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The Academy

In Thrall

In Thrall

How can we get closer to the wounded belly of the world?

Choose your own birth adventure: either you come out of a dark vagina or an iridescent anus. Taking over for Spinoza, the receding figure who is always with us, Kafka laughs at the childishness of a second creation story. In his work, the animal speaks while the human is, ultimately, struck dumb by anal bureaucracies of his own making. Legal fictions estrange humans from each other and create, in the most sensitive souls, fissures that never heal.

Circle of Visibility

Circle of Visibility

The familiar shadow of American self-realization

What is the remedy for dropping a bomb on fellow human beings, allowing their homes and the homes of their neighbors to burn to the ground, shooting at those trying to escape the fire, giving near life sentences to the survivors, and then, covertly, keeping the bones of those who died in the attack as trophies? What is the remedy for the creation and maintenance of the carceral state?

Said of the Sixties

Said of the Sixties

Revising Said’s “out of place” self-image is a project worth pursuing further

Although Brennan’s book prioritizes Said’s English-department dramas, his longstanding anti-militarism is arguably at least as interesting a thread to follow, and one that seems destined to stay interesting longer.

On Harold Bloom

1930–2019

This was one of Bloom’s gifts, to hear in any single work many voices. Poems were not themselves. A voice was not just one voice. And Bloom as Falstaff was not Bloom either, only a mask, a shadow: “I call to the mysterious one who yet / Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream / And look most like me, being indeed my double, / And prove of all imaginable things / The most unlike, being my anti-self, / And standing by these characters disclose / All that I seek”—that’s Yeats, whose theory of antithetical characters was one of the sources to Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence.

Orthodoxxed!

Orthodoxxed!

On “Sokal Squared”

Even where they exist as departments, fields like gender studies are less institutionalized, more poorly-resourced, and more disadvantaged in hiring, promotion, and funding compared to mainline counterparts like psychology—doubly disadvantaged in the case of even newer fields like fat studies, also targeted in the hoax. They also tend to employ more women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, whose individual marginalization is compounded by the structure of academic institutions. The low impact factor of most of the journals that published the hoaxers’ papers testifies not just to the barrel-scraping to which they were reduced when more prestigious journals rejected them, but also to the struggle their fields face in the broader academic community. This is to be lamented, not celebrated, for these fields do in fact produce valuable and effective scholarship.

Ordinary Faithfulness

Ordinary Faithfulness

Stanley Cavell, 1926–2018

Philosopher Stanley Cavell, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard, who died on June 19 at age 91, published his first book, Must We Mean What We Say?, during the strike. The book’s essays cover a broad range of subjects, from modernist music and Beckett’s Endgame to Kierkegaard and King Lear. But one area—political theory—is noticeably absent. And yet, two essays, which were composed over the course of the ’60s, speak directly to the most pressing political issues of the decade: civil rights and the war in Vietnam.