Now we will take notes on Christina Crosby, “Writer’s Block, Merit, and the Market: Working in the University of Excellence,” College English 65:6 (July 2003): 626-645. Perhaps I shall cross post these notes at my seminar.
* Why do professors have trouble writing, and suffer with it?
* Because by writing they enter into a complex network of relationships that engages them in a process with a multitude of ends. These ends may interact with each other, contradict each other, and so on. An important problem is that university professors now have to conform more and more to the logic of the market.
* There is a book by Keith Hjortshoj, Understanding Writing Blocks.
* Crosby, like Hjortshoj, is interested in the effects of the logic of capital on writing. She is reconceptualizing writer’s block not in terms of work ethics, psychological problems, or in social terms, but in terms of the logic of capital.
* Like capital, writing is required to increase. And the profit motive intensifies as capitalism advances.
* But since writers are in language and engaged with other writers and texts they have an ethical obligation which is fundamentally at odds with the dictates of capital and the imperatives of the work ethic.
* Writing is an open ended, relational process which engages one with others. This creates an ethical obligation not entirely congruent with the social relations necessary to production for the market. Writing and teaching are subject to capital, but not reducible to market logic. Herein lies hope for the blocked writer in the contemporary university.
* Robert Boice tells us to use Anthony Trollope’s work ethic. But note that Romantic theories of artistic autonomy form a counterdiscourse to Trollope’s methodology.
* Trollope recommended discipline and pointed out that it made him money.
* But inhibiting blocks are not cured with discipline, and there is much bibliography on this. TAKE NOTE OF THAT … I AM APPARENTLY FAR FROM THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS SAID BOICE DOES NOT ADDRESS BLOCK.
* Crosby points out that Boice reiterates Trollope almost to the letter, although without Trollope’s judgmentalism. Both Boice and Trollope have as their organizing concept the market. The Romantic counterdiscourse rebels against this but is also imbricated in the market. (Crosby has very interesting information and bibliography on this.)
* In academia one is writing to create knowledge, not to produce as many saleable novels as possible, and we are living on salaries, not honoraria … and yet we are judged by [essentially] market criteria.
* There is a book by Bill Readings, The University in Ruins, which criticizes the contemporary “University of Excellence” (which is follows a corporate, not a traditional university model).
* In the “University of Excellence,” Readings says, teaching is the administration of information. THIS POINT IS KEY AND IT IS ELABORATED UPON ON PAGES 641-42 of Crosby’s article.
* Writing is part of teaching and part of thinking, and if we reconceptualize it this way instead of in terms of production we will free ourselves.
* She says thinking and writing are not part of [instrumental reason]. This is the problem, she suggests. She implies we should stop insisting upon that kind of practicality and rationality, in which (she does not say, but I do) inheres a dangerous tendency to meaninglessness. Instead of thinking in terms of production, she implies, we should think in terms of participation.