Category Archives: Questions

Si j’avais l’argent

Although it is a question of time, as well. If I am going to LASA in Lima, then another event in Tampa and another in Washington, and if I am to go to California and Minnesota as well, do I have time to do this in a way that would actually benefit me? I already know what my paper would say, which is what makes this so tempting, but — one more abstract and one more long trip, just for purposes of feeling real for a few days?

ACLA 2017: Race Theory and Literature

Call for Papers

American Comparative Literature Association// Utrecht University, Netherlands// July 6-9 2017

Emerging out of the practices of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery/slave trade, race theory has seen renewed and reinvigorated interest in the last sixteen years. Recent scholarship has started to examine the relationship between these varying theories on race from philosophical, philological, theological, historical, biological, and other disciplines and literature (particularly prose fiction) from as early as the 16th century, but flourishing prominently in the Enlightenment and later 19th century at first in European university and later in U.S. universities, developing concurrently and after these theories were developed and circulated in multiple discourses.

This seminar proposes to look at the relationship between literature and the theorization of race in academic disciplines, primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries but also extending into the 20th century. Questions we wish to explore include, but are not necessarily limited to the following:

– How and why do prominent and marginal authors adopt, reject, criticize, and/or apply theories of race to ethnic others within their works?
– Is there a theory or are there theories of race within works of literature or in larger literary traditions and movements?
– Theorists this seminar would like to examine include, but are not limited to, Buffon, Bernier, Voltaire, Meiners, Kant, Herder, Blumenbach, Hegel, Herder, de Gobineau, Darwin, Galton, Boas, Locke, Montagu, Du Bois, Appiah, Senghor, Alcoff, Hanchard, Ferreira de Silva, Omi and Winant. We will also consider theories of race from literary authors such as Céline and Tagore, for instance.

This seminar seeks research comparing race theories alongside literary works from all over the world, as well as literary works that respond either directly or indirectly to race theories. We also welcome comparisons between race theory and visual culture, music, and other forms of artistic media.

Please submit a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute presentation on the ACLA website ( until September 23, 2016.

Contact the seminar co-organizers Pauline Moret-Jankus at and Adam J. Toth at with any questions.



Filed under Questions, What Is A Scholar?, Working

My usual anti-rushing, anti-timing post

I have said this before, I know, but it keeps coming true. Every time I try to “make good use of time” the way professors like it — rush, use every pause to get something else done, watch the clock, do things as quickly as possible, keep a strict schedule, and so on — I inadvertently break something, do what I am doing wrong, tire myself needlessly, confuse others, emanate agobio, don’t finish the task because it has become so distasteful, and find myself ill. People in the halls now are lecturing each other about how wonderful it is to use the kitchen timer on themselves when they write. Why are they so masochistic? If left to my own devices I get more done more quickly and more steadily than most people, but if required also to rush, correct the mistakes made while rushing, and recover from rushing, I am much impeded. To whom is this dogma directed? Who do you have to be, what do you have to be doing, to actually need the rushing advice?



Filed under Questions, What Is A Scholar?

For comment

Staff members told attendees to keep the visits discreet, she says, for fear that their interest in nonacademic careers could hurt their relationship with their faculty advisers.

That is from this article, which I feel needs deconstruction.

It is very fraught. Should degree programs be changed since not all students become professors? Is it really that dangerous to say you have other career plans? If you say it and professors look at you askance, should you quake in fear, or can you (wo)man up?


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On considering suicide

It is a response to mistreatment I do not think I should recognize as such, but cannot help feeling is mistreatment. I try to convince myself that the mis-treater, so to speak, is justified, or that I should be tolerant, or that they have done the best they can, and I fail.

Then I think the next option is suicide. It is not legitimate to be angry or disappointed, or to notice mistreatment. Since I have failed to talk myself out of these perceptions and attitudes, my only option is suicide.

Exactly how this conclusion is reached, it would be interesting to understand. One element in the morass that I really would rather die (or perhaps kill) than act under pressure or against my better judgment.

Another element has to do with serving others. I should serve others, without desires of my own, not just eight hours a day but in every aspect of life, or I should die, I appear to have learned.

A different way of looking at it is to consider how deeply angry I have been since early childhood. I am angry enough to reject someone, or to kill them if I am not allowed to reject them. Since those things are not possible, I would prefer to die.



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On Comparative Literature

. . . in having to build its own comparative apparatus, the discipline is forced to balance breadth against depth. It can escape neither geographical reach nor philosophical literacy. It thus requires the achievement, and not the mere avowal of a multicultural perspective.

What do you think of this piece?


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

Carlos Alonso on curriculum

Here are some of his 2013 thoughts. Watch the video and tell me what you think. What is the value of the humanities education, the Ph.D., and the life of the mind generally?



Filed under Bibliography, Questions, Subconference, Teaching, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Books on imperial Spain, and other books

I have so many books to read but I always want others. If there were bookstores I would walk to them and browse, and if the libraries had budgets I could peruse new acquisitions.

The desired books of the day are Hugh Thomas, World without end: Spain, Philip II, and the first global empire and Spain: the centre of the world, 1519-1682, to begin with; also, a fascinating book on William Pitt’s suppression of English intellectual life in the 1790s — a vigorous activity whose effects are felt clearly today.

What I am actually trying to read is a book by Agamben and I am bored. I should need the ideas in it as it is about slavery and ontology, but I do not like philosophy. I like theory and poetics, but not philosophy. I lack patience for philosophy, am I alone?

Other reviews I have read today (while avoiding Agamben and other, more pressing things) include a fascinating essay on biographies of Charlie Parker. Is he another of these innovative modernists, like Vallejo and Lorca, that died young in a disorderly way and got mythologized?

I learned that Perry Anderson is Benedict Anderson’s brother, in a beautiful review of Benedict Anderson’s memoir. “Shine always!” I thought of Michael Ratner, with whom I had hoped to work one day, and who is dead too.



Filed under Bibliography, Poetry, Questions