Category Archives: Theories

Histories of melancholy

Histories of melancholy. Subjectivity, melancholy.

Hegemonic cultural norms produce “melancholic” subjects, modelled on the Hegelian “unhappy consciousness,” whose identity depends upon the marginalisation of excluded, transgressive subjectivities.

That is from an old, yet interesting critique of Butler.
I always said depression was self-hatred, rejection of self, and also came from subjection, renunciation.

This is good advice on writing, but what did I do today? A syllabus, a mini-grant, and a revise-and-resubmit of a poetry translation manuscript. I avoided my academic piece because it involves going through a depressing series of files — or so I think. (Is it that really, I like these other things better, I sometimes wonder.)

You have to feel like a person, I find, have full access to self, and this is why techniques for “productivity,” while good, always seem to miss the mark. One of my issues is the anxiety of disagreeing with people, if I am speaking for myself and not a cause. It is intolerable and so I switch gears to activism or translation, where I know I deserve to speak since it is not for me.

It is not for you. You are not a full person. Do not do things as you. And I work in what you might call a comfort zone, when I cannot work for me without running into peak anxiety.

I still need to learn that I have a place, and the right to take it, it does seem.


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

Academic advice

Here is one of my favorite pieces on the Ronell case, and here is the other. Both writers are far better deconstructors and are tackling a far more difficult topic than are Ronell and Butler chatting on a line from Aretha Franklin. On her scholarship, I like this piece by Martin Jay.

The MLA wrote us a letter saying they had accepted Judith Butler’s apology for the letter she wrote, and were committed to justice for all. I responded:

Dear Professor Gere,

It was disappointing that so many colleagues signed that unseemly letter – I would have expected better judgment from them. As people who have been in the profession as long as Butler and her friends have should know, such letters tend to be detrimental and not helpful to people under investigation. I do also note the professional harm its circulation will have done the student. I regret that people this indiscreet have so much power in the MLA now.

[P Z Realname]
[Membership Number]

As we know, I don’t like the words procrastination and avoidance, I like the word strike, and I don’t think anyone who has managed to get a degree is a procrastinator or an avoider. Still, after a few traumatic experiences on the tenure track I froze in fear. We are told to be cautious. I still fear that if I allow myself to get lost in the work, and to truly do the best I can in it, I will be forced to a death more painful than any torture I have suffered heretofore. I try to move ahead without really jumping in. In obedient attempts to avoid “perfectionism” I try to rush, skipping steps, and then accuse myself of “procrastination” when I trip and fall because of the step I did not build. We must take advice, but only standard advice, and not our own.

I have, however, finally found a piece of writing on procrastination that I like, because it speaks to fear, because it speaks to the issue of loss of voice.

Procrastination is a form of resistance to the flow of life. When we procrastinate, we are in resistance to our own flow, in other words in resistance to the call of our soul, to the energy of the Universe.

The piece is about living, not about producing, and about love, not self-control. It’s not from a refereed journal, just from someone’s website, and I find it quite interesting.


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Things to read

J. E. Pacheco, Morirás lejos.

On James Mill, progressive versus traditional education, and charter schools.

The other Foucault — what led him to politics?

Crackeros, novelists I should read.

I want to read but first I need to calm down. I don’t feel calm in small towns. I’d also like to live somewhere with bookstores, and other signs of intellectual life. On the weekends, I’d like to go out in nature. It wouldn’t be humid, and there would be mountains.


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It is not what they do to you, it is what they can get you to do to yourself, is an important point for those of us who are dealing with misogyny or any kind of discrimination, really.

Another thing to remember is that although we are constantly told that most people can never admit they are in the wrong and that the sign of moral progress is to do so, even when you are in fact the wronged party, people lose respect for you when you apologize and you should consider not doing it. Do they? When they have in fact committed major crimes? They do not.

What I would like, though, for 2018 is to have more authority over the students, and therefore be in a position to be kinder to them or at least feel less wounded by them. In the old world, this authority existed in the structure of programs but now it does not. You have to be very, very solid in the bubble that is your courses, your world, and leave things at that.

I am on it.


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Je voulais dire

I had meant to post some time ago that you should not tell your children they are inferior / defective / less than. We were told we were incompetent, although we could not see it (that was part of the incompetence). That was why we were to do things our parents liked. We would fail, but if we failed at things our parents liked, then our parents would at least rescue us. Since we were impaired, we would need this, so we must take heed.

I woke up this morning thinking of how I like being an amateur. My current fantasy involves moving to Eastern Europe so I will have to acquire probably two difficult languages in order to function. I will be talented, at permanent disadvantage for research and scholarship. Just being able to go to the theatre and understand dialogue will be a great achievement, and it will be a private one.

I always think of fantasies like this as fresh-start fantasies: start again, become a world expert and feel free in a field my detractors do not control, and a language they do not speak. They are, but they are also amateurism fantasies. Perhaps I should activate the become-a-world-expert aspect of the fantasy now, with what I have at hand now.


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The question

How is it that, according to da Silva, the mestizo subject is produced? This is the question for today. Here is a fairly recent talk by her, and I have been trying to understand just this one book for far too long.

On pages 248-249 the mestiço as the Brazilian subject is discussed. What precise racial and color markings the particular mestiço has “will determine whether he or she belongs in the present and in the future of the nation.” To be Brazilian is to have to operate in this murky and changeable situation. (There is a great deal more on these pages about transcendental poesis and the scene of engulfment, and I still do not understand these paragraphs well enough.)

On page 246 the mestiço is shown signify Portuguese productive power, because s/he is produced in a gendered way (through the appropriation of black female bodies). Only whiteness signifies the transparent I. The blackness and Africanness inherited from the woman remain in the mestiço. They are dangerous signifiers of a subject of affectability who must signify Brazil’s unstable placing at the outskirts of the modern [world-system].


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La session thérapeutique

I am not trying to follow any kind of schedule at all, just get up and start doing things that need to be done, sit down for all meals and go to the pool/gym every day. This is how I always did things before, and I will point out that no schedule does not mean nothing happens regularly. Before I always studied my foreign language for an hour a day, for instance, and often at the same time each day, but I did not try to fit things into a grid–I let them find their own rhythm. One of the things I most dislike is to feel rushed and prodded; it causes me to play dead like an opossum until the danger has passed. This is why I think I am not like most professors. I think they cannot handle the flexible schedule and have to find a way to make it rigid. I, on the other hand, may have been born for it, or perhaps I was coached to it from an early age.

Not being rushed is one of my main innovations this term. Taking on service that I am in the mood for and turning down all service I am not, is also new (in the past my criterion was what was most necessary). I have dropped my “busy” persona, that I imitated from my dissertation director. She always said she was overwhelmed with random work so as to gain more research time without being called selfish. I know how dangerous it was to say directly that you were going to commit the sin of research during regular business hours–I tried it myself and paid dearly for it–but the “busy” persona is stressful and I think it also stresses the students, so I have dropped it.

I have realized that some of my colleagues are not colleagues but bad boyfriends. That is, they are boyfriends, but they are not very good at it and they seem to think of me as a girlfriend and not a colleague, so that is that. I am breaking up with them, which means I am rescinding the honor of considering them colleagues. This cuts cognitive dissonance and time spent negotiating, so reduces stress. I am gravitating to other people because they are colleagues.

I have protested an instance and a half of mistreatment. I will follow up on the half, and protest a third incident as well. I am recognizing a fourth, from the past, as another such incident although it was too long ago to address–at least not in the original form. I am not rising above things and this is another way in which I am departing from standard advice, which is not reality-based but insists you convince yourself you are living in the world the givers-of-advice seem to do.

I have not recovered from Reeducation or from my first education, much though I have talked about them. Reeducation had two phases, in two cities, and each had several steps. I am afraid to address these things as I should because I need an analyst to do it right. I am fairly sure I will veer destructively if I do it alone, and the topic bores psychotherapists since they believe in staying on the surface of things. Meanwhile I beat around the bush, walk around the lake, not walking through or jumping in.


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