Monday, April 25, 2011

Many thanks to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast and Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic blogs for linking to my recent editor's post over on Arcade. All no doubt due to the Bady Bump, for which Aaron, too, is due thanks.

I hope the extra exposure leads more academics to consider finding ways to think in public.

[Update 5/23: Thanks, also, to BookForum.]

Also: I must admit to feeling a little smug about getting a Marianne Moore line into circulation outside its usual territory. The 1924 version of "Poetry" forever!!
This week is going to be--I believe the term is--out of control.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Flapper [serial]. Chicago: Flapper Pub. Co., 1922. E Pam #7092, v.1 no.4 Library has: v.1 no.1, 3-4, 6-7.

"What the FLAPPER stands for: short skirts, rolled sox, bobbed hair, powder and rouge, no corsets, one-piece bathing suits, deportation of reformers, non-enforcement of Blue Laws, no censorship of movies, stage or the press, vacations with full pay, no chaperons, attractive clothes, the inalienable right to make dates, good times, [and] honor between both sexes." F, N, P, PA
There are few things as delightful as a good women's history collection.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Public Like a Frog

Over at the Arcade Editors' Blog, I've just posted some more of my usual ramblings about academic blogging. I may enlarge on the issues raised in the final paragraph at a later date, since they relate to teaching and some particular problems I want to solve.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I want to applaud UCLA Chancellor Gene Block's recent LA Times piece, which points out that the very politicians who are currently blandly countenancing massive cuts to California's Master Plan for higher education have gotten where they are now in part on the strength of their California public educations.
And what of the legislators who have refused Californians the right to decide whether they want to face such a scenario? Perhaps they will excuse me, but I detect a certain irony in their posture. A majority of them graduated from California's public universities and colleges, and greatly benefited from the high-quality, low-cost education they received.

Overall, two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate members attended a community college, Cal State or UC, many of them two or three of these institutions. These leaders, in other words, built their careers in public service upon the foundation of the state's esteemed Master Plan for Higher Education — now in tatters — that assured an education to every qualified student in California. Of the 42 Republicans in the Legislature — none of whom has yet to provide one of the two GOP votes needed in each chamber to put the tax extension on the ballot — 29 are products of the state's higher education system. They include the Senate and Assembly minority leaders — who attended Los Angeles Valley College and Fresno State, respectively — as well as the vice chairman of the Assembly's Higher Education Committee, who went to UC Irvine.
Those who once benefited from California's excellent, low-cost public higher ed system are hypocrites and worse if they won't maintain that system for today's qualified California students.

Friday, April 15, 2011

our eyes squinched up like bats

Hass, Robert. Sun Under Wood. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. 4.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Holloway Sampler: Environment, Domestic Labor, and Poetic Form (4/26)

My fellow Fellows, Brendan Prawdzik and Jessica Fisher, and I will be presenting new work on April 26, 4-5:30 pm, 300 Wheeler ("the media room"). Special thanks to Brendan for making the flier and telling me I didn't have to wander around Wheeler posting them.

Natalia Cecire, “Sentimental Spaces: On Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s Nest

Brendan M. Prawdzik, “Needlework, Gardening, & the Eco-Historical Imagination of Marvell’s Upon Appleton House

Jessica Fisher, Poems from her forthcoming book, Inmost

Should be a good time. Plus, free food.
"We need a vocabulary for," "we need terms for thinking through," "we need an ecology of," "we need an aesthetics/ethics/epistemology of."

I can see why one makes this gesture. But one is tempted to answer: If we need it, then make it. I propose this vocabulary for, I propose these terms for thinking through, etc.

It's easier said than done. But then, that's why it's more often said than done.

And if we need it, then we should get it, no?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I just spent ten minutes tidying up the links at right, adding a new section on digital publishing and archives. I think I may be missing a few things, but that's how it goes. I still can't bring myself to effect the inevitable migration to Wordpress, for some reason.

In other news, I'll be making a quick research trip to Duke next month to avail myself of their delightful women's history collections. Folks in the area, anything I should Absolutely Not Miss?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spotted on College Ave. the other evening. Natural light, blurry cell phone cam.

"TT" stands for "tenure-track," right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'll dig with it?

I already mentioned it on Twitter, but I'd just like to make another plug for Bethany Nowviskie's great post on data mining and gender, "What Do Girls Dig?"

I was actually slightly shocked to see the estimable Brett Bobley tweet that the organizers of Digging into Data had noticed the gender imbalance (of two women out of a total of thirty-three speakers!) and were scratching their heads over it.

Really? Not that keeping track of these things is Brett's full-time job, but didn't we just have this conversation about the VIDA stats? Aren't there standard, time-tested answers to these questions of which all people who care about equity are aware? Maybe I'm projecting, but I felt as though the many responses Brett received on Twitter included a strong subtext of "duh"--and rightly.

Tanya Clement's comment that highly educated, capable women often play important but disempowered roles in DH projects is spot on; as Brett writes, "The speakers are the project PIs." No kidding! As Katha Pollitt recently wrote in response to the VIDA stats (you know, that conversation we just had), "Women are often managing editors, a position with lots of work and not much power."

There are a lot of factors that contribute to these circumstances, as Bethany notes:
I'm sure that gender imbalance in this area has little to do with the "Digging into Data" process and more with broader issues, going all the way back (yes, that chestnut) to STEM education for girls in the public schools -- but mostly, I suspect, it is about the number of female academics both qualified and inclined to do this work, and who find themselves both at a stage of their careers and possessed of adequate collaborative networks to support their applications for such grants.

But to me, her most interesting observation was about the gendered language with which data-mining itself is often presented.
Although it wasn't really what I was going for, I respect my pals' advocacy, highlighted above, for funders' launching of an aggressive campaign to identify and mentor more women applicants for the "Digging into Data" program. And clearly there's institutional work to be done on the level of our schools, colleges, and universities. But personally, I feel less strongly about both of those things than I do about the need for the whole DH community to be as thoughtful as possible about the way we describe this kind of work -- the language we use.

I've heard three kinds of responses from female colleagues and students about the "Digging into Data Challenge." One (the rarest) is simple enthusiasm -- though it's interesting that presumably few women applied and none of their projects were compelling enough to fund. Another is trepidation: "Is this too hard-core? Involving too much math or statistical analysis I never learned? Do I understand the scholarly possibilities and have the support network I'd need?" In other words: this is a challenge. Am I competitive? (in every sense of that word).
As Micah Vandegrift commented on the post, "mining" is very much a gendered occupation! Add in the fact that the "digging into data challenge" sounds like some kind of extreme sport and you have a very odd rhetoric for scholarship.

The title of this post is of course a reference to Seamus Heaney's ode to masculine labor, "Digging." (Yes, I was forced to study this poem in high school. Mr. Lilley, you were cool, but no love for this one.)

The poem's speaker contemplates the pen that "rests[] snug as a gun" in his hand, contrasting it with the spades that his father and grandfather wielded in their work. There's a moment of anxiety as the speaker realizes, "I’ve no spade to follow men like them," before remembering that he has his pen. "I'll dig with it."

If you think you can hear Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar gently inquiring, "Is the pen a metaphorical penis?," Heaney pretty much hits you over the head with the answer, and, spoiler, it is "yes." The PIs (the speakers, the authors, the creators...) were all male? You don't say.

"By God, the old man could handle a spade./ Just like his old man." Seriously.

I'm on the fence about issuing the standard disclaimer about the good intentions and real efforts of Brett and the NEH to make equity a priority. This is a sort of cop-out solution, with my mini-sort-of-disclaimer here. Of course they are well intentioned and they do make real efforts. The NEH has done a lot to support digital humanities, and I'm thinking of them as the government prepares to shut down. This is not in any sense a personal criticism. But, institutionally speaking, two women speakers out of thirty-three is manifestly absurd, and having no notion about how to address it is also seriously odd. I find it disheartening that these disclaimers are still obligatory, because this is 2011, and we are long past the point where having good intentions but not good results yet is okay.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Speaking of periodization and time, here's a corporate interpretation thereof.
"Fashion flies away, style remains. Mexx. Style is Timeless."
Photo taken in downtown Vancouver with my trusty old-school cell phone. Notice the artful glare on the window.

The slogan is an eerily apt gloss on the way we talk about literary aesthetics now. What's the difference between a "fashion" ("Amygism"?) and a style ("period style"; "avant-garde")? "Fashion" is understood as, by definition, arbitrary and nonhistorical (that is, not consequential for history), even though recent modernist studies have paid a lot of attention to fashion (the clothing kind). Style, on the other hand, is something that influences what will come after, and therefore persists through history.

That's not, of course, to say that it's "timeless" (or, as the sign would have it, "Timeless"). For literary critics, style is historical; for Mexx, style transcends time and counteracts its force. Message: buy our clothes; you will never need to get rid of them because they transcend time.

YUP. Timeless.

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.