Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter Break To Do List

Count this list as a combination public-accountability statement, and an opening to make suggestions.

[Update: I have no idea what happened to the formatting here, and I can't fix it. Sorry.]


- Call/write Professor who sent out that CFP for 5-7 *minute* papers, and make sure that wasn't a typo. 'Cause, geez!

- Work on abstracts for 1) that 5-7 minute thing that I'm really hoping will be 5-7
pages, 2) Heroic Age CFPs for June and January, and 3) no holds-barred grad
conference at my alma mater.

- Speak to substitute-wranglers at local public schools. Travel takes money, ya

Less time-sensitive:

- Finish up Wheelock and get started on the Oxford Latin Reader.

- Find a person Fluent in German. Bribe him/her to speak with me for a couple of
hours a week. (Don't want to lose my German)

- Get a grip on theory.
- Read Eagleton's book.
- Swipe undergrad Intro to theory syllabus from friend who TAs that course.
- Using syllabus as a guide, read selected bits in the Norton anthology.
- Go on a quest for any other "Idiot's guide to literary theory" I can find.
- I suppose Said and Foucault will have to be a part of this, but Derrida makes
me queasy and Spivak makes me cry. So, starter theory then.

- Swipe area exam reading lists from other universities (people who do the PhD here
make their own), begin compiling the Medieval and Renaissance stuff I need to
read for eventual quals and/or simple self-respect as a medievalist. (I've
already read many of the things on the lists I can find, but there are still

Actually, I'd be happy to get about 1/2 of that done. Eh, we'll see.


meg said...

My xmas break is going to be all theory (and probably at least a month's worth of blog entries as well). I've been grousing about our dept. not offering enough theory, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and teach an intro theory class.

Now, if you knew me, you'd be blowing coffee out your nose about now, because I am NOT a theoryhead. But as one of my colleagues says (probably just to make me feel better), that makes me the perfect person to teach the intro.

Anyway, I decided on Bennett & Royle's *Intro to Literature, Criticism, and Theory*, which is organized by topic rather than -ism. Very readable as well as provocative. Plus it's what Peggy Kamuf uses to teach her intro class!

Also helpful in my preparation has been Jonathan Culler's VSI volume -- you know, those little Oxford Very Short Introduction books. Meg-Bob sez check it out.

Dr. Virago said...

I second the recommendation of Culler's VSI to Theory, especially as a precursor to reading the primary texts in the Norton Anthology of Theory. Culler is a *hoot* and the book will fit in your pocket. What more do you want?! :)

Bardiac said...

Hi Heo,

I have two theory reading suggestions. The first is an essay called "The Traffic in Women" by Gayle Rubin. I'd be happy to email you a pdf if you drop me a note. It originally appeared in a volume called *Toward and Anthropology of Women*.

I think Rubin does a terrific job using Levi-Strauss and Marx/Engels to ask some serious and still timely feminist questions about the way we organize ourselves as a society.

The second suggestion is a book called *The Purloined Poe*. In it, the editors (Mehlman, I think, is one; my copy's at school and I'm not) do a GREAT job setting up a series of essays about Poe's short story "The Purloined Letter." You get to read Marie Bonapart's Freudian reading, then Lacan's reading, and Derrida's response to Lacan, and finally Barbara Johnson's response to Derrida.

The introductions to the theoretical essays are incredibly helpful, and each of the essays really brings out the power of a particular theoretical mode. Johnson, especially, helps me realize the power of deconstruction's attempts to question meta-narratives such as Freud's.

Good luck with your project!

Rachel said...

If you haven't already come across it, I'd recommned Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide pub. by Routledge. No primary texts, but an excellent overview of the modes and methods. And readable!

Also - I've only found your blog recently, and as a recent PhD in Old English who actually got a job (and just finished teaching my first semester of Old English to other people!) I want to assure you that it can be done with dignity intact. You don't have to sell out to theory, despite what your program might say to you. Theory is interesting, but not as an end in itself, in my biased opinion.

Good luck with your program and future!

HeoCwaeth said...

Wow! Great suggestions, thanks.

I actually have a copy of the VSI to Theory, but was sort of afraid of what I would find in such a very small book. (Left-over neurosis from dead language study, I think. If it doesn't make my ears bleed, it must not be right.)

Bardiac, the Rubin essay would be fantastic, thanks. You'll be hearing from me. I think the Poe book was a fantastic idea, too. Maybe seeing all these theories in conversation with a single text and each other will make them more real for me.

There are departments that don't offer *enough* theory? Wow! Me, I'm in the Edward Said/Jacques Derrida sleep-away camp, now with Spivak.

Welcome! (I'm totally jealous that you get to teach OE!) A friend of mine, a fellow medievalist and non-theoryhead, has vowed to make sure I don't 'cross over' and leave her alone. Not that I think there's much danger of that. I've just become offended by my own ignorance of the topic.

meg said...

Yeah, I know -- weird, isn't it? Until recently, my department would have been happy for me to teach OE every semester and cover theory (all theory, mushed up into a pellet) every two or three years. All that is changing though, and not just because of my incessant ranting.

clanger said...

Perhaps it is time we all stopped feeling like second class citizens in our own faculty. 'Literary' theory has very little to do with literature. It is mostly linguistic theory, occupying our faculty simply because we let it.

We deal in texts-artificial constructs. We are textual critics. The theorists are to us, as surgeons are to fashion designers. Useful when we need them, but hardly relevant to the day to day business of what we do.

After 50 years of occupation, Clanger feels that it is time to kick them out and send them back to their own departments.

If you don't do textual criticism, or develop theoretical and methodological approaches to textual criticism based upon actually doing such criticism, yu aren't welcome any more. You don't belong here, sharing our limited grants, eating our biscuits, or distracting our students from textual criticism.

Much of the linguistic and philosophical theory dumped in our faculty in fat chunks of poorly written, turgid, and metaphorical prose is irrelevant to what we do, and much of it is simply smoke and mirrors: 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'.

If any of your students wrote criticism as poorly, with as little clarity or focus as Derrida writes theory, you would fail them.

Surely it is time we rose up, broke our chains, and reclaimed our department for our own subject.

We are textual critics. We study texts: poetry, prose, drama, song, and film. We develop approaches to this based upon our practical experiences of actually doing it. We are not blind to the work of others in other faculties, but there is no reason we should be their slaves, accept their doctrines as gospel, or worship them.

We can stand on our own two feet, and should no longer tolerate the occupation of our academic turf by those from other disciplines.

Print off some banners reading 'Textual Criticism' and paste them all over your faculty building. Cold shoulder the theorists, and actively condemn them to your students.

Cullen is flawed and too indulgent with the theorists, but no more than others. Clanger will write more on this soon.

We have a lot of real textual criticism to do, and we don't need our department cluttered up with linguists, philosophers, and other freeloaders. It is time we had the courage of our convictions and some belief in what we do. Textual criticism is a noble and valuable academic discipline.

The revolution begins here.

Cry freedom.