A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Grading grading grading grading grating!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Scrapping Pomo (But Keeping Some of the Parts)

In response to a recent review/defense/response exchange between Russell Jacoby and Eric Lott concerning Lott's book, The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual, Michael Bérubé is asking people to "explain universalism's comeback" (and postmodernism's decline).

I thought I'd pick up that ball and run with it here, not by explaining a resurgence of universalism, but rather by suggesting that the movement away from pomo theory in the academy need not entail a categorical rejection of its ideology. It's also, and in no uncertain terms, an argument for the value of rhetorical reading and analysis even of articulations of philosophical systems. The common formalist reading of postmodernism, after all (that it's "anything goes" relativism), is at least unhelpful and at most intellectually bankrupt. I've been thinking about this for a while, but I've yet to articulate in any formal way. Consider this entry the first step in doing so.

Postmodernism’s time probably has come, at least that brand of postmodernism given to such hyperbolic exclamations as when Lyotard, noting that some scientific innovations are ignored for being too radical a departure from normal science, writes: “Such behavior is terrorist . . . eliminating, or threatening to eliminate, a player from the language game one shares with him. He is silenced or consents . . . .” (Or when Baudrillard laments that “the territory no longer precedes the map.”) Such statements, accompanied by calls like Lyotard's to “wage a war on totality,” are easily read as overly-dramatic and as espousing a cynical, opportunistic relativism.

But if you read postmodernism not in this formal way, but, rather, from a rhetorical perspective that sees projects like those of Baudrillard, Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault as real responses to events and situations in a specific historical and cultural context, then it’s much easier to see the value of postmodern theory. In the 1960’s, WWII hadn’t ended that long ago, and scholars and laypeople alike, especially in Europe, were still struggling to work through its implications for life in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Not only that, but events like the Prague Spring and French student (and eventual general) strike of 1968 left many disillusioned with communism and “dramatized the failure of liberal institutions to deal with the dissatis­faction of broad masses of citizens” (Best and Kellner). In this light, the quirky, evasive, hyperbolic rhetoric (and attendant philosophy/anti-philosophy) of postmodern theory can be interpreted as a reasonable response to the prospect of an increasingly rigid, unresponsive, and oppressive global political economy.

And, so, while it makes sense now to rearticulate a collective politics (though I will stop short of advocating a new universalism), we ought not to summarily dismiss pomo and what it has to offer this new vision of collectivity. Namely it offers a politics of humility: it stands as a continual reminder that “collective” is never, and can never be, an all-encompassing term. It reminds us to look for the “them” that necessarily attends the “us” of collective political action, and to revise the terms by which we define “us” when it seems to have become unfairly or unnecessarily exclusionary.

Monday, April 17, 2006

You know your budget's tight when...

...your new favorite restaurant is Target. (All beef hot dog, $1.99; fountain drink, $.01; squeezing in lunch while picking up a 46-pack of Huggies...well, it is what it is.)'re excited because you found a $6.00 bottle of sauvignon blanc that tastes like a $9.00 bottle of sauvignon blanc. lose weight and choose to stab a new hole into your old belt rather than buy a new one--at Target.

Any other entries?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Atomic Energy (Se)Caucus

Why is Tony Soprano in Tehran talking about atomic energy? Seriously, though: Debbie's right.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What's in a Name?

Over at earth wide moth, Derek links to this image and caption. I always get a kick out of the name "Lance" as a fictional or hypothetical name, I guess because it's my name and the choice often doesn't seem to fit what I think of as a "Lance." Here are two of the funnier examples:

Homer Simpson, on gay men: "They ruined all our best names like Bruce and Lance and Julian. Those were the toughest names we had!"

Pilot of an airplane in distress in DeLillo's White Noise (inadvertently spoken over the plane's intercom): "'This is American two-one-three to the cockpit voice recorder. Now we know what it's like. It is worse than we ever imagined. They didn't prepare us for this at the death simulator in Denver. Our fear is pure, so totally stripped of distractions and pressures as to be a form of transcendental meditation. In less than three minutes we will touch down, so to speak. They will find our bodies in some smoking field, strewn about in the grisly attitudes of death. I love you, Lance.' This time there was a brief pause before the wailing recommenced. Lance? What kind of people were in control of this aircraft?"

Monday, April 10, 2006

Getting the Hang of It

I've been lurking among several academic blogs for the past year and a half (very occasionally commenting). Most of them are what you'd expect: regular to semi-regular posts mixing really interesting theoretical work in rhet/comp with more simple observations about things like daily life as an academic.

Thing is, it's easier said than done. The proverbial "blank page" feels especially blank, to me, at least, when I'm thinking I ought to post to my blog but haven't been inspired, or even dimly struck, by much of anything. I'm still new, of course, and I suppose I'll gradually, or, more likely, suddenly (since such things tend to display a "tipping point"-type behavior) start "thinking like a blogger." That is, I suspect I'll develop habits of thinking, acting, and writing that are conducive to good blogging. Until then, and even after, though, I'll continue to be impressed by bloggers who can post regularly and produce consistently clever, and often moving, writing.

I'll do my best.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Beginning

My wife, Lee, and I will be moving this summer. In 2003, she accepted a tenure-track position in the English Department (Professional Writing and Rhetoric concentration) at Elon University, where I then worked as an adjunct while finishing my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. I deposited last September and promptly began searching for a tenure-track position. So did Lee, mainly because we wanted to maximize our chances of getting positions within driving distance of each other. That there were essentially no positions available near our home in central NC--an easy drive from UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, and Duke, and a not too unreasonable drive from NC State and Wake Forest, among many other, smaller schools--isn't simply odd; it practically defies the laws of physics. So, while hopeful, we tried to be realistic: what were the odds, really, that we would both get decent-or-better jobs that were reasonably close to each other?

Pretty good, it turns out.

Somehow, unbelievably, we were both offered tenure-track assistant professorships in Bowling Green SU's Rhetoric and Writing Ph.D. program. When I say "unbelievably," I don't mean to be self-deprecating. I know both Lee and I were strong job candidates. But, jeez, we could have been rhet/comp's answer to the Curies and not have hoped for tenure-track jobs in the same department, much less in a really strong, well-respected Ph.D. program with a 2/2 load and a full nine hours closer to family in Chicago than we are now. (We'll only be 3 - 4 hours closer to my family in SW Missouri, but even that's the difference between an excruciatingly long day's drive or simply a day's drive.)

So, come the end of May, Lee and I will load up the PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage) unit, pile into the family truckster (ok, the Jetta) with our baby Olivia, and transfer our stuff and our lives to northwest Ohio.

We've moved before, so we know the drill, and we're more than excited about our new jobs. But, still, I just can't be as sanguine about moving as Michael Bérubé apparently is:

I actually kind of like moving, in some ways. . . . I like the physicality of it, the sheer clarity: you pick up furniture and put it in trucks, you sort through books and dishes and toys, you tally up all your longings and belongings and worries and debts. You are compelled to account for your every possession, however hideous or forgotten it may be.

First of all, if I want physicality, I can mow the lawn, go to the gym, or walk 18 holes. And the great thing is, it doesn't take 6 months and a posture-wrecking mix of hard labor and tedium to get back to normal after a round of golf. Second--clarity? I never figured Michael for the ducks-in-a-row type, but if what feels to me little more than cramming a houseful of Junk and Other Ebay Purchases into a zillion scavenged fruit and booze boxes feels to him like "[accounting] for every possession," then he must be. Who knew?

Still, I can't help being excited about the possibility that comes with moving, and with beginnings in general--the adventure, the challenge, the unvarnished newness of it all.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Under Construction

Thanks for stopping by. Check back in the next week or so for a more fully-formed blog.