Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

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.

Axé.

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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.

Axé.

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More things I will do

I will find out whether I am still in LASA and ILLI.
I will find out whether I can receive paper copies of my father’s insurance bill.
I will do other things on my lists.

I am changing my life. I do wish the university were not such a space of torture, and that I were not so afraid of it. I want to get over this as I have things to do.

I am afraid of it because it is irrational and it has power, and because I have a tendency to internalize its venom.

Here is a good article on the rhetoric of excellence.

Axé.

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The market university

In the Verhaeghe book, in the chapter on identity, is a great deal of material on the market university including a list of euphemisms like those I discuss in my article — although his choice of examples is, conveniently enough, a completely different set than mine is. (The list is on page 161.) There is a discussion on how the conversion of the student into customer fits the neoliberal paradigm and signals a completely different vision of education than what some of us may still have. Part of what I am saying in this article is that many of us do not even realize what the world we are working in now is. The market university repurposes our vocabulary and adds new terms which we laugh at and shrug off when we should examine them. There are additional examples of neoliberalism’s use of language (cf. the word “invest”) in this interesting newspaper article. There is also this popular piece on the falsely rational language of (neoliberal) technocrats, and there is a film we should see on the privatization of public education or “corporate school reform.”

I am going to put half an hour into that article early tomorrow morning.

Some more notes for this I have are:

KEYWORDS
– financialization
– monetization
– corporate
– entrepreneurial
– business model

A decent education is now an elite dream, and if we do not mouth the neoliberal line we are just dinosaurs. Uber is “sharing.” Religious freedom is the freedom to oppress other religions. Fox News was founded to offer “fair” reporting.

Axé.

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The notes, the notes

I am trying hard to clear my workspace. It always looks neat but that is deceptive since the files and books are not fully organized; part of my block involves not knowing where things are, or not having them at hand. The current revolution has been enabled by my purchase of a new bookcase.

I have notes of all kinds. I have to put them in Evernote, in the right files, and into the right documents but here are some of them, since I do not know what they all mean.

HOUSE

There is a lawn/landscape service, Merlin Lormand, recommended. I don’t need a lawn service but I do need general landscape advice. There are a lot of other people available, too. I tend to think I don’t know who to call but Googling this name leads to many others.

LATIN AMERICAN LITERATURE

The Baroque is its great heritage (this is why carnavalization is an important concept) whereas the French refer to realism, Enlightenment reason, and the Cartesian tradition. “See also Paz,” I wrote mysteriously.

Latin American writers have a strange relationship to the indigenous and to Europe, I said, and a strange relationship to the world and to themselves.

MY 2015 EVALUATION AND RELATED MATTERS

1. The year 2015 started with the debacle of an administrative snafu that got me extra teaching instead of partial sick leave; in the fall we had the course enrollment crisis and the threat that the major would be canceled. I have doubts about the evaluation of teaching being based entirely on whether or not people’s student satisfaction surveys are below or above the department average. Half must be below by definition, and how many of us are significantly below?

2. The threat to the major led to increased commitments to service in 2016 (cf. getting pressed into service on the website), and also 2017 when I briefly became head of the major committee. I notice that I keep getting pressured to do extraordinary service, against my better judgment, and then punished for it; on the other hand, national and other professional service that I choose is not even recognized as real.

3. What is research? What do we get to call research? (I suspect that what for some is called research, is not, and that my research is less recognized since I am not in one of the fields the university wants to promote. I don’t think this line of discussion would be useful, but I want to keep a private note on it.) But the bottom line, that I do want to discuss, is that I do not want my research time redefined into service time.

THAT COMMITTEE (WHICH NO LONGER EXISTS)

I wrote that whether or not its chair were working, the committee existed and its work needed to be done. Colleague 2’s message, despite at times calling for the work to be done, is: “I don’t want to do the work, and I don’t want you to do it.” He should not get to decide these things, said a friend elsewhere. I, however, observe that here, he is allowed to decide them.

Meetings, I wrote, needed to have objectives. The overarching objectives of the committee were to oppose obstruction of activities toward the major, and to promote the major. If the committee members could not do these things, I wanted to point out, they  would effectively be acting to return power to [the deadwood Fulls]. Did Colleague 2 really want that? I wanted to put this question to him — although now, at least, that eventuality seems not to be on the horizon.

RULES FOR COLLEAGUES

No rants. No bullying. No personal remarks. The work is the important thing.

No personal remarks. No yelling, no accusations, no untruths. Have an agenda and keep to it.

For me, in the committee: Keep dignity. Do not argue or explain; do not engage with ridiculousness. Insist on getting on with business and focusing on tasks.

My friend said the main issue was my, or Colleague 2’s relationship with colleagues. I note, though, that the advice on keeping meeting focus on work and tasks was not new. I was insisting on those things. That was what was getting me so much grief.

Axé.

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The modern workplace

Working classes internalize harm. They respond to hurt and pain that liquid capital inflicts on them by, first and foremost, self-harming. It’s easier for them to believe the neoliberal narrative that they fail because something is wrong with them. So they self-punish and self-destruct.

Creative and professional classes have better defenses against this. They externalize the harm. It’s not “I failed because I’m inferior” but “he failed / needs to fail / because he’s inferior, evil and horrible.”

Conclusion: prepare for epic battles as professional classes fight for survival on the rapidly shrinking professional arena.

I went on a forum where job seekers discuss the academic job market in languages. And the mechanism is always the same. The moment somebody is rumored to have gotten a job, there’s a flare-up of the most outlandish accusations against that person.

Neoliberalism has mechanisms in place that obscure what it really does in order to preserve the consensus that neoliberalism is good and has to remain in existence. This is one of them.

I react like the working classes. And I know this about the job market. All those reactions of the professional classes seem so immature to me. Perhaps mine is as well.

Axé.

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Sur la linguistique

Why was it that, back then when we were in Comparative Literature, we thought Linguistics was the other cool field? I think it had to do with not being a discipline that reproduced a nation-state or the Area Studies model, and that was theoretical, and that (we thought then) could begin to dismantle colonial arrangements of knowledge. And Philology was falling out of fashion. I announce that I have now decided Linguistics is about as uncool a field as can be found. I am for Philology and against Linguistics, on grounds that linguists do not speak languages or know anything about them. Linguists with deep knowledge of a language other than their own may receive an exception, as may those who study their own language exclusively. All others, however, are frauds. They should return their degrees, and resign their professorships. If you do not realize there is a difference between being a fully educated speaker of a language and a person who is functional for tourism in it, then you have no respect for it or for its speakers, let alone for it as an academic field; you have no business remaining in play.

Axé.

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