar, and a culture book called Así es Latinoamérica. ALL of this is digital and the first-year book is the Rossomondo/Lord text I have been waiting for.


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Neoliberal culture

There are at least four books with this title, and more that address some aspect of the idea that neoliberalism has a culture, and that we are in it.

Jeremy Gilbert: “What kind of thing is ‘neoliberalism’? This collection of essays explores a range of possible answers to this question, arguing that neoliberalism is a complex, but specifiable and analysable phenomenon: a discursive formation, an ideology, a governmental programme, a hegemonic project, an assemblage of ideas, techniques and technologies, and what Deleuze and Guattari call an ‘abstract machine’. Following an introductory essay by Jeremy Gilbert which contextualises the meaning and significance of neoliberalism, the collection considers the genesis, persistence and polyvalency of the concept across a range of cultural sites and discursive genres from political philosophy to pornography, from economics to photographic technology. Chapters examine the intersection of neoliberal ideology and political practice with experiences of race, gender, sexuality and class; with grand politics, technical innovation and hard economics. This book is essential reading for anyone interesting in the contemporary cultural climate, and the impact of the pervasive concept of neoliberalism on society in the present.”

Jim McGuigan: “Neoliberal Culture challenges cultural policy research and media studies to forge a more sophisticated and critical understanding of the politics of culture today. It is a sequel to Jim McGuigan’s earlier Cool Capitalism and goes much further with his interrogation of how present-day capitalism commands the cultural field. Neoliberal principles and practices have achieved global hegemony over recent decades with implications for every aspect of social and cultural life. This book focuses specifically on the politics of culture with regard to the arts, media and everyday life under present-day neoliberal conditions. The author argues that there is a neoliberal structure of feeling that is yet more deeply entrenched than its cool-capitalist veneer might suggest. Neoliberal ‘common sense’ reduces all value, cultural and humane, to economic value and refashions the self psychologically and in a precarious labour market according to entrepreneurial ruthlessness and the ‘free-market’ imperatives of contemporary capitalism.”

Patricia Ventura: “Departing from the conventional understanding of neoliberalism as a set of economic and political policies favoring free markets, Neoliberal Culture presents a framework for analyzing neoliberalism in the United States as a culture-or structure of feeling- which shapes American everyday life. The book proposes five ‘components’ as the keys to any study of American neoliberal culture: biopower, corporatocracy, globalization, the erosion of welfare-state society, and hyperlegality, these five components enabling rich analyses of key artifacts of the neoliberal era, including the Iraq War, Las Vegas, welfare reform, Walmart, and Oprah’s Book Club. Carefully organized according to its central themes and adopting a case study approach in order to allow for thorough, illustrated analyses, this book is an important tool for scholars and students of contemporary cultural studies, popular culture, American Studies, and sociology.”

I’ve ordered the first of these; the others are so expensive I must ILL them. The fourth title that caught my eye is The Jazz Bubble: Neoclassical Jazz in Neoliberal Culture. It comes out next week, and looks fascinating! And there are several more titles like it.


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La diagnosis

“La toxicidad de la situación te hace retomar el trauma, es decir retomar el estado traumático. No quieres recordar el trauma ni seguir en él y por eso no quieres vivir más, por lo cual te quedas en un estado como catatónico.”


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My beach odyssey in draft

Night of May 30: Apalachicola
Nights of May 31, June 1: Fort Myers Beach
Saturday June 2 (evening) – Sunday June 10 (morning): Tampa — WORK
Sunday June 10-Thursday, June 14 (morning): Penn Institute (SC)
Thursday June 14-Sunday June 17: Washington — WORK
Sunday June 17-Sunday June 24 or thereabouts: Baltimore and then Chesapeake country, driving home to Louisiana probably via Durham, Atlanta, and Mobile (although I could go first through Blacksburg, we will see).


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