Wednesday, 08 March 2006

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Behold The Power Of Tweed A couple of people have messaged me asking how tonight went, so I'll post this for all to read. I think it went well. I'll copy-and-paste what I didn't really read below the fold. It's a flawed but solid introduction to historicism . . . by which I mean, Jane Newman complimented me on it after the festivities ended. Since she's not one to compliment gratuitously, I feel my impression of my performance confirmed. Since I'm in such a fine mood I've decided to share my "wealth." Since all my readers are beyond cool they certainly already own all The Replacements albums, but I since I've zipped up a couple of my favorite 'Mats songs for other purposes, I thought I'd give 'em the opportunity to re-re-acquire a couple of brilliant songs. So enjoy! (That link won't last forever. Be sure to listen to "Can't Hardly Wait." That version was the stuff of legend. Now it's the stuff of swapping . . . but still worthy of legend.) I begin with a startling revelation: every work of literature is written at some particular historical moment, read at some particular historical moment and represents some particular historical moment. Call them the moment of composition, the moment of reception and the moment of representation. (I should note that this it's obviously more complicated than this. It's far more difficult to situate the particular moment represented in John Donne's "Holy Sonnets" than say John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. But bear with me.) A person whose primary scholarly interest is in the interaction of these three moments is an historicist. I would define the term further, but at this moment in literary studies historicism is less methodology and more attitude. To paraphrase one of the most prominent working historicists, Stephen Greenblatt: historicists desire to speak with the dead, to know how it felt to live during the moment of composition. How do they acquire such knowledge? Slowly. An historicist must be on intimate terms with his or her chosen moment of composition. This requires exhaustive study of both the primary sources--novels, newspapers, diaries, poems, &c.--produced during that moment and the secondary ones written about it after the fact--histories, literary criticism and what-not. I know what you’re thinking: Where can I sign up? The answer is many of you already have. Historicism has become increasingly popular in literature departments because its appeal is, I'd argue, inherently literary. You were interested enough in literature to sacrifice your early evening to a discussion and performance of a work of one. Ipso facto . . . no I take it you're gonna need convincing. Alright then, a quick example: James Joyce famously, and modestly, said of his novel Ulysses: “I want to give a picture ofDublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” A tall order. And note that he only says /Dublin/ can be rebuilt. Bricks and mortar. Easily represented. He doesn’t claim...
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Scott Eric Kaufman: Professional T.A. As a T.A. this quarter, my classroom responsibilities include all-purpose AV technician and intellectual peanut gallery. So in the course of a conversation about Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm —in which, you remember, he speculates about the last hours of the Andrea Gale—when the Pulitzer Prize-winning professor notes that Junger did his best to approximate what probably happened to the crew of the Andrea Gale, it is my responsbility to inform the class "it could've been witches." To wit: Scott: It could've been witches. Barry Siegel: But it probably wasn't. Scott: But it could have been. Barry Siegel: How would we know if it was? Scott: Look at her nose . . . Then hilarity would ensue and Siegel wouldn't be able to look at me the entire rest of the class period without turning bright red at the thought of this . (I sometimes blame the disappearance of Andrea Gale on wizards and ponies. This year I pinned it on witches. Note that I said "wizards and ponies," not "wizards on ponies." Everyone knows wizards on ponies are above reproach.) I am also responsible for taking attendence and keeping a watchful eye on students during the class. Today I saw a student a little too invested in typing every word Barry said. So I sent her an email which read: Subject: DON'T LAUGH! Dear [Student]: Your dignity depends on it. I know you see me staring you down . . . waiting for the slightest hint of a smile to crease your cheeks. Don't look up. Because I'm picking my nose. For you. Don't try to hold it in either. That'll only cause you to laugh even harder. I'll see your face contort as you attempt to suppress the laughter which will not let you deny its existence. It has a voice! It wants to be heard! DON'T LET IT! YOU CANNOT LAUGH! IF YOU LAUGH I WILL FORCE YOU TO WEAR THE BONNET OF SHAME! WHILE ON A PONY! WITH A WIZARD! NAMED "GREG"! OR POSSIBLY "JASON!" SO WHATEVER YOU DO: DON'T LAUGH!

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