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Archive for April 2005

Sembrar el petroleo

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A terrific summary of the state of affairs in Venezuela by Christian Parenti in The Nation.

Given the fact that the oil money will one day run out, Chavez’s reform strategy seems to be bent on generating what we might call sustainable egalitarian growth:

Internal and often sympathetic critics of the reform process in
Venezuela say it is one thing to "spend the oil" on social welfare; it
is another altogether to "sow the oil" and create new collectively
owned, productive, nonsubsidized industries that will generate wealth
in an egalitarian and sustainable fashion.

Good article – check it out.

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April 3, 2005 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Nineteen hundred years ago — the other day…”

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Ken MacLeod’s got an interesting post up on the death of the Pope, which resolves itself with this paragraph:

Like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, he became a figurehead of an
inchoate global humanism that has little to do with what he (and the
others) specifically stand for. Fidel Castro is an awkward fourth in
that company, but – like it or not – he belongs in it. All four of
these old men have their roots in the Cold War, of which they are the
last men standing. It’s a measure of the strangeness of the New World
Order that they all, in very contradictory ways, have become icons of
its discontents.

Interesting to see it this way. As the product of some 15 years of Catholic education, I have a very hard time seeing anything but the worst from the Church and its Prince. Let’s just say, true to Buck Mulligan’s description of Stephen, I have the jesuit in me, only its injected the wrong way. But MacLeod’s is an interesting perspective on PJP… Strange to think of this last (or close to last) divine right absolutist as conversely the most global thing going, and in this sense the most modern, for better or worse. "That has little to do with what he… specifically stand[s] for…"

WWNS? (What would Negri say?)

An umbilical cord strecthed across the fragmentation of the centuries, back to Rome, Roman imperium, and "civilization" for good or ill.

Another student of the legacy and persistance of the "eternal city," Conrad:

I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here,
nineteen hundred years ago — the other day. . . . Light came out of
this river since — you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running
blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in
the flicker — may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling!

UPDATE: Nice piece by Neal Ascherson at Open Democracy about the legacy of PJP…

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April 3, 2005 at 1:53 am

Posted in Religion

Imperial Impersonality

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Two passages. The first from Joyce’s Portrait, of course:

The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.

The second from T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom of 1926. He’s talking about the proper type to administer the British system of "indirect rule" in the colonies.

Class one, subtle and insinuating, caught the characteristics of the people about him, their speech, their conventions of thought, almost their manner. He directed men secretly, guiding them as he would. In such frictionless habit of influence his own nature lay hid, unnoticed.

I’m wondering tonight if a line could be run from the principle of indirect rule in the British colonies to free indirect narration in the period’s modernist fiction. That the fictional mode is a reflection of increasing sophistication on the part of governing bodies, managers. Suggestion rather than direct influence, anticipation rather than instruction. Both relying on a knowledge of the "speech… conventions of thought, almost the manner" of the represented. And both staked on the invisiblity of power, the author.

(Related: just saw Control Room tonight for the first time on DVD. Interesting to draw the above together with the US naive faith / cynical pretence of faith in the Iraqi citizenry’s endorsement of their "liberation.")

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April 2, 2005 at 1:40 am

Posted in literature

The Valve / ALSC / Bradley Foundation

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Looks as though John Holbo of Crooked Timber and John and Belle fame has got himself a group lit blog set up. The more the merrier, I guess, though he’s starting to resemble the Nick Denton of the academic bsphere.

Anyway, what’s kind of interesting about this new site is that it seems to be sponsored by the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which was devised as a kind of anti-MLA devoted to ridding lit departments of their classracegenderism and deconstructive tendencies. The mottos and manifestos on the website demonstrate the same Frank Luntz-ish spin that you’d find on the sites of, say, the such organizations as the Independent Women’s Forum

Here’s their Mission statement.

The purpose of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics is to foster appreciation of the literary imagination, promote the value
of literary study, and encourage the development of a shared literary
culture. The Association holds to broad conceptions of literature rather than to highly specialized ones or ones that see literature simply as a means to other ends. It serves as a forum for anyone with a serious scholarly or critical interest in literature, and it welcomes both classicists  and modernists, independent and academic literary critics, as well as
creative writers and publishers.

Keywords in this passage: "imagination," "shared literary culture," "highly specialized," "means to other ends," "serious," "classicists and modernists."

(I especially love the last one…)

There’s an even more interesting Short History of the ALSC on the site, which contains all the symptomatic crossing of frustration with diversity mandates in the "real world’ and resentment of a emergent approaches to literature that you might expect. Here’s an interesting one. (Norman Fruman writing here:)

I first began to think seriously about the need for alternative organizations
when the Bernard Baruch branch of the City University of New York was
threatened with loss of accreditationbecause its student body and faculty were judged insufficiently diverse by an accreditation committee.I had
been a part-time instructor at Baruch for three years while pursuing a Ph.D. at New York University, and I knew that both its student body and faculty had always been among the most diverse anywhere, and especially
     since "open enrollment" arrived in the early 1970’s.      

Steve Balch,the presidentof the National Association of Scholars, was saying publicly that the time had come for academics to form alternative accreditation committees to provide a countervailing power to those in
place, which were laws unto themselves and increasingly oppressive.Reform of existing institutions from within was a visionary hope and would in any case take years to achieve.      

Professor Ellis and I met for the first time about a year after I had  glowingly reviewed his Against Deconstruction (always the basis
of a warm friendship). We shared similar anxieties about the gloomy state
of literary studies, as well as the growing menace political correctness
posed to free speech and academic freedom. Clearly, a new literary society was needed, one whose primary focus would be on literature as literature  and not as something else (surely the basic principle of the New Criticism),
an organization that would provide those who had not lost faith in the unique value of literature with a sense of solidarity, mutual support,
and a forum to exchange ideas and research results.

Strange slippage from the diversity of the student body to the "gloomy state of literary studies," blurring the widening of the canon into the chromatic scale of the student body, and the demand to darken it. Nice to see this from a group ostensibly out to drain the politics out of English departments…

And, by the way, according to Fruman’s short history, the ALSC got it’s start up money from The Bradley Foundation, a right wing outfit that is, according to their website,

devoted to strengthening
American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and
values that sustain and nurture it. Its programs support limited,
competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual,
and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense at home and abroad of
American ideas and institutions. In addition, recognizing that
responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and
informed public opinion, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and
academic achievement.

Hope Holbo and the others are confortable with getting their start-up money from an organization that got its start-up money from a Foundation that gave it’s annual awards last year to Heather MacDonald, Ward Connerly, Robert George, and George Freakin Will. Lately, they’ve been mostly up to funding the school privatization, I mean choice, stuff that’s been going on in Wisconsin…

Just important, I think, to know what company you’re keeping, who’s paying the bills…

Anyone interested now in this?


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April 1, 2005 at 1:11 am

Posted in Weblogs