Daily Archives: August 4, 2010

What’s Wrong with the New York Times, Ctd [Updated]


Maureen Dowd goes cougar — and draws a paycheque for reproducing an email exchange.  Again.

Evidently there’s nothing else going on in the entire world this week.


This would maybe make a nice piece for EW or the TV Guide, but what the flying fuck is it doing on the Op-Ed page of the most (rightly or wrongly) respected newspaper in the fucking world?

Update: Going through the readers’ comments on Dowd’s column this morning, I noticed that someone had observed that the whole thing reads like an “inadvertantly hilarious horror movie” conceived and directed by Woody Allen.  When I went back a little later to retrieve the comment in order to post it here, it had been deleted.  The Times has to work very hard to make Dowd appear to be a relevant something-or-other (political pundit?? arbiter of taste?? cultural critic?? “humorist”??) and apparently had second thoughts about a comment that was perhaps a little too close to the truth.

Quote of the Day: “Defining Prosperity Down”


Paul Krugman picks up on what is becoming obvious: the creation of a permanent underclass so that the very very very very very very rich don’t have to pay higher taxes.

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Centre for Comparative Literature: Why the Centre Matters


It seems that hardly a moment goes by when I am not thinking about the Centre, as we often call it.  The Centre is in many ways a home away from home.  It is the home for misfits, or undisciplined disciples, and yet it is a home also for those disciples of the undisciplined discipline, where misfits fit in.  This is the wonderful paradox of the Centre.

I am reminded of Proust who so eloquently speaks of “inversion” in Sodom and Gomorrah to explain sexuality.  The Centre is, in many ways, an inverted discipline that looks into itself and from that inward perspective turns outward.  I think I can confidently say that there is no one at the Centre with whom my academic interests overlap.  Sure, there are people who work on English, French, Hispanic, and Portuguese literatures, and there are people who read the same theoreticians and critics as I do.  But the overlap is only insofar as we may have read the same theorist, and we often read texts in the same languages.  That is about as far as our shared experience ever goes.  We do not have students studying “Shakespeare,” as might be the case in the national literatures.  When we study “postcolonial literature,” it is not limited to one “linguistic” commonality; instead, readers are asking how “postcoloniality” compares across the spectrum.

In a recently offered course at the Centre, simply called “Proust,” we read In Search of Lost Time.  That was the extent of our shared expectations.  The students and the professor read the same text.  We all had different goals, readings, critical approaches, and, indeed, because of the experimental pedagogy, we all had very different assignments.  But what was remarkable about this course was that it was a collection of students from very different backgrounds and disciplines.  And this is what really illustrates the point of the Centre.

This course, like any other course, the Dean would have us believe, can be taught in any “national” literature program.  This may, indeed, be the case.  The course itself can be taught elsewhere in the same way that Proust can be taught by any number of different people in any number of different ways.  But — and this is my point — the people who take the course will be very different.  I have never been in a course at the Centre where the entire course was comprised of comparatists.  This is why the Centre matters.  It allows for the undisciplined and the disciplined to come together and consider a single text or a single problem from multiple perspectives.  The Dean and the Strategic Planning Committee may insist that courses can be taught in their “home” departments (and this is ultimately not the case at all), but what they cannot argue is that the approaches, the methods, and the ideas that arise from these courses will be the same as in these “home” departments.  This is one of the problems that the Dean and the SPC have yet to resolve, and one that they seem unwilling to address.

French Revolution


Sketch by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath.

On this date in 1789 members of the revolutionary National Constituent Assembly took an oath to ban feudalism and abandon their privileges.

Frye in “The Question of ‘Success'”:

One of the prominent figures in the French Revolution was asked what he did, what he achieved in the French Revolution, and he said: “J’ai servécu” — I survived. (CW 7, 300)