Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

Benjamin Matveevich

That is the first name and patronymic of my great-great grandfather, the immigrant. His dissertation director was Alexander von Humboldt.



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Synopsis of Postman, “The end of education”

The “school problem” has two dimensions, as he sees it. One is the engineering aspect: the means by which young people acquire an education. The other is the metaphysical aspect: the underlying purpose or mission — the “end” — of education. Postman believes that the debate over the future of America’s schools focuses too much on engineering concerns — curricula, teaching methods, standardized testing, the role of technology, etc. — while very little attention is paid to the metaphysics of schooling. As the title suggests, he feels that “without a transcendent and honorable purpose schooling must reach its finish, and the sooner we are done with it, the better.” For education to be meaningful, Postman contends, young people, their parents, and their teachers must have a common narrative. Narratives are essential because they provide a sense of personal identity, a sense of community life, a basis for moral conduct, and explanations of that which cannot be known. The idea of public education requires not only shared narratives, but also the absence of narratives that lead to alienation and divisiveness. “What makes public schools public,” writes Postman, “is not so much that the schools have common goals but that the students have common gods.” As Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewey and other great educators understood, public schools do not serve a public so much as create a public. But in order to do that they depend on the existence of shared narratives and the capacity of such narratives to provide an inspired reason for schooling.


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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.



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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?



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Allons voir comment je vais y aller — updated (yet more) (and more)

Le plan:

What is left: 316 syllabus TWEAK and tweak Moodle site, 202 syllabus TWEAK and both of its websites, arborist, door-maker, Gary, vita, two bureaucratic documents (teaching and administration), student papers. New next week: 462 lecture Monday, contact LASA people Monday, restart article writing Tuesday, continue article, LASA, LHA Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…and weekend, all the way up to write on site Tuesday.

Further strategy: 10 minutes a day on the scary projects. These are the bureaucratic documents, the vita, and the old student papers.

What I learned: do it with health and love and without pressure, and do not take on any new service or recreation undertaken out of duty. (I turned down two individual study proposals last week, which was very good.)

The meaning of it all: “a los estudiantes dales tu talento, pero no tu brillantez” (as someone told me once long ago).


Work on LASA even though the syllabi need more work. Finish the syllabus for Spanish 202. The websites, all of them, for Spanish 202 need real work and the 316 iLRN website has to be set up still. I will remember these things and work on them as I work on the paper syllabi. I will keep working on LASA in the evening. (This really needs to be done.) Monday’s research happened, but otherwise all I did was teach. I am behind.


I will finish the syllabus for Spanish 316 and finish the LASA thing, I really hope (if I have not done so already).  I will make sure the 202 syllabus and websites are finished. I will chase down an arborist and my door-maker. I started the syllabus for Spanish 316 and did other work and home related things, but did not accomplish all of this by a long shot. I also got up late and only spent five hours in the office. I am further behind.


I will teach, and work out between classes. I will finish anything from above that is not finished so far. All I did was teach.


There is someone in L.A. I must call. I must finish work on my vita and two bureaucratic documents, and on student papers I have not finished commenting upon.  I am depressed because I am so behind. But now I am elated because I crossed some things off — and I have two weekend days in which to cross off more.

Monday 29

Write the second lecture for Spanish 462.

Tuesday 30

Write on site: new article.


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Des mots, ou les mots et les idées

I am reading translation theory for class and catching my breath. These were my original research questions, when I was a child. The reasons I studied the things I did. Not the relationship between words and things, but words and thoughts, and the way in which language produces or conditions perception.


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La psychanalyse

Mais c’est si clair. I feel guilty and nervous about doing work because I know I will be interrupted as soon as I really start.

It all had to do with the self serving agenda of others. “Your work is just play, and you will see that relatively soon. Your real role is to serve me, and I am also the only one who can and will support you when your work becomes serious and you are sidelined from it. Serving me, not becoming expert at something that challenges me, is your first and only real duty — and everyone else already knows it is all you are capable of.”

This is why I feel people have a right to disrupt work. It is also why I do not like to start work — if I start, I will continue, and if I continue, I will experience a very great violation to get me to stop. To avoid repeating this experience of violation, it is best not to start.


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