A phrase. An imperfect phrase. And what are phrases? They have left me very little to lay on the table, beside Susan's hand; to take from my pocket, with Neville's credentials. I am not an authority on law, or medicine, or finance. I am wrapped round with phrases, like damp straw; I glow, phosphorescent. —Virginia Woolf, The Waves

This is the blog of Jess Shollenberger: graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, department of English. Here, find work and play (in progress), re. American literature / theories of everything / queer studies / food studies / affect / ethnography / Gertrude Stein / gender & sexuality / the garbled remains of an undergraduate education / traces / tracings / tryings / confusion / pleasure / . . .

So we slowly begin to grasp the enormity of a historical situation in which the truth of our social life as a whole…is increasingly irreconcilable with the aesthetic quality of language or of individual expression; of a situation about which it can be asserted that if we can make a work of art from our experience, if we can tell it in the form of a story, it is no longer true; and if we can grasp the truth about our world as totality, as something transcending mere individual experience, we can no longer make it accessible in narrative or literary form.

— Frederic Jameson, “Beyond the Cave: Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism” (1975)

… compare it [trying to remember the name of a film; a popular film to which we were asked to compare Malick’s The Thin Red Line] … it was a film that everyone had multiple orgasms about … it’s an absolutely disgusting film … it’s unbelievable … Saving Private Ryan!

Leo Bersani (Fictions and Frictions of Power; fall 2014)

there is a thread here / a thread has begun to form / that thread is “orgasm”


I chuckle to myself

things that make mornings nice

coffee (at home)

queer theory

an especially tart-sweet apple

flowers that haven’t turned brown

I’m already thinking about lunch.

A. B.

(Lunch, then.)

Ada or Ardor (Nabokov)

Ada or Ardor (Nabokov)

(Source: springafternoon)

why my professor always uses the word “formation” / all the work that has to be done before anyone can say “formation”

What I’m doing: reading the introduction to Mrinalini Sinha’s Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire

What she’s doing: telling (and I mean stating, in no uncertain or obfuscating terms) what it is that her method of historiography makes possible, that is, its critical/theoretical moves

What she’s not doing: merely saying (as I and so many of my queer scholarly mentors tend to do—and I love us for this) that thinking this way, with this archive, or against this theorist, will open up potentialities, possibilities, potentialities…

For what?

Nothing wrong with this. The this of my undergraduate thesis. I need to keep working. For what.

For this: 

Sinha’s method is to think, to write “a dense global narrative of intersecting histories,” an acknowledgement that history is neither a totally unified nor totally fragmented story or stories. And here’s the brilliant thing, the product of countless hours of work and thought compressed into (represented in) a single sentence: “This is the double move that is enabled by a global narrative of intersecting histories: both the demonstration of generic European concepts as partial or parochial, and simultaneous remaking as potentially universal.”


Once, “formation” was a this.

class notes

Astonishing (isn’t it?), how little we students remember. To think of all the hours I’ve spent in seminar rooms with notebooks open, pencil in hand, nodding along as a professor speaks. Ear to hand, ear to hand, transcribing. Thousands of dashes. Arrows. Parentheses. Today in seminar I had a runny nose. It was distracting. Not wanting to disrupt the flow of things with either a nose-blow or an exit (I was seated far from the door), I stuck it out, daubing nose with neckerchief and generally not looking at anyone, least of all my professor, as I sniffled (a most unpleasant sound). Class ran a bit longer than usual. As I sat there I became aware of my non-listening. I feel bad about it now. Shouldn’t I? I have never been one to daydream or drift off during class (a late-afternoon seminar on Lacan, or something, furnishes a lone, sleepy exception). Despite my conscious attention-paying to what is being said the sound of what (is being said) escapes my memory, the sound of that impossible Barthesian writing aloud (“Let us talk about it as though it existed.”). I leaf through lectures scattered in pencil across pages; I search in vain for a sonorous memory, just one phrase, one word. Literature. One anthropology class. Attend to the event of the saying as well as the said.

I’ve found the image of a manic Proust writing writing writing in his cork-lined room to be an excellent preservative or mnemonic device. I picture this and I remember (can’t quite hear) the cult of individual thinking, the unexamined life is not worth living, Descartes/Freud/Proust, the individual as final arbiter, Thoreau, that time when he was Chair and Foucault was there teaching and so, wanting to be Chair-like, he inquired as to how the papers were and received Foucault’s enthusiastic “Fantastic! All A’s!” and knew full well that nobody wrote any papers and might this have something to do with new relational modes or what was being said as my stuffed-up nose ran ran ran.