Tag Archives: MLA

Sharing Process, Sources, Product: Around My Talk on Grad Student Group Blogging

Just a couple weeks ago, I gave a talk at MLA13 on graduate student blogging in which I call for graduate students, like us and in our example, to blog more about what we do over the course of the years we spend training for our jobs and for publishing. Rather than just reblogging my talk, this post is an effort to share my process of writing this talk, since it was highly dialogic and a new process for me. Feedback from other bloggers was critical to my learning how different users read, write, and connect through communities of graduate students studying Romanticism and other topics in the Humanities and to thinking through two very different kinds of group blogging forums: our nassrgrads blog and HASTAC.

Here’s a link to the talk: “‘A Large Amount of Good Second-Class Work’: The Value of Graduate Students’ Contributions to Scholarly Group Blogs”

Twitter and Storify: While writing my talk, and especially during MLA, I Tweeted a bunch and was on the lookout for Tweets on topic that pointed to relevant scholarly discussions. I made a Storify of these tweets, which you can find here.

To get to the final version of this talk I needed a lot of feedback from nassrgrads.com bloggers — thank you very much for your email replies! I also sought feedback from HASTAC (another group blog forum I wrote about and that I participate in). To think things through, I blogged on HASTAC and through those blogs generated two sets of very useful conversations.

Blog 1: “Graduate Student Research Blogging” and its conversation (on HASTAC) led me to …

Blog 2: “How Do You Use HASTAC” and its conversation (again, on HASTAC’s platform). All I can say is: wow! It is incredibly satisfying and exciting to have real-time discussions with scholars, like Cathy Davidson, and to have those conversations inflect my work so directly and meaningfully. More, please!

Here is a loose compendium of the sources I consulted while writing this talk, pub’d in Google Docs. One source I just thought of that is not on the list, and that includes blogs as scholarship, is Debates in the Digital Humanities (ed. Matthew K. Gold, U of Minnesota P, 2012).

On the “shoulder” of the MLA talk project, I was simultaneously thinking a lot about how we can make our nassrgrads.com blog a better, more fruitful, rewarding, rich, fun, and useful collection of posts and conversations. I’m looking forward to working on these improvements as a group!

All of this is to share a process that was extremely nontraditional for me in terms of scholarship production. It was true for this paper that thinking editorially about our blog and group on nassrgrads, blogging questions and comments in multiple fora, Tweeting and making a Storify, researching in The Chronicle and other pubs that focus on the relationship between scholars, modes of scholarship, and the profession helped me recognized the lack of serial scholarship produced by graduate students (on the whole) and ways in which we can increase our value as working Humanists who produce great quantities of useful work over the course of our training. It was a highly dialogic writing process in which comments from people I only know through HASTAC or nassrgrads — by professional connection in an online research community — contributed to critically thinking through the issues and identifying what I wanted most to say. After all, Mark Sample was adamant that each speaker only had 6 minutes and 40 seconds at the podium. I sweated this one and a lot of discussing and reading went into those few minutes.

Now that most of it is collected here, in this blog post, I am turning to my first spring semester projects: dissertation fellowship applications, revisions for my entries in the Johns Hopkins Guide to New Media and Textuality, and revising a diss chapter into an essay-length piece.

What are you working on right now? Looking forward to hearing from you — tally-ho, Spring semester projects!


Image of raw cookie dough: By Nick Ares (originally posted to Flickr as Cookie Dough) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

MLA Panels of Interest to Graduate Students

Right on the heels of Carmen Mathes’ suggestion to attend the Romantic Media Studies Panel, I will also point out that there are a number of graduate-student specific events at the convention to be aware of. I have copied this from the MLA website and pasted it below. I will be at MLA attending panels on Thursday afternoon, all day Friday, part of Saturday, and all day Sunday. If you will be there, as well, and would like to catch up email me and we’ll connect! (Kirstyn dot Leuner at gmail)

2013 MLA Convention Sessions of Interest to Graduate Student Members

A lounge where graduate students can meet for discussion or relaxation will be located in the Sheraton Boston (Exeter, 3rd floor).

The Job Information Service will operate a center at the Westin Copley Place (American Ballroom, 4th floor). The Association of Departments of English and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages will arrange times for experienced faculty members to offer one-on-one counseling to job seekers in the center.

The CSGSP encourages graduate student members attending the convention to comment on Twitter about sessions of interest to graduate students. Please use the hashtag #mla13 for all 2013 convention tweets and add tags such as #mlagrads and session numbers (e.g., #S394).

Officers and experienced editors who are members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) will be available on 4 and 5 January from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Jamaica Pond, Sheraton, to provide informal information and private consultations about what to expect in journal submission, peer review, and publishing processes. Beginning scholars (graduate students and entry-level professors) are particularly welcome.

Sessions of particular interest to graduate students include the following:

The Speculative Turn and Studies in Romanticism

It might be fair to say where philosophy goes literary criticism follows, but the current destination is a little unclear.  Today’s graduate students of romanticism work with professors who rose up in academia when philosophical camps presented themselves in plain sight; one was either “influenced” by Derrida’s phenomenology, Foucault’s genealogies, Lacan’s brand of psychoanalysis, or some other wing of continental philosophy.  At this year’s MLA conference in Seattle I listened for hints of literary criticism’s current trajectory.  Mostly, I heard Fredric Jameson’s name but not so much in regards to a future direction.  However, peeking over the disciplinary line reveals a philosophical shift that has gained momentum in the last five years, commonly referred to as the “speculative turn.”

The speculative turn is a turn in the sense that the conversation has moved away from the linguistic one.  Speculative philosophy is generally metaphysical, systematic, and works outside the domain of the hard sciences.  The most recent emergence of speculative philosophy is interesting because of its investment in materialism and realism, and its engagement with the hard sciences.  Steering away from idealism (commonly associated with Kant and his successors), suggests that reality exists independent of human agency.  For many literature students, to declare one’s work materialist in 2012 will sound redundant, because materialist accounts of history in English departments have been prevalent for decades.  But that work was materialism without metaphysics, a discussion absent of the Absolute or the thing-in-itself, for better or worse.

What distinguishes the speculative turn is its posited problem, what Quentin Meillassoux calls “correlationism” (5).[i]  In short, correlationism is the insistence of the relationship between the concept of a thing and the thing itself, and it is this relationship that prohibits access to either.  Romanticists studying Kant and company know this story well; this “relationship” is what Kant refers to as the “transcendental schema,” a mediator between the object and the mind’s concept of that object (B 177, 181).[ii]  But, in Ray Brassier’s “Concepts and Objects,” included in the who’s who of continental materialism and realism, The Speculative Turn (2011), he says it is taken for granted that the “difference” or relationship between the thing and its concept is anything but conceptual (64).[iii]  To assume the difference is conceptual delimits the relationship to a strictly human imposition.

From the example of how one might interrogate a correlationist situation (Brassier uses George Berkeley to illustrate his point), it is clear that continental materialism and realism pursue further ways of engaging with the world without positioning the human as somehow detached or above the world engaged with.  Such an anti-anthropocentric line has been re-charged in late by Deleuze, especially in his critique of representation.  But if correlationism reinforces the linguistic turn’s abandonment, and hence the abandonment of representation, that does not necessarily mean “language is dead.”  The death of language holds especial concern for romanticists because English departments carry the burden of such a potential death.  Rather, the turn suggests that if an inquiry is to access anything immediately, to begin and end the investigation with language is to never even start.

So how does the speculative turn impact literary studies and studies in romanticism, in particular?  To be clear, philosophy and literary criticism are not the same.  There were many books of literary criticism from the 1980s and 90s “influenced” by deconstruction, but these books merely use a method in order to approach literary texts, which, initially, was not the method’s aim.  In some sense then, the new philosophical turn is quite remote from literary studies.  On the other hand, when the philosophy giant moves, its gravity impacts the academic milieu in general.  The fact that the speculative turn reasserts materialist and realist philosophy undoubtedly encourages a similar embrace in literary fields.  Especially for romantics, this re-emphasis is historically significant because Rousseau (our man!) largely marks the turn away from his hard-lined materialist predecessors.  But Rousseau is a signpost, not a gravestone.

The theories Rousseau sought to overturn did not die so much as criticism has preferred to focus on less thingly topics.  Materialist readings of romanticism have been lost for years, traded in for borderline idealist, dialectical ones. For instance, almost no critical reading of Wordsworth appears without citing the excellent and comprehensive Wordsworth’s Poetry by Geoffrey Hartman (1964), whose bibliography just so happens to dismiss W.H. Piper’s pantheistic materialist account of the romantic imagination, The Active Universe(1962).[iv] Current studies will not merely return to Piper’s history of ideas though.  Taking an object-oriented approach, coined by Graham Harman in his Tool-Being (2002), romantic studies might zero in on the object itself, independent of any relationship at all.[v]

In some sense, this “new” move is as much a return to the old as any new move is.  At the same time, it’s a return with a difference.  Derrida is back on the scene, but Martin Hägglund’s atheist Derrida.  Schelling has a starring role, but thanks to an increase in translations and Iain Hamilton Grant’s focus, the emphasis lands on Naturphilosophie.  In romantic studies, I suspect, given the recent emphasis on the more scientifically inclined Erasmus Darwin (e.g. Dahlia Porter’s work), a renewed interest in Newton and Locke will follow—hopefully, along with some “minor” figures that have gone overlooked.  In other words, if the speculative turn signals anything to us, it’s that we can do more.

[i] Meillassoux, Quentin.  After Finitude.  Trans. Ray Brassier.  London: Continuum, 2008. Print.

[ii] Kant, Immanuel.  Critique of Pure Reason.  Trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.  Print.

[iii] Brassier, Ray.  “Concepts and Objects.”  The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism.  Eds.  Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman.  Melbourne: re.press, 2011. Print.

[iv] I was pleased to see an endorsement—not a ringing one—of Piper in Paul Fry’s excellent, Wordsworth and the Poetry of What We Are (2009).

[v] Harman, Graham.  Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of the Object.  Chicago: Open Court, 2002. Print.

Romanticisms at the 2013 MLA

My morning conversation with a colleague reminded me that it’s time to look at the MLA 2013 CFPs. After doing a quick search in their online database for titles containing “romantic”, I found the following panels that pertain to our field of Romanticism and that would be lucky to have our scholarship and participation. This is most likely not an exhaustive list, but it will help get you started with your search for panels to apply to.

Reminder: you must be a member of the MLA in order to participate – if you’re not already a member, or if you’ve accidentally let your membership lapse, take care of that right now before you submit your abstract. It will only take 5 minutes and the graduate student annual membership fee is $20: http://www.mla.org/.


These CFPs are listed in the order in which the MLA database provided search results; their order does not represent any kind of intentional prioritization.

Reimagining the Romantic Imagination (Keats-Shelley Association of America)
Papers on any aspect of imagination in the Romantic era welcome, including physiological, cognitive, medical, philosophical, scientific, and esthetic constructions. 350-500 word abstracts by 20 March 2012; Alan Richardson (alan.richardson@bc.edu).

British Romantic Books (Wordsworth-Coleridge Association)
Essays should examine book production and publishing history, libraries and learned societies, relationships between authors and editors, elucidating how the publication process shaped the reception of British Romantic literature. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; James C. McKusick (james.mckusick@umontana.edu).

The University of Romanticism:
See Prelude VII:52-57. Relation of Romantic writers/writing to institutions, practices of learning, bodies of knowledge; egalitarianism/elitism/cultural capital; clerisy/heresy/secularism; letters/arts/sciences; clubs, societies, associations, print networks; autodidacticism. 500-word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Celeste G. Langan (clangan@berkeley.edu).

Amnesia and the Romantic Novel:
Papers discussing the role of amnesia, forgetting or forgetfulness in late-18th or early-19th century novels. Comparative approaches are welcome. Abstracts of 250-500 words by 15 March 2012; Matthew Russell (russelmr@uwm.edu).

British Romantic Expatriats:
Essays should examine real and imaginary journeys by British Romantic writers to the United States, and the publication and critical reception of their work in the U.S. before 1850. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; James C. McKusick (james.mckusick@umontana.edu).

Everyday Romanticism:
Papers are welcome that examine the category of ‘the everyday’ in transnational Romantic-era writing, including attempts to theorize the everyday in light of industrialization, imperialism, and world war. 300-word abstract by 15 March 2012; Michael Hardy (mhardy@eden.rutgers.edu) and William Galperin (william.galperin@gmail.com).

“A God-Intoxicated Man”: Romantic and Victorian Representations of Spinoza
This session invites papers examining the diverse literary and philosophical representations of Spinoza and “Spinozism” within Romantic and Victorian writing. 250-300 word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Jared McGeough (jared.mcgeough@gmail.com).

Grotesque Romanticisms:
The grotesque as an important aesthetic category within Romanticism and/or as a distortion of the period (grotesque accounts/interpretations of Romanticism). Papers on art, literature, or philosophy.  Please send 250 word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Alexander Regier (a.regier@rice.edu).

Independent Publishing in the Romantic Era:
Papers that explore self-publishing during the Romantic Era: inducements, advancements, and/or ramifications. 250-500 word abstracts. by 1 March 2012; Michael Demson (mtd007@shsu.edu).

Romantic Media Cultures:
Short papers for a roundtable of projects addressing questions of mediation, information, communication, systems, epistolarity, print, the book during the Romantic era. Also welcome: transatlantic, translation, digital humanities. 200-word abstracts. by 15 March 2012; Lauren Neefe (lauren.neefe@stonybrook.edu) and Yohei Igarashi (yigarashi@colgate.edu).

Teaching Romanticism in the Digital Classroom:
AI, avatars, students glued to tiny screens: what pedagogies work for “Walden” in today’s classroom? or for the “big six” poets and the Sublime? 500-word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Merle Lyn Bachman (mbachman@spalding.edu).

Romantic Science:
Papers on Romantic-era literature and the sciences, including but not limited to: the science of aesthetics; literature and the disciplines; Romantic-era science fiction. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; John Savarese (john.savarese@rutgers.edu).

Note: it also just came to my attention (thank you Leila!) that the CUNY Romanticism Group also has a helpful list of abstracts to investigate – find that list here. Good luck to us!