16 November 2020

Dear Everyone:

At MoMA right now, there’s an exhibit that focuses on drawing – more specifically, on line. I spent some time there during my foray into NYC, captivated in part by its suggestion to return to foundations, to basics – pen/pencil and paper – and how and why the necessity of doing so is so strikingly present in the thick now – to create shape anew and to create new shapes, to allow form to emerge. The reminder resonated with something Professor Tanisha Ford said during a lecture she offered last week, which included description of how her research plans were thwarted by the combination of pandemic and eruption of necessary anti-Black racism protest. Those conditions, she suggested, prompted her to the basic questions, of and for whom am I writing? Engaging with such questions, Professor Ford explained, catalyzed a pivot in the research that enabled something else to emerge.

I offer these reminders of the creativity that a return to basics can be as we round the corner to the end of this term, partly (as is always true of my missives) as a note to myself that grounds the juggling I am/we all are doing – in zooming in and out of this meeting and that, in trying to be present to family and friends and colleagues and students all at once and fully, in navigating illness – your own, others – and worry for those both near and far…what is the line, the fundament, for you? Perhaps it will help block some noise to think in these terms; I think it does for me. Students, especially, as you’re figuring out what to write and submit to finish a class or draft a diss chapter, when it feels pressing to demonstrate everything that you know immediately and loudly, allow yourself deliberately to suss out the ideas/people who ground your work and move from there, with them. What ideas intrigue and inspire you, excite and confound you, and in these ways compel you to share/write/imagine?

These are, in any event, questions and insights helping me to keep moving in the ongoing swells of the present, shared with you for what it’s worth.

I’m aware there is a great deal of juggling and yet and still you’re showing up for committee meetings and events and exams and for and with each other (and me) in ways that enliven the concept of mutuality. Specific thank yous to the Faculty Membership Committee and Executive Committee members who met last week; to Alycia Sellie for crafting a session on research and the library for us – and to Nancy Silverman for organizing that session; and to Talia Schaffer for providing us with Professor Supritha Rajan’s lecture on Friday, which I was so sorry to miss (I was “at” the MLA Summit on the Future of Doctoral Education, along with Queenie Sukhadia and Rob Yates, with thanks to Stacy Hartman and PublicsLab for making that happen for us – more on what we’re learning there (ends this week) to follow!); and to all of you doing all the things that are keeping us going – immense gratitude for all of it.

A couple of notes with which to end this missive:

First, attached please find the call for a consortial appointment in US Latinx studies. Please help us distribute the call widely! And apologies for duplications if you’ve received it already.

Second, the search for a consortial appointment in rhetoric and composition is underway! The “best consideration” deadline just passed. More news on that to follow in December, as Faculty Membership reviews the materials.

And finally for now, just to reiterate the information Nancy Silverman circulated in an earlier message, regarding the upcoming Friday Forum featuring Professor Abdulhamit Arvas.  The lecture, titled “Boys Remade: Sexing Blackness in the Early Modern Mediterranean and English Imagination,” is sure to be most excellent – with thanks to Rob Yates for organizing this, and Kent Yuen for attending to the logistical back end! Details and registration link (registration is required) here:


Abundant well wishes as ever,


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