We don’t know, of course, if anyone believes in the common good, or the public good any more, but here are some fragmentary notes from a conversation we had.
1. We should talk much more about research. In class. College has to become more interesting – we cannot allow it to be further redefined as rote credentialing. We need research at lower levels.
2. We need a description of the “academy” from an academic point of view. Everyone else is saying what college should be but what do we say?
3. If the university is a public good, it should be supported by public revenues – not special interests.
4. As a public good, the university has non-pecuniary benefits, and these have value even if it is not measured in gold.
5. The liberal arts – intellectual discipline, intellectual agenda, sets intellectual agendas.
…de Mello e Souza is our topic today. On the theory of getting rid of one book, binder, or at least one file folder each day, no matter how good it is, I am getting rid of a binder of xeroxes of works by him (if I can — right now, the cat is sitting on it). I have intellectual and sentimental reasons to have it, but it has to go.
In his Literatura e sociedade there is an important 1950 article “Literatura e cultura de 1900 a 1945,” which also appeared in Spanish in the 1991 anthology of Cândido, Crítica radical (Ayacucho). It says the dialectic of localism and cosmopolitanism is key.
There is in that last volume the 1958 introduction to Formação da literatura brasileira, and a discussion of Raízes do Brasil … and a translation of “Literatura e subdesenvolvimento.” I’ve also got a copy of his book on Sílvio Romero.
There is new work out now by Cândido (who only died in 2017), and new work on him too, and I am sure I do not need these photocopies since the texts are available, so they are going.
Yet I remember voices like his, and days spent reading this kind of thing instead of bureaucratic things, legal things or commercial educational products … and I miss the humanities then, and the gentle and educated voices I used to hear, and the people I used to know.
(How then to listen now is of course the practical question here, but I am more interested in the last line of that last paragraph as statement.)
I would like to read more of César Aira, and I would like to read this book. “Politics … involves struggle against the scandalous inequality of human life and thus can never be reduced to mere governance.”
(What is happening to us here is political and ideological, and cannot be solved by mere governance although this is also important — we need governance but must see that the problem goes beyond this.)
I am also traumatized. I am not like this person (graduate school was not my trauma)
(I am putting myself in a program of trauma treatment, now that I see what the landscape is. It involves renouncing self-doubt, remembering that authorities are paper tigers, and keeping in mind that I can buy an annuity and escape.)
What am I? An intellectual, an artist and an activist.
(I think I will have microdermabrasion, yoga and shiatsu massage. In my self-directed trauma treatment I will remember to put all my priorities first, regardless of any crises others may have.)
Postone is in the category of people I should have read, and would like to read.
I was going to make note of, and then donate my issue of the January, 2019 PMLA but I think I will keep it, for now. I often do not even read PMLA, it seems boring, but then once in a while it has things of interest.
Here, there’s an article on Fanon’s radio; one by Emily Apter on untranslatability that starts out discussing Auerbach’s correspondence with Benjamin, from Istanbul; one on anticolonial reading and one on Juan Moreira; one on racial imaginaries of reading … and more. I am quite interested in all of this.
How do you get interested in things? I have many thoughts on this question, but sitting in Northern California among trees taking notes on theories of writing and reading is a strong memory in me, and my interest is partly in the material and partly in the fact it is my indigenous activity. I am from here and this is what I do here.
My student wrote an essay on Bodas de sangre as anti-tragedy and it was great. I then discovered there is a book by George Steiner on this matter and another very interesting one by Ekbert Faas. I never thought I was interested in theatre as a genre but I think that many of the decisions I made as an early undergraduate had to do with not having a good background in literature from high school. I am for poetry because I am, but the additional reason I was interested in it in college was that I had no training in writing about literature and with poems, I could feel sure I was really covering them and yet more importantly, because I could focus on words, images, language. I did not want to discuss novels or theatre because I did not have the personal confidence I felt I needed to comment on characters or action in the world. I am discovering now that with poetry and the essay, theatre is quite the thing for me. Perhaps when I am truly old I will begin to feel really comfortable with narrative.
I am recycling my photocopy of this collection of short stories, which I never read because it was a bad photocopy. The actual book is in libraries, and Amir Hamed is a good writer.
Teresa Basile has a 2017 article on Amir’s Artigas Blues Band, and more has surely come out by now.
(This is news of the past — it is something I would have been interested in working on, had it not been so painful to be in academia.)