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 / . . .
— Frederic Jameson, “Beyond the Cave: Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism” (1975)
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
coffee (at home)
an especially tart-sweet apple
flowers that haven’t turned brown
Ada or Ardor (Nabokov)
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…
Nothing wrong with this. The this of my undergraduate thesis. I need to keep working. For what.
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.
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.