As I write, night is falling slowly and heavily, like a train gaining momentum gracelessly. It’s easy to feel sleepy when I come home after the all-day heat, which still lingers in the house, but I eat dinner early and make myself go for a walk, the better to sit down afterwards to prep for class tomorrow morning.
I grew up partly in a college town, and I’ve been around college campuses most of my life. One of my favorite times of year is this late-summer empty moment that happens after summer sessions finish and before classes start for the fall. It’s peaceful; you get a clearer view of the space.
Here’s what Whittier College looks like this time of year.
Seem to be on a translation kick. Translating is good for me; it makes me read much more closely than I would otherwise.
I recently came across the very curious Europhilosophie, which seems to group together a number of philosophy working groups (on Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bergson, Fichte, phenomenology, materialism, and psychoanalysis, among others). An acquaintance of mine, doing a thesis on the situationists, is part of the Groupe de Recherches Matérialistes. It turns out that members of this group offer seminars in various places. For your entertainment I therefore present the course description for a seminar on “Reading Marx/Readings of Marx” (Lecture(s) de Marx). It will be offered next fall at the (very philosophically prestigious) Ecole Normale Supérieure.
Three recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed deal with the politics of literary theory and the importation of French post-structuralist thought into the U.S. Jeffrey Williams, in “Why Today’s Publishing World is Reprising the Past,” examines a recent trend towards reprinting famous classics of yesterday’s theory scene — Fredric Jameson, Jonathan Culler, Gayatri Spivak, and the like. “The era of theory was presentist, its stance forward-looking. Now it seems to have shifted to memorializing its own past,” he comments. He explains this partly as the shift from “revolutionary,” unsettled science to the successful institution of a new “theory” paradigm, partly as a result of decreased financial support and increasingly precarious jobs in the humanities. But what seems interesting to me is the shift in temporal orientation itself. Academics play with time in so many ways. Sometimes memorializing the past becomes a strategy for making intellectual progress in the present. Other times, the fantasy of a radical break with the past is the occasion for reproducing the past without knowing it.