2 November 2020

Dear Everyone:

I hope you were able to attend one of the events we held last Friday – the prospectus workshop and the faculty book publication session – not only because of the super helpful insights and advice offered, but also and equally importantly, because they modeled the kind of intellectual and collegial generosity that, I believe, we collectively wish were the dominant forms of being in the world.

The prospectus workshop, deftly organized and led by Nancy Silverman, allowed us to learn from Param Ajmera, Caroline Reitz, Jacob Aplaca, and Sara Akant, who variously and so engagingly informed and reminded us of the peculiarities of the prospectus – its unknownness as a genre before the doing of it, the manifold ways in which it might be approached contingent on interests and committees, and how it may be helpful to conceive of the prospectus as offering a “plausible fiction” (Jacob) of the project yet-to-come, as well as the importance of both recognizing and marking what is “beyond the scope” of the project being proposed (Caroline).  Everyone’s willingness to share both the things that worked well and the hiccups along the way evinced the kind of generosity that all of you practice…

…and that’s very much true as well of Tanya Agathocleous, Ashley Dawson, Peter Hitchcock, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Mark McBeth, who offered a lovely taste of recent book projects (click on their names for which books) – of how they came to be and what they hope to do. At the prospectus workshop, Caroline encouraged us to remember when (around thinking about what ideas and questions) it is that we were most excited, in conceiving of the core of a major project like a dissertation; the importance of that sticky joy, the animating idea or question, percolated throughout this discussion, too. They spoke of the deep pleasures of sinking into new fields of knowledge, and of the driving force that injustice can be, and of the long arc of an intellectual itinerary, and of how the self is always if to varying degrees of deliberate exposure implied and present and produced through writing, and of how writing cannot but take place within the context of widely differentially distributed  (too little) time and (too much) work. The projects and exigencies and archives and routes are super heterogeneous, and yet and still common to all is an inspiring sense of writing as the practice of relationality – variously, between and among self, word, world, object, other, others who came before, others to come after.

These sessions concluded what was for me an especially attenuating week, and so I was especially grateful for the inspiration and collectivity; huge thanks to all, personally and on behalf of us all.

We don’t have a Friday Forum scheduled for this week, as it seemed election results might overshadow anything planned, but please take note of the Friday Forum for 13 November, 4p, featuring Professor Supritha Rajan.  Details and registration link are here, with thanks to Kent Yuen for those arrangements.

There’s a meme flying around the virtual worlds that notes, “next week will be exhausting.”  I don’t think this can be turned into a meme, but I’ve had the first line of Mong-Lang’s poem “Elegy” keeping me company these days – “& what if hope crashes through the door what if” – together,

next week will be exhausting

& what if hope crashes through the door what if

Let’s together hang on to the what if, yes?  Updates and information in next week’s message.

With abundant gratitude and well wishes, as ever,


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