Friday, May 16, 2008

Patriarchy and Pathology

Last night at dinner I asked Ira how one might productively analyze the Joseph Fritzl case in terms of systemic, rather than subjective, violence. (Yes, we do have dinner conversations like this. Whaddya expect? We're both PhDs in literature.) Ira's response: begin by looking at the way the Austrian State's patriarchal biases effectively enabled Fritzl to commit his crimes. The State, for instance, repeatedly ignored his daughter's attempts to run away from home, even though her father had a record as a sex offender. Ira's hypothesis is corroborated by "Joseph Fritzl's fictive forebears," a TLS essay, the gist of which is this: Symptomological analyses of Austrian literature, including Freud's case studies, suggest a systemic sociocultural tendency to indulge abusive patriarchs while disregarding patriarchy's victims, primarily women and children.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Will the minnestoa review Survive?

Marc Bosquet reports on his blog and at The Chronicle of Higher Education that the minnesota review's days may be numbered due to budget cuts that"quality managers" at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy want to impose on the journal.

It would be a shame if the minnesota review closed shop. (Full disclosure: The mr has published my work.) Could Williams move to another university and take the minnesota review with him? Many public U's are hurting financially right now, it's true, but surely there's a shrewd dean somewhere who can recognize that hiring Williams and funding the mr would be a great opportunity to increase their English department's profile - for a reasonable price.

It's great that Jameson, Felski, Berube, Menand, etc. went to bat for the mr, but maybe it's time to call in Stanley Fish. As a specialist in contract law and the former head of Duke UP, I would think that Stan the Man could - and probably would - negotiate a sweet deal for the mr and Jeffrey Williams. In fact, if Fish was still the Dean of LAS at UIC, I'd ask him myself if it would be possible to bring the mr to UIC's English Department. It already hosts two fine critical journals, ebr and Mediations. Why not one more?

Part of the problem is that editorial work is not properly valued in academia. Editorial work is absolutely necessary for the publish-or-perish model to survive, but the time-intensive labor (too much of which is effectively outsourced) required to put out a quality publication is invisible, and editing is treated more like service than research, which is a serious mistake. Faculty and grad students need to make it clear that the editorial infrastructure needs to be maintained in order for the system to function.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Open Humanities Press

With the current economic recession likely to result in budget cuts for cash-strapped university presses, the appearance of the Open Humanities Press could not come at a better time. More ventures like the OHP will be needed if the current "crisis" in academic publishing is to be resolved in a manner that doesn't pressure scholars to conform to the profit-driven dictates of the market. The OHP's Editorial Advisory Board is impressive, and the cultural capital these scholars have earned should help to legitimize digital-publishing initiatives in the eyes of those academics and administrators inclined to value printed monographs more than digitally produced texts.