Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To the Barricades!

Just when you thought New York State couldn't treat SUNY worse, the Division of Budget comes up with a new trick. First, do the raise expectations/make cuts two-step. Then, undermine the Legislature's restoration of some of the funds cut by Governor Paterson from SUNY by freezing $110M of SUNY's overall budget: tuition and fees dollars can be collected, but not spent.

NYSUT responded last week to this latest move. Here's what UUP President Phil Smith is distributing to chapter leaders:

What does all of this mean to the University and, more importantly, to its constituencies who have had no warning that their contributions will be withheld?

It means that a portion of the tuition collected from students and their families will not be available to support their education ($34.4 million withheld). The result, when added to the impact of a $38 million State funding cutback in the enacted Budget, means that courses will be cancelled, class sizes will once again be increased and the overall quality of the University’s academic programming will certainly be diminished.

It means that a portion of the dormitory fees paid by students will be held back and not permitted to be expended on dormitory maintenance, security and student safety ($9.7 million).

It means that funds received by the hospitals from patients and third party insurance payments will be locked up ($43.0 million)--and the hospitals will be unable to use these revenues for the care of those who paid for health care. Coupled with the continued absence of State funding for mandatory costs, the quality and content of patient health care will surely suffer.

It means that almost $17 million in revenues from food services, bookstores and other user-based sources will be unavailable to maintain current operations.

Even the Long Island Veterans Home will be required to hold back on over $1.2 million.

The irony is that the year began with the promise of enhanced State support in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Higher Education, but could end with one of the most disastrous fiscal impacts in University history.

The key question for all of us to ask is why do this? There is no logical purpose. There is no apparent benefit to the State. There is no positive result for State taxpayers. There is, however, a very clear impact--on students and their families and on the citizens of this State who rely on the University for quality health care and services.

OK, let's tally this up. The Legislature controls tuition policy, but will never raise tuition or taxes in an election year. The Governor controls the DOB, which is looking to cut government spending in New York. There's plenty of money for construction projects, because the Legislature can issue bonds for them. So of course fees have gone up across the SUNY system. What's to stop the state from raiding them?

SUNY is going from state-supported to state-located to state-dismantled in a generation. Whee!

[Update: Somehow this IHE op ed and this Lumpenprofessoriat post seem apropos today.]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Now That's More Like It!

I'm a little late at spreading the word about this bill to secure collective bargaining rights for graduate student employees, but better late than never, eh? Get on the horn and ask Obama and Clinton (they're co-sponsors) to pledge to put some real weight behind this when he or she is elected President. And get your representatives to sign on. Here's who's in so far:

Senators Kennedy, Brown, Clinton, Feingold, Obama, and Schumer
Representatives Miller, Andrews, Grijalva, and Tierney

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Times on the Costs of Higher Ed: Pollyanna, Meet Chicken Little

Pollyanna, meet Chicken Little!

To the latter, I say ignore prestige entirely and ask yourself which school offers you the best opportunities to learn and grow: which professors did you have better interactions with? which offers the best combination of general education and specialized majors/programs? which offers the best advising/mentoring systems? which offers the most relevant mix of extracurricular activities to your interests and goals?

To the former, I say don't wait for Congress to increase Pell Grants: start spreading your wealth to the "deserving poor"(ly endowed schools that could do an even better job educating larger numbers of the nation's working class undergraduates than you could even if you raised your percentage of students with Pell Grants to 15%). Oh, and let your graduate students and adjuncts unionize while you're at it. They're the ones who will be the strongest advocates for quality in higher education. It's for your own good.

Cell Phone Novels: Medium, Genre, Movement, or Fad?

Enquiring minds want to know! (That's "all the news that's fit to text" for you Grey Lady fans.)

Have mobile phone novels become a phenomenon in the English-speaking world yet, or are they still popular only among innovators in Japan, South Korea, and China? Looks like India may be the leading edge for the Anglophones of the world.

I think Hawthorne would approve. Even his sketches tended to be long, though, with complex sentences. Maybe not.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sisyphus for President Education Czar!

Did I once call for Sisyphus of Academic Cog to be named President of the University of California system? I was thinking way too small. She needs a Cabinet-level post in the next Presidential administration. This is some serious read-it-and-weep shit. Pass it on.

[Update 4/19/08: LumpenProf seconds my motion, eloquently.]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Non-Western Literature Student Learning Analyses: Team Ghosh! on In an Antique Land

I'm experimenting this year with adding blogging into the mix of things students do in my courses. So this semester I'll be posting post-group research/teaching project learning analyses from students in my Non-Western Literature course. The students' task in this assignment, one dimension of many they're being assessed on in this project, is simply to identify the one or two most interesting things they learned about the text and or writer on which they presented as a result of the planning, research, teaching, and reflection/assessment process they went through in doing the project. These are not meant to be full-blown analytical/interpretive/argumentative critical essays, but instead little personal, subjective pieces on what the text they taught meant to them.

Here's the second batch, from a team who named themselves Team Ghosh! and lead a great discussion on In an Antique Land.


Allison leads off:

In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh is not a book that you browse a bookstore, pick up, and say to yourself, “yes I’m going to enjoy this book.” This is not to say that it is not interesting or that I did not enjoy it; however, I do feel that it is the type of book that if you don’t read it in an academic setting you probably won’t read it. While I can see why many people in the class may have disliked the book, I enjoyed it. Reading this book was a different experience: it presents itself as a traveler’s guide, I read it as if it was a novel, and it was actually an autobiography. I was constantly looking for symbolism and meaning in everything that was written but it wasn’t there and I just had to come to terms with the fact that this was a real life experience and not everything had a calculated purpose, it just was.

Ghosh’s writing and travels show the merging of a lot of major themes; while he is looking for this slave he encounters conversation and challenging of religion, westernization, and orientalization. The town he stays in is this strange mix of old world traditions and longing for modernization. My favorite part of this book is when he is having a conversation and another person makes a comment about how he probably worships cows all day back home. This moment shows the assumptions that people make about entire cultures based on the little information they have. It me think about today and the war our country is fighting; we attack people based on assumptions, the US views itself as the world police, but who are we to say how things should be, as we are looking at things through our own cultural (or lack thereof) perspective and many times we don’t take into account an other’s cultural perspective. It is the things that Ghosh did not go looking for that made this book interesting; we never get a resolution when it comes to the slave, but you lose sight of that during the reading because his interactions bring about these other topics.

I believe that the reason that Ghosh is so fascinated by this slave is because he only discovered him by chance. If the slave had never been mentioned in the things that Ghosh was reading the slave would have been long forgotten about. It shows the power that language and literacy hold. The passing on of stories is what immortalizes events, places and people. It is the entire basis for the study of history. How often do we hear that unless we study history it will inevitably repeat itself? Whether Ghosh knew it at the time or not that is really the point that he was proving.


Anonymous Student #2 follows up:

After reading In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh there are many interesting things that I have learned about this book. First, I found it very interesting that this is a true story. When I first began reading this book I could not seem to put my hand around the idea that in the 1980s life was still very difficult for many Egyptians. Reading this piece of literature opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone lives comfortably and is able to get around in a car. I believe that I knew these things, but in his book Ghosh made me aware of the differences among people; at the same time I was able to see that while there are differences among cultures and religion, people are still the same. I believe that Ghosh uses this book to create a window into a less privileged world, to pull his readers in and make them care about the conditions and lifestyles of third world countries and the history among us.

Another interesting aspect of Ghosh’s book that I was able to pull out of the reading was that religion and trade are what bring people together; they are what lead to globalization. It is interesting to think that although there was such a strained relationship between India and Egypt they both desire the same thing, modernization; both want to increase the technology and want to better their lives. The racial tension and cultural differences throughout the book are some of the themes that I focused on heavily during my reading. I did outside research on the time period and was able to discover that the main reason for the tension between Iraq and Egypt in the 1980s was because the Egyptians were going to Iraq during the Iraq/Iran working and taking all of their jobs. So while, Iraq was at war, Egypt was benefiting from the jobs available.

The most interesting piece of information that I took from the novel is from the slave of MS H.6. I believe that what Ghosh was trying to do by including this character in his novel is show that history lives on through those where able to read and write, through their journals, letters, and records, and if he wouldn’t have found the letter that contained information about him we would never know about him. This sends a message to me that it is important to understand that there are misunderstandings in culture and history. Through Ghosh I have found myself able to look at both sides a situations and realize that we are all the same, fighting for the same things, with essentially the same goal, modernization, for better or for worse.


Steph bats third:

What I was most surprised to learn from simply reading In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh was his desire to get other people's stories on the page. He observes the culture of Egypt with tolerance and openness; he also has an ear open to the ancient Ben Yiju and his slave, and to what their significance may have been. He transcribes his day to day interactions with the Egyptian “fellahs” and in this book gives them a place to be observed by thousands and thousands of readers, making them more real and less of an “other.” This book must be a way of showing the reality of people other than ourselves and attempting peaceful interactions with them.

In the book, Amitav Ghosh reacted peacefully to cultural barriers between himself and the Egyptians. He does not get fired up over symbolic differences, as he knows from his own experiences that these symbols are what start wars. The Egyptians criticize his religion, the fact that Hindus cremate their dead, and the long-standing myth that Hindus worship cows. He takes these differences, and the way the Egyptians distort the information so that the Indians sound like the more barbaric culture, with an attitude of humility and tolerance.

I believe Ghosh's travelogue showed his personal desire to create bonds that are stronger than and reach past perceived cultural barriers (as well as the barrier of history in the case of Ben Yiju). I feel this even more strongly after researching some of Ghosh's other writings, especially from reading an essay entitled “The Anglophone Empire” posted on his website.


Owen Mayer hits clean-up:

Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land was, I believe, the first text I had read in an English class which was not a novel, poem, or an essay. If forced to describe the genre I may venture something like, “narrative history.” It did not come as a surprise to learn that Ghosh has taught at many universities not as an English professor but as a Sociology professor. When reflecting on this text it seems as though it was written with much more of a sociological leaning than a literary leaning. By comparing an ancient society with a modern society Ghosh questions social and technological progress.

In conducting further research on the book I was shocked when I actually took out a map and traced the paths of the characters in the book. Ben Yiju, the trader of the middle ages, began his life in Tunisia and traveled to the south western Indian coast. His “slave” was trusted with his business affairs and traveled between India and Aden, which is in modern day Yemen. I believe Ghosh purposely chose these two well traveled subjects to serve as a comparison with the modern characters, the Egyptian fellaheen (small-town farmers), most of which never leave Egypt. It is interesting to note the differences in travel, especially in what we often think of as a world which has been recently shrunk by modern transportation.

Much of the criticism on In an Antique Land, such as Anshuman A. Mondal’s “Allegories of Identity: ‘Postmodern’ Anxiety and ‘Postcolonial’ Ambivalence in Amitav Ghosh’s In An Antique Land and The Shadow Lines,” discusses Ghosh’s (who is a Hindu from India) relations with the fellaheen (who are Muslim). Mondal describes how they perceive him as an “other,” a person outside their community, and can find no positive in his differences from them. The reader can compare this experience of Ghosh to the experience of Ben Yiju, a Jewish “other” living in a largely Hindu community in India. Compared to himself, Ghosh describes relatively few cultural barriers that Ben Yiju encountered in India. In an Antique Land frequently provides readers with opportunities to compare life in the Middle East and India across the borders of time; readers can make political, social, religious, and gender based connections.


Next up: Team Wiggityx4 Wack on V.S. Naipaul's A Way in the World!

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Generalizations (and Grad School, Tenure, and Taylorism)

Can't do with them, can't do without them--that's the problem with generalizations, I say. As an antidote to the off-target generalizations flying around about tenure these days--"it exists only to protect lazy bullies!" "it's to blame for the corporatization and casualization of the university!" "it restricts the academic freedom of the untenured and nontenurable!"--may I humbly recommend that you go and check out A White Bear's post on the way faculty and graduate students (are expected to) interact (and so much more) over at Is there no sin in it?? Go ahead, I can wait.

Read it? Yeah, yeah, I know it's not about tenure even tangentially, but I'll get to that. One of the things I love about her post (and AWB's blogging more generally) is the way she sets up and qualifies the generalizations she makes--they inevitably come from carefully-observed and -thought over details of her life. Even better, almost every post reads like an insight has just hit her or a pattern has just fallen into place in the world or her head. She's not putting it out there as her settled view--she wants to see what her readers make of it. And because she has built up such a great readership and commentariat over the years, the comments on many of her posts are as illuminating and moving as her writing that got each of those asynchronous conversations started. Which is to say that she gets blogging--she really is committed to exploring the possibilities of this medium and of playing with its emerging conventions and traditions.

Tenure? Oh yeah! Here's the connection, in slow motion. AWB offers three interesting generalizations about what being a graduate student means.

1) "PhD students, even more so than undergrads, are, on the East Coast, anyhow, expected to be slime-dwelling sycophants. We are supposed to keep in mind at all times that, although we are responsible for teaching big courseloads of difficult classes, sitting on committees, helping to run programs (often out of our own pockets), advising students, writing recommendation letters, developing curriculum, and on and on, we are in probation. Our classes are observed and evaluated every semester, our behavior is analyzed to the finest degree, our work scrutinized for purity of thought, and, on top of all that, we make about a quarter of what a tenure-track prof makes, and usually without health insurance."

2) "And when I meet students from other, more formal and stately PhD programs, I am rather shocked by the god-like awe that separates the faculty from the graduate students. At MLA one year, I remember sneaking off to a casual Thai restaurant and watching a whole program dine together, everyone in thousand-dollar suits, with the graduate students speaking only to say things like, 'Ah, I believe Professor X is correct there!' and 'Ha, ha, Professor Y!'”

3) "If there’s one kind of mentoring that really gets lost somewhere in graduate programs, it’s something about how to be brave."

She's not putting these generalizations out there as The Truth. For those who read her post and check out her blog regularly, it's clear that these are reflections based on comparing her (relatively collegial) experiences with others'. But because she's so observant, so smart, and such a good writer, it feels to me that she's earned the questions she poses at the end of her post, in which she puts forward even broader generalizations:

Partly, I suppose the grinding-down is there because most of the people who seriously consider grad school in the first place are egotistical assholes, but what about those who are so easily convinced by the grinding-down that they are scum? What benefit does it offer them to further scummify them? We receive all kinds of professional training, but as far as interpersonal social training goes, all grad students seem to be learning is how to couch every statement with an apology and a self-negation. Who is there to lift us up so that, when we go on the job market, we look like young professors, and not like self-loathing vermin? Is the feeling that one is a vermin somehow productive in a way that I am blind to?

Tenure? I'm getting there. First, I want to throw a question or 5 of my own out there. How widespread are the problems AWB identifies? Do they get worse the higher up the academic status (and endowments) ladder you go? To what extent does tenure exacerbate them? To what extent does it cause them? Is it possible that tenure has nothing to do with them at all?

Sure, AWB's comment thread on this post is mostly about gender, generations, and mentoring, but I don't think I'm out of line to connect this to the tenure issue. When you're in your graduate program, you tend to assume it's a microcosm of the entire profession--that The Field is Your Department writ large. If you hit the jackpot on your job search and start your first tenure-track job at a place that's roughly equivalent to where you did your graduate studies, you're too concerned about figuring out the local politics and culture of Your New Department to make much of the difference in perspective on The Field you're getting. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people starting their tenure-track careers find themselves in the world of Academic Taylorism, too busy to do more than rue how badly their graduate programs prepared them for life outside the Billion Dollar Endowment Club. And the rest--the majority of candidates--do academic piece-work. The generalizations you tend to make about The Field start from the kinds of institutions you've been at and positions you've held in your academic career.

What Craig Smith and I have been trying to do is connect the dots--explore the relations between the training/credentialing system, the job search system, the academic staffing system, and the institution of tenure. A post like AWB's can help us do this--from our various institutional locations and academic histories--together.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nalo Hopkinson to Make Toronto-to-Fredonia Commute

[cross-posted from sf@SF]

It's official! Award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer Nalo Hopkinson will be giving a reading/lecture at SUNY Fredonia on Monday, April 21st. And she'll be making a special appearance in our Science Fiction class the following day, which we're moving to a new room to accommodate Saundra Liggins's African American literature class and any other Fredonians who want to attend.

Many thanks to the Dean of Arts and Humanities John Kijinski, the Pride Alliance, the Science Fiction Fantasy Gamers Guild, and the Mary Louise White Fund--not to mention the amazing Ms. Hopkinson herself--for making this visit possible. And to Jeffrey McMinn, Textbook Manager at SUNY Fredonia, who will have about 25 copies of her newest novel, The New Moon's Arms (which, by the way, was recently shortlisted for the Nebula and Aurora awards) and her first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring (which won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest in 1997 and recently was one of the 5 finalists among the books selected for the Canada Reads program).

Here are the details:

Monday, April 21, 4:30 pm, Thompson W101: Reading/Lecture on race in science fiction; free and open to the public

Tuesday, April 22, 2 pm, McEwen G26: Class Visit; free and open to SUNY Fredonia students, faculty, and staff

And a bit of a bio:

Born in Jamaica, and raised in Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, and the U.S., Nalo Hopkinson has lived in Canada since her family moved there in 1977 when she was 16 years old. The author of four novels and two short story collections, she has branched out into essays, editing, and art in recent years.

Spread the word!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Beyond Just Talking

OK, so we just had our own little in-house symposium on world literature/s that I've been blogging on a bit lately (and on which more to come) that we're thinking of expanding for next fall, but if there's one place I could be this weekend besides home grading, it would be the Rethinking the University conference that Marc Bousquet has been blogging about lately at How the University Works. I'm particularly interested in the calls there to "teach the university," as I've been doing something along those lines the past few years and will have a chance to do it again next fall, once for undergrads entering the major and again for Master's students entering the graduate program. If anyone in Blogoramaville has any suggestions on how to revise my approaches to raising these issues with students, chime in!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On Teaching World Literature/s, Part I: The Value of Just Talking

I'm still processing the 3-hour-long discussion on world literature/s that members of my department had this past Sunday (the last hour of which I missed due to a nasty sinus infection that's hit the Full Metal Archivist just as she enters the home stretch of her MLS program's semester--ugh!), and with grading and advising taking up the rest of this week, I won't be able to do more than a few quick hits on it this week here.

Our original plan was to focus in the first hour on concepts and theories of world/global literature, use the next hour for breakout sessions on how and what and why we teach what we do in the world literature courses that we teach, and then turn to issues of goals, mission, requirements, and curriculum in the final hour. The point wasn't to come up with any proposals or voting items, but to take some time to hear each other out, learn about the history of the department, consider how the issues and debates in the scholarly literature play out in our teaching experiences, and so on. What was great was that we had one emeritus professor (and former dean) and one full professor who could fill the rest of us in on the discussions and planning that went into the shift in the early '90s from a British/American-survey-based core to a world genre-based core; a handful of recently-tenured people who could speak to our intellectual journeys in our time here, partially as a result of teaching in that core; and a good number of new and relatively new hires who could bring fresh eyes to our majors (English and English-Adolescence Education). What was also great was that we could have the discussion without a sense of looming crisis: long before my cohort came here, we were one of the most influential departments in campus governance and we've done a lot of serious work to continue that tradition in the past decade; we have a very high percentage of majors per graduating class relative to the national average in English; and we just had an amazing Open House for admitted students the day before, the largest in the university's history, in which every student I talked to said that we were already their first choice. (That didn't stop those of us at my table during lunch from venting over assessment, accreditation, the SUNY system's misguided approach to general education, and NY State economics/politics, of course.) What wasn't so great was that due to travel, health, birth, leaves, and other matters, some key people had to miss the symposium. On the bright side, that meant those of us who were there could be a bit more informal and flexible than we had originally planned. In fact, we actually had an intense two-hour-straight discussion on our first two topics as a full group, without having to break out into smaller groups--or even break for a snack!

I won't use this post to get into the actual issues we discussed; what I want to focus on instead was the value of the discussion itself. When I arrived here in 1998, the new faculty had plenty of time to talk in the hallway, drop in on each other's offices, hang out downtown together, have each other over for meals, and generally get to know each other and the established faculty quite well, both in personal and professional terms. Over the course of the ensuing decade, I've found that my time is much less my own. This is not simply due to a shift from being single the first half to starting a family the second half, although the fact that so many people in my department and our wider circles of friends have been making the same shift has obviously had a huge effect. But in my experience, what's had an even bigger effect is a marked increase in workload, particularly in service. Increasingly, my time on campus has been eaten up by meetings and preparations for meetings. Even though I've eliminated union service this year (thanks to ballots for the 2007 elections taking forever to reach me in Japan) and cut back sharply on university service (I'm back on the University Senate this semester and was just nominated and voted in to be its Vice Chair next academic year, though, so that's coming to an end), the intensity and stakes of department service have taken me by surprise. What this has meant is that besides the mentoring I've been doing this year (and can I add how pleased I am that 2 of the 3 I worked with as associate chair want to continue working with me?), I've barely had time to sit down and talk with anyone in my department, including my best friends, for more than a few minutes at a time.

So just taking the time to have an intellectual/professional discussion with my friends and colleagues was--how shall I say it?--great fun. Even more fun than listening to my colleagues whom I invited to speak with my students in my introduction to the major half-semester seminar or participating in the Theory Live series one of my new colleagues organized this semester (on which more later). It's funny what a pleasure it can be to simply hear what we think and why, what we've done and how it's worked, what issues we have with the world literature core and what we ought to do about them/it. And to realize how much I missed this kind of exchange. Next in this series: what kind of exchange it was.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

On World Literature/s

Since the early 1990s, my department has placed world literature at the core of the English major--students here have to take 3 of 4 courses in an introductory genre-based world lit sequence--but since I've been teaching here we've never really sat down and systematically examined what we mean by "global literature," how we approach teaching it, and how we might improve on the goals and requirements of our major. That's going to change later today. We'll be building on an earlier Global Studies conference we co-organized and responding in particular to a few pieces from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's World Literature/s Research Workshop, 2007-2008:

  • the introductory distinction proposed by the workshop organizers between World Literature and World Literatures:

    World Literature - in the singular - seems reserved for the repository of the timeless wisdom of the world, the best representation of the multitude of narrative forms and traditions around the world from the antiquity to the present. World Literatures - in the plural - however, is unreflectively used for contemporary literature written in and/or translated into English and other languages of European descent. Marketed as exemplars of the contemporariness of the world, such literary works make their way into the classroom through courses and series on “World Literatures.” The seemingly democratic plurality ascribed to the noun, however, does not guarantee this body of works the singularity reserved for the repertoire of “World Literature.” The contemporariness of “World Literatures” creates the impression of their being ephemeral; their multifaceted and purportedly chaotic ambition is often measured against the timeless and eternal value inscribed to representative works of a national or a linguistic canon assembled under the rubric “World Literature.”

  • Franco Moretti's "Conjectures on World Literature" (2000) proposes a method for studying world literature: "Distant reading: where distance...is a condition of knowledge: it allows you to focus on units that are much smaller or much larger than the text: devices, themes, tropes--or genres and systems" (57). He takes as one example the "rise of the novel" around the world, and draws the following conclusion from it:

    if after 1750 the novel arises just about everywhere as a compromise between West European patterns and local reality--well, local reality was different in various places, just as western influence was also very uneven: much stronger in Southern Europe in 1800...than in West Africa around 1940. The forces in play kept changing, and so did the compromises that resulted from their interaction. (64)

    He suggests that this compromise is not just a matter of form and content alone, but something that expresses itself in the narrative voice itself, as well. And he concludes that tracing out national phylogenetic trees and global diffusionist waves are two competing approaches to analyzing world literature.

  • David Damrosch's definition from What Is World Literature? (2003): "all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language" (4); "a mode of circulation and of reading" (5) that casts a work as both literary and worldly (6). By literary, he suggests inclusiveness in response to the debate over whether world literature consists of "an established body of classics, an evolving canon of masterpieces, or multiple windows on the world" (15), but points out problems with each, as well. By worldly, he argues that "works of world literature take on a new life as they move into the world at large, and to understand this new life we need to look closely at the ways the work becomes reframed in its translations and new cultural contexts" (24). Along the way, he offers advice on avoiding cultural and critical imperialism, presentism, literary ecotourism and cultural Disneyification, total immersion or airy vapidity, and other dangers of reception and production attendant upon translating, editing, and reading world literature. And he suggests that Moretti's choice between a tree or a wave viewpoint on world literature and between close and distant reading techniques is too stark.

More on this after our symposium. The Valve's Moretti book event and the online journal Words Without Borders make for interesting reading in the meantime.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sisyphus for President!

Things are tough all over public higher ed, it appears. But Sisyphus over at Academic Cog has the answer. Who better to run the UC system than someone with on-the-ground experience in how it really works?

Come on, Blogoramaville--are you with her?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On Funding Public Higher Education, Part VII: New York State Budget Webquest

Rather than continue hijacking the comments thread at my IHE column, I'll simply point out here that the crisis in the New York State higher education budget, which pits SUNY vs. CUNY and public colleges and universities vs. privates, is coming to a boiling point.

Here's some testimony from late January that's worth recalling today:

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Co-Chair, Commission on Higher Education

Alan Lubin, Executive Vice President, New York State United Teachers

Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Caucus-CUNY (with related materials)

Fred Floss, then-Acting President, United University Professions

And for context, see the report of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities on the Top Ten State Policy Issues for Higher Education.

I wasn't planning to blog on this so soon, but I guess I won't have the luxury of perspective or reflection. More when I get back from a campus event!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fool's Day Came Early This Year

I was pretty familiar with the quality of Inside Higher Ed's commentariat before agreeing to write a column for them, but it appears I've been spared the worst of the usual dreck. I was hoping to pick up a few trolls here out of the whole deal, but no dice.

Thankfully, though, the few comments that did appear from L.L. and Buzz provided much-needed comic relief for the start of the post-spring break rush. It's hard to tell whether

a) they read the title and the blurb only and rushed to comment without reading my piece itself;
b) they misread my piece almost completely;
c) they really expect to influence any colleges or universities in the Billion Dollar Endowment Club that read my piece, see the light, and set up a committee to give out a few million dollars before the end of the semester; or
d) they're cleverly trying to illustrate the lack of value of their own public university degrees by demonstrating what little they got out of them.

Any other options I missed?