Back home and already behind
Happy New Year, everyone. I’ve decided, for now, to cave in to Christian pressure and agree to call this year “2006,” though you and I know the truth.
Janet and I attended the Modern Language Association convention in Washington, DC from December 27-30, and we got back to State College late on the 30th. It was a milestone conference for us, not because of anything about the conference itself but because Nick took care of Jamie for four straight days, driving him home from Connecticut to Pennsylvania (along with Lucy the Dog) and then being a good big brother despite getting the Cold that Was Going Around, and despite the fact that, shall we say, Nick’s sleeping habits and Jamie’s are usually out of sync by six to eight hours.
If you want some sense of what I was doing with my time in Washington, you can check here and here (it was as if all my waking hours on December 29 were covered by Inside Higher Ed—and wow, what a severe wingnut infestation in the comments on that first article!) . I’ll post my own report on the MLA later this week; it’s not very gossipy and it won’t say anything about the panels I attended (only two), because I spent most of my time working with the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee, and I have a front-row report (for those of you who are interested) on why the issue of the NYU graduate student strike didn’t make it to the Delegate Assembly floor.
While we were at the MLA, Nick called and told us that as he was driving Jamie to the movies, the Subaru (the snow car) began to overheat and smoke. That was bad. We told him to use the Passat for now, even though it’s not very good in snow. When we got back, we discovered that the Subaru was completely out of oil and antifreeze, and the Passat’s front tires were badly worn. So far, then, 2006 has been the Year of Overdue Car Maintenance. For Janet, anyway. I came home to find a big surprise on the doorstep: the copyedited version of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?, with a cover letter asking me to read through the manuscript, respond to all editorial queries, check all the urls in footnotes for broken links, and double-check all the quoted passages for accuracy.
And to return the thing by January 3.
So I’ve been in manic copyediting mode since New Year’s Eve, taking only a few hours’ break on the Eve for traditional Eve activities. Just the way to start the new year! No oil in the car and a 350-page ms. festooned with dozens of orange and pink stickies asking me to rephrase here, resolve an ambiguity there, and provide a full reference in the other place.
I’ll be back when this monster is done. And then I’ll start preparing my first-ever course on disability studies!
On the two Inside Higher Ed articles, the wingnuts in comments on the first one looks to me like one Horowitz employee wielding a bunch of sock puppets. When you have a large budget, it’s an easy tactic to hire a few guys whose full-time jobs are to systematically poison all public online discussion of an issue, just as they have PR people who send in letters to the editors of newspapers.
For the second one, the idea of restricting people to an absolute maximum of six tenure letters was something that might have come straight out of Fred Hirsch’s _Social Limits To Growth_. I recommend that book all the time, probably too much, but many of its ideas are critical for these discussions of what to do when more and more people become capable of competing for a socially limited number of high-status positions.Posted by on 01/02 at 10:58 AM
Have a happy New Year Michael, once you get the decks cleared of editing tasks.
In the meantime, allow me to blogwhore a seasonal political recipe from my homeland.Posted by rev.paperboy on 01/02 at 11:18 AM
Regarding the course on disability studies: would you consider making the syllabus available to us? I’d really like to see the reading list.Posted by on 01/02 at 11:22 AM
Would you consider making the syllabus available to us?
Sure thing! I just have to finish putting it together myself. . . .
And Rich, thanks for the Hirsch ref. I’m pleased that the six-letters thing seems to have struck a chord (people were buzzing about it the next day); this is one area in which the elite schools (and those that aspire to join their ranks) truly have skewed the system and devalued the currency. When you have a tenure committee asking for 15-20 letters per candidate, you’ve got Weimar-era inflation on your hands. And, as I said at the panel, it’s as if the higher a university’s place in the pecking order, the less it trusts the judgment of its own faculty reviewers.
Rev.: mmmm, tortiere.Posted by on 01/02 at 11:42 AM
And don’t forget, in preparing your disability studies course, about the special section of the March 2005 PMLA with the papers from the Emory/MLA conference on disability studies and the university:
How could you forget? You are in it!
Single copies can be purchased for $12 each. Contact . If your library receives the electronic verison of PMLA, students can read the papers that way, too.
This message brought to you as a public service by your friendly colleague at the MLA.Posted by on 01/02 at 12:31 PM
As one who tried to get the NYU resolution to the Delegate Assembly floor, I’m very much looking forward to your account of the deliberations of the Organizing Committee.
If I can be so bold, here’s my take on the NYU situation.
Sincere thanks for all your help in Washington…Posted by Asad Raza on 01/02 at 01:57 PM
Happy New Year to you Michael. The MLA looked interesting. I too am interested to hear your take on its failure to support the NYU strikers. That is a really disreputable inaction on the organization’s part. Anyway…Posted by on 01/02 at 02:10 PM
Asad Raza, there is something odd about the language of cultural studies used to describe the picket line. I quote from your piece:
“The picket line, with its chanting, drumming, singing - in short, its performativity - is by its nature often carnivalesque [...] Even so, analyzed as a cultural form, the picket line performs an important function: it inscribes and instantiates the strike both to observers and in the minds and bodies of those striking. As Louis Althusser might have said, it “interpellates” (roughly, allows the self-recognition of) those who take part, and thus functions as a radicalizing action.”
By describing a labor action as a cultural rather than an economic phenomenon, don’t you implicitly support the university’s attempt to infantilize the workers? This description makes it all about self-definition rather than the struggle for adequate pay and worker representation in the workplace.
And I’m sorry after writing that to go ahead and refer to a movie, but the first rule of radicalization is that you don’t talk about radicalization. As an organizer, you recognize what kinds of events will make it happen, set things up so that when it happens it won’t get people hurt, and prepare for the reaction afterwards. But neither the people who have yet to be radicalized nor the people observing the conflict really will be thrilled by the idea that one rationale for the event is radicalization.
Best wishes on the success of your efforts.Posted by on 01/02 at 02:32 PM
Next time, write a shorter book. If you don’t include URLs, you don’t have to check for brokenness. Optionally, a big fat check from Scaife would allow you to hire D Ho’s assistants to help. You just need to change the title to “Missing children and Fat Liberals, just a coinicidence?”Posted by on 01/02 at 03:29 PM
I was distinguishing between the picket line and the strike itself - the picket line being a performative instantiation of the strike. That the labor action is an economic phenomenon was the point of my piece. The NYU admininstration likes to think of it as a kind of grad student lark, and I was trying to point out how that obscures the underlying grievances. I’m sorry not to have made it clear enough.
I take your point about radicalization - I suppose I was writing more in my capacity as an observer than as an organizer.
Thanks for the well-wishes.
AsadPosted by on 01/02 at 04:10 PM
I must speak in praise of the poor misbegotten Subaru. Having been a Subaru fantic (and a huge lover of the Pleiades-M45 cluster) for more than 25 years[from the early 80’s USSA station wagon to my latest version of the WRX], i have experienced my share of similar operator errors. They, the vehicles, have an amazing tolerance for running on too little oil, and will suffer such indignities far longer than they need. They are also worthy of repair--indeed replacing the engines is neither too expensive nor too difficult--enabling many more fine years of devoted winter service.
I also have to agree with Rich’s take on the wingnuts commentary; how many times do we have to read “unreconstructed stalinist” to recognize the same talking point regurgitations. Welcome back to the blogsphere, you were missed.Posted by on 01/02 at 04:13 PM
As an editor, I must commend you for your alacritous reaction to a short deadline. Many authors interpret a 48-hour deadline as a vague suggestion that they might wish to take a glance at their work sometime in the next few weeks. The handful of authors who actually meet deadlines (or apologize that they will require one extra day, if they could pretty, pretty please be allowed a little more time) always warm my heart…Posted by Orange on 01/02 at 05:26 PM
From the second article linked: “Also, the panel will call on departments to stop asking these reviewers whether they would vote for tenure for the person at their institution.”
This boggles my mind. A clan, in deciding if someone is to become a permanent member—perhaps a faculty’s most important decisions and at some institutions, one of the few over which it exerts substantial control—asks members of other clans what they would do.
January 3 of what year?Posted by on 01/02 at 06:44 PM
Oh my heart goes out to you on the quick turn-around of the manuscript. One of these days in the next few months I’ll be feeling your pain!
And I, too, would like to see your syllabus for the Disabilities Studies class.
Welcome back to Blogland and Happy New Year.Posted by Dr. Virago on 01/02 at 07:59 PM
Just wanted to tell you I enjoyed your essay.
You are very blessed to have such a remarkable child…
ThereseAnn (mom to Natalia, Trisomy 13- 5 yrs.)Posted by ThereseAnn Siegle on 01/02 at 11:25 PM
Well here’s a funny (odd, not haha) coincidence - tomorrow I’m off to the AALS, which is basically the MLA for law profs, also in DC. Was supposed to be in New Orleans this year, but hopefully will be again soon. Anyway, I suspect the same horrifying hotel configuration hosts both, so I’m wondering if y’all left us any oxygen? :>Posted by Ann Bartow on 01/02 at 11:30 PM
A Subaru without an oil leak is no Subaru at all.Posted by The Heretik on 01/03 at 12:24 AM
Happy New Year, Michael ~
All my best to you and yours ~ including your forsaken automotive souls. May god have mercy upon them...? Alas, if 2006 brings nothing else, perhaps perchance it may bring mercy upon my very own beloved Jeep Cherokee . . .
I can do a lot of things, but keeping a car healthy ain’t one of ‘em…
~ janson.Posted by Janson on 01/03 at 03:11 AM
Belated but whole-hearted wishes for a wonderful new year for you and yours, Michael. Looking forward to the new book. At the risk of becoming known as “the gusher” here, being able to get the “Bérubé” experience on a weekly basis, rather than waiting for months or years between articles and books, has been an undreamed of delight. (I had to find a way to get that Bérubé in; I finally figured out where to find that damn “accent aguié,” is it, on my computer.)
Count me in as someone looking forward to seeing that Disability Studies reading list, too. Might Nancy Mairs appear on it, I wonder? She’s a personal favorite writer, and discovering her work at a crucial moment in my own life proved to be, well, “inspiring,” if I dare use a word, even wrapped in those scare quote marks, that is understandably eschewed by many in the disability community, and often creeps me out, too, but I don’t know what other word to use…Posted by Leah A on 01/05 at 03:08 PM
"I was distinguishing between the picket line and the strike itself - the picket line being a performative instantiation of the strike.”
Posted by Asad Raza
This is changing the subject, but why would a person use the term ‘performative insubstatiation’? Why not ‘tangible part’? Why not ‘public part’?Posted by on 01/05 at 03:08 PM