End-of-summer edition

September 15, 2012 | | Leave a Comment

Calvin & Hobbes

Well, the summer’s over, and with it the end of sabbatical and the horizon for all of the things one hopes to accomplish with the wonderful (and, even at the world’s elite institutions, increasingly rare) gift of time and intellectual space. Here’s the round-up:

The failure book—“False Starts: The Rhetoric of Failure and the Making of American Modernism”—is on my editor’s desk at Northwestern University Press and in front of outside readers as I type (holds breath, waits nervously). I’ve been rifling back through the manuscript to buff the chrome of it to a high polish, with the able assistance of Dana research fellow Colin Tripp, in the hopes that it can start the journey to press soon (we were featured, matching shirts and all, here). As much work as The Comics of Chris Ware was, I had the invaluable interlocutor of a co-editor; this was lonelier, more gnawing work toward the end, but I made the May 15 deadline I set for myself. Hopefully my claims about failure will be argumentative, not performative. The readers’ reports will tell…

I co-authored a piece on graduate pedagogy with my former mentor (and current life-and-career model) William Gleason and a colleague at Purdue, Nancy Peterson, for publication in a special issue of Pedagogy on the topic of “Graduate Students.” At its core, the essay is a call for real-world solutions to the drought conditions in the job market that don’t cut off the production of Ph.D. graduates at the same time. We suggest a rigorous professionalization process that simultaneously trains grads for academic careers while remaining aware of how those skills might be transferable to contiguous careers both within and outside the academy (administration, non-profits, education, digital humanities). How great would it be to have more English PhDs in our government offices, our NGOs, our foundations, and our secondary schools? Far and away the best parts of this process were the long discussions I had both with Bill and Nancy, as well as a number of current and recently graduated PhD students about the state of the profession. It made me hopeful for the profession, even amidst the blood bath taking place in the corridors of MLA hotels every year. Pending review, the special issue is scheduled for a 2013 release, more details forthcoming…

I went on a conference paper binge to start priming the pump for the next book, which will be about comics at the intersections of literary and artistic modernism. I presented on George Herriman for an MSA seminar on seriality, R. F. Outcault for a seminar on graphic narrative and disaster at ACLA (shepherded by my partner-in-crime with TCCW, Martha Kuhlman), and the “novels in woodcuts” of Lynd Ward. I organized this last panel, on the subject of modernism and postmodernism through the lens of graphic narrative, with friends and colleagues whose work I admire: Bill Solomon, Lee Konstantinou, and Benj Widiss. All conferences should be as simultaneously convivial and intellectually charged.

I also started work as Reviews Editor at the journal College Literature, where I’m hoping to do some interesting things with the form. In addition to more conventional reviews and review essays, I’ve commissioned a review of a new book series and of a conference in the hopes of making the form more pertinent to the needs of teacher-scholars. While some of my editing hand is visible in what’s just been released, it will start to feel like my baby come 2013. If you have a book to review, or are itching to write a review yourself, holler at me.

In the good news department: The Comics of Chris Ware also received a rave review in The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (subscription required). The punchline: “It is extremely gratifying to come across a consistently high standard of discourse in a single volume, and equally gratifying to report that for an American comics studies publication there is a refreshing lack of inhibition in engaging with cultural theory. Alongside Benjamin and Deleuze and Guattari, there are serious engagements with Umberto Eco, Paul Virilio, Gerard Genette, and Phillipe Lejeune. This bodes well for the future of anglophone comics studies. As well as setting a high bar for future collections, this anthology stands as a welcome riposte to the stultifying influence of Comics Journal-style anti-intellectualism.” Especially appreciated was the review’s acknowledgment of the value of a multidisciplinary, theoretically rigorous approach to our subject.

And, in the big news department: Mira Hanae Nakamura Ball roared into the world on July 19th, coming in at almost 9 pounds. Raise the roof.






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