(3) The theory canon seems to have closed, a little like the opera canon, or Scripture. I finished my Ph.D. in 2000, the same year that Hardt and Negri's Empire was published. Since then, judging at least by these 520 files, no new name has emerged that has rock star-like charisma or widely-worshipped intellectual oomph. You hear a great deal about Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Homi Bhabha, Walter Benjamin, Gloria Anzaldua, and other thinkers who were already staples of "Introductions to Literary Theory" courses back in the mid-1990s. Otherwise, the name dropping has become quite field specific. Insofar as one can identify any new profession-wide theoretical trends, they tend to position themselves at the intersections between literary study and psychology or the natural sciences. Arriba trauma studies, affect studies, ecocriticism, and cognitive poetics! Oh, image-text relations are also huge. Generally as a pretext for analyzing The Watchmen, Maus, or Neil Gaiman's Sandman comix. Or to talk about World of Warcraft.UCLA gets its first shot of post-Braudelian, Postmamboist perspective tomorrow.
(4) A surprisingly large number of students and professors maintain that we have moved into a new literary period, variously called post-postmodern, post-9/11, or post-ironic. There also appears to be a truly remarkable degree of agreement concerning the Great Books of the present day: Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Blood Meridian, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Thomas Pynchon, too, is cited over and over as the harbinger and presiding genius of the New Period. I've read these books (including all of Pynchon's novels), but I never expected the emergence of such a matter-of-fact way of narrating the present moment in US literature, and I certainly would never have selected such a narrow, narrow cast of characters to represent the 21st century. Heck, this list doesn't even include David Eggers or William Vollman, neither of whom, despite their obvious points of contact with Wallace et al, were mentioned by a single applicant. If advocates of a diverse curriculum don't want to end up fighting old battles all over again, they might want to hurry up and generate a counter- or alternative narrative PDQ. Please! I don't want to have to read twenty more ecofeminist critiques of The Road next year, too.
Friday, March 12, 2010
This Is Why Academia Needs Postmamboism
Someone needs to inform Brian Reed, MA/Ph.D. program at the University of Washington, of Postmamboism. It could cheer him immensely, providing a whole new perspective for scholarly work post Postmodernism.