Under the cascading sunshine in LA, amidst job interviewers in their Sunday best, the slovenly postures of their professors, and the complaints of waiters that teachers are the worst tippers, there was a sense of common purpose in the MLA: the teaching of literature and its role in our lives.
Another autumn and a whole stack of promotion and tenure files to look at. The phrase “gold standard,” attached to peer-reviewed articles, always strikes me. In the ladder of the evaluation process, the peer-reviewed article stands proudly and invincibly at the top. The more of these you have, the more unassailable your dossier.
There must be something right with a country, when your guide talks to you on your hike outside Bogota about his love for Llosa, Cortázar, Hemingway, Kazantzakis, and Tolstoy. And then at the end of the hike he asks for a list of novels and poets he should read!
Am I living in the wrong country or what?
The glaze in their eyes gives it away, the slight tightening of their lips, and the nervous breath. When colleagues learn about my new project, they begin to feel sorry for me. “Why friendship of all subjects?” It’s seems quaint to them or just light; in any case, not a legitimate object of inquiry.
You sit in your office annoyed that your students were surfing the web during your lecture. And now your friend calls while he chomps away at his chicken sandwich. Outside your window a dad nudges his son’s stroller with his belly while texting. And your daughter complains that recess has been reduced to one ten-minute period.
“Machu Picchu,” my friend said, “I hitchhiked there from California in 1971. When we made our way to the site, it was deserted so we camped the night among the ruins.” Her description is vastly different from my own experience this month when I hiked there with my two sons, a nephew and a friend.
The novel keeps on dying and new obituaries come in every day. The most recent, Lee Siegel’s “Where have all the Mailers gone?” (The New York Observer June 22, 2010), shows one more time that to write about the novel today you have to adopt an elegiac tone.
“What? We fought the war for nothing? We suffered so much just for a phantom?”
Are these the furious questions of an anti-war protester? A returning Iraq veteran? A disillusioned President Obama? No --Euripides wrote these lines more than two thousand years ago in his play, Helen, a work that cries out about the tricks played on soldiers by the powerful.
People who cite Derrida often don’t know the work of James Wood and those who love Wood can’t stand Derrida. Why the divide?
Your sister texts you that her daughter’s theater class has been cancelled because of budgetary cutbacks. A colleague from King’s College London writes that his position in Italian Renaissance Literature will be “made redundant” due to low enrollments.