Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Academic blogging meta-thread

Yesterday was an impressive day for meta-blogging. A long post by John Holbo on Crooked Timber on the potential advantages of blogging to literary studies has led to a long list of comments by readers (note: Holbo makes many of his best points in response to criticisms), as well as threads and cross-threads on several other blogs.

So far I've seen the discussion expanded upon in the following places: Critical Mass, Pharyngula, Chun the Unavoidable, Cup of Chicha, Tightly Wound, Adam Kotsko (he manages to quote Hardt and Negri's Empire), and Maud Newton.

The central hub of the discussion is Crooked Timber (33 comments so far), followed by Erin O'Connor (8 comments), and then the individual posters (who tend to average 2-5 comments on their individual pages). Bloggers introduce their own ideas and new rhetorical twists in their entries on their personal blogs. As a result, it's hard to represent the shape of this conversation. The best I can do is to describe it is: about 30 people people collectively having an argument in several different rooms at once.

I might venture a more detailed opinion on this later in the week, but for now I simply want to register how interesting the debate has been. Several of the people who have weighed in on the issue have pointed out that a) most of the most vibrant literature-oriented blogs out there are written by people who are not academics, and b) most of the people who are passionately involved in this discussion are either non-academics or not literary scholars! Sociologically, it's a little puzzling. Why are so many non English-lit people preoccupied with the fate of literary studies? I've encountered similar sentiments from many of my non-academic friends: 'why are you guys so debilitated by jargon?' Perhaps it's because literary studies has traditionally been a kind of core to humanist study. So maybe all the worry about the decline of the field is a form of backhanded legitimation.

Comment on this Post

Academic blogging meta-thread

On : 4/21/2004 2:59:14 PM Timothy Burke (www) said:

It's an interesting question. I think it's several things. For one, as you say, it's that literary criticism is one of the cores of the humanities. More importantly is the impact of the "linguistic turn" in history, anthropology, sociology and various associated disciplinary forms--literary theory and critical theory started to become the key that turns that whole lock somewhere in the early 1980s, and so many fates began to hinge on it. Third, I think it's because culture or literature, rather like history, is consdered one of those subjects which "ought" to be transparent to public discourse and easily understood within it, where the work of doing literary criticism or research history was understood for many decades to involve encyclopedic knowledge of texts and contexts, but not theoretical positions on the constitution of the subject itself that rendered it opaque to public reason.