Saturday, April 2, 2011

I wrote briefly about my ACLA seminar on periodization yesterday over at my course blog (part of my campaign to make it clearer to students what it is that I do all day). Today's papers by Claire Bowen, Colin Gillis, Nathan Suhr-Sytsma, and Angela Naimou were excellent. Claire's paper in particular responded to some of the points raised in yesterday's session, particularly the papers by Jordan Zweck and myself, and was therefore of great interest to me. Claire provocatively asked why the term "generation" becomes pervasive in the twentieth century, pointing to patterns in that terminology and the tendency of poets of the twentieth century to begin to appropriate the voice of a generation. As with yesterday's session, we were sorry to end the discussion.

Let me go on record with my belief that this seminar format works very well.


Ryan Shaw said...

Will the papers from this seminar be made available in some form? I am very interested in periodization. I've been thinking about ways to make periodization judgments more explicit in order to (for example) compare how they've changed over time.

Natalia said...

Hey, Ryan! I could probably hook you up with notes or better backchannel, if you're interested, but you may be looking for some more, er, established voices. In that case, I'd recommend the ACLS e-book based on the English Institute's recent meeting on periodization, which among other things allows one to behold the greatness of Katie Trumpener.

The other thing to look at is MLQ's special issue [Muse paywall] Periodization: Cutting Up the Past 62.4 (December 2001).

Obviously these are both rooted in literary studies and literary history and are informed by literary as well as philosophical concerns.

You raise a very interesting notion--if I'm reading you rightly, you're interested in "folk" periodizations, or rather the kinds of periodizations whose debts to and interactions with with academic history are unclear. In that case, I would say to look no further than Claire Bowen's inquiry into "generations" as a periodizing concept -- apropos of which, you probably saw Ben Schmidt's recent and very interesting blog post on the differences in word usage when you sort by year of publication versus by authorial birth-date (or, in his term, "generation").

Anyway, I'd love to stay in the loop on what you do with this!

Ryan Shaw said...

Thanks for the references. My reading on periodization has been heavily biased towards (non-literary) history and philosophy of history, so I'm glad to get some different perspectives.

I am interested in "folk" periodizations, but not only in those. I guess I'm interested in the interplay among scholarly periodizations, canonical periodizations (i.e. as found in syllabi) and popular conceptions. I'm fascinated by Paul Veyne's notion of the "eventworthy field" which is structured by the narratives that track through it, and the idea that certain paths become so well-trod that their intersections become obligatory "points of interest." I feel that period boundaries are something like this.

Claire's paper sounds very interesting. Marc Bloch writes a bit about generations as organizing concepts in The Historian's Craft:

"Despite the Pythagorean dreams of certain authors, it is obvious that the periodicity of the generations is by no means regular. As the rhythm of social change is more or less rapid, the limits contract or expand. There are, in history, some generations which are long and some which are short. Only observation enables us to perceive the points at which the curve changes its direction."