Okay, so that’s not what’s going on here. In actuality, she’s talking with Devon Ward-Thommes and Rachael Lyons, the non-fiction and poetry editors, respectively, of George Mason’s feminist literary journal, So to Speak, after her Fall for the Book talk. It was a good introduction to modern feminism for a lot of the freshman women (and men) in the audience, who were either just beginning a Women’s Studies course or interested in learning more about her book. There was even a Power Point presentation and everything! (Including a mention of this great rock n’ roll camp for girls). Rock on young feminist women, rock on.
Tomorrow, George Mason’s Fall for the Book Festival will host the talented author, blogger, and feminist Jessica Valenti at 1:30 in the Johnson Center Cinema. If anyone out there in Blog Land has any questions for the mind behind Feministing, leave them in the comments section and I’ll try to ask them, as long as they don’t make me look stupid. For example, you could ask if she ever runs into Garance Franke-Ruta, and if Garance ever mentions you. Of course, that’s just a suggestion–feel free to ask your own questions.
Michael Bérubé, he with the best-named-endowed-professorship (366 career wins!), applies his nuclear-force Humanities intellect to the Debate That Won’t Die (sorry Mike), and calls Ross Douthat out in the process:
Perhaps the sorry state of contemporary canon-commentary is best exemplified by Ross Douthat, who picks up the NAS study and writes, “obviously, having Morrison and to a lesser extent Woolf in that group is somewhat depressing.” Obviously, you just gotta love the “obviously.” In a stroke, five of the most accomplished novels from the high-modernist era—Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves—have now been so pwned by Ross Douthat!
If you read the whole thing, you can essentially skip all of your English classes¹ for the next week; you become that much smarter.
¹ Except of course, my class. Aw, who am I kidding, you weren’t planning on showing up anyway.
By Alicia Feuillet
I am a Foodie. I read the Washington Post Food section every Wednesday. The most exciting piece of mail I get is the month’s new Bon Appétit. I had to buy a new bookshelf just for my cookbook collection. I have thrown more dinner parties before the age of 25 than most people will in a lifetime. I cook nearly everyday of the week. In the hierarchy of importance, food is juxtaposed with politics.
I take my self-proclaimed Foodie status to heart, but last week I was incorrectly (in my mind) labeled a Food Snob. But then I thought, what exactly is the difference between a Food Snob and a Foodie? After much thought, I realized there are actually three groups: Food Snobs, Food Slobs, and Foodies. Continue reading
I’m more than a bit tardy to the literary canon back-and-forth between young Zeitlin and Mike Meginnis, but I was busy with things associated with a graduate program focused on literature and writing (he said knowingly, suggesting actual expertise–for once).
A couple quick points about literary forms to set the stage, suggest some problems, then onto my central argument. First, it’s interesting that both discuss the evolution of the novel next to the largely defunct epic poem. The biggest factor in the demise of the latter was the introduction of the former; as literature progressed, people became more accepting of “mere prose” as a literary genre. Realistic novels began to supplant poetry as the medium for communicating narratives, as the Romantic tradition pushed poetry to the more introspective lyric mode, a mode which tends to dominate poetry today. We don’t read epic poems today because we’ve made a greater distinction between poetry and prose than was made in the past.
From the Greeks we received the idea of poetry as the essential mode of literature–prose was for newspapers and pamphlets. But this turn is as much cultural and aesthetic as it utilitarian; I don’t want to belabor the invention of the novel as an “evolutionary” step in narrative. Strictly speaking, one can write a narrative as easily understood in poetry as one could in prose (it just wouldn’t rhyme as much and would be less recognizable to readers today). The complicated category of prose-poetry comes to mind here, and demonstrates how hard it can be at times to list criteria that makes a work “definitely a poem” or “definitely prose.” But I don’t want to stray too far the core debate. Continue reading
Jonah Goldberg makes note of a conservative/libertarian blogging contest for college students (for which he is a judge) sponsored by America’s Future Foundation. If you win, you get $10,000, as determined by a panel of notable right-leaning/libertarian bloggers. This is from the press release:
- Jonathan Adler of The Volokh Consipracy
- Radley Balko of The Agitator
- Robert Bluey of The Heritage Foundation and RobertBluey.com
- Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online
- Mary Katharine Ham of TownHall.com
- Megan McArdle of JaneGalt.net
To enter, and for the complete set of rules, college bloggers canvisit http://www.americasfuture.org/collegeblogger. There bloggers can enter their site for consideration. The deadline for entries is December 31, 2007. From the entries, AFF will choose ten finalists. The panel of seven judges will then track the blogs between January and April and will then choose a winner.
So far, so good. Seems like a nice little contest, if your political sympathies align with America’s Freedom Foundation, you have a blog, and are enrolled in college. But then AFF had to go and include this: Continue reading
I’ve been working my way through American Execptionalism and Human Rights in between teaching and classes, and thinking how strange and unconvincing discussions of America’s role in the international order must sound to foreigners.
I was right. Opino Juris has a post examining the varieties of American exceptionalism, and the commenters aren’t having any of it. Nothing revelatory here, considering the invasion of Iraq and subsequent bungled construction and sectarian conflict. The more interesting question is: how do Americans reconcile their position–from a strategic and ethical standpoint–as opposed to appeals to patriotism?
At the strategic level, the realist rationale is pretty self-evident, and likely the controling rationale for many Americans: an America unbound by international law is free to pursue its interests. It’s about self-sufficiency. The moral critique is likewise a simple narrative for Americans: it’s easier to be sanguine about the use of power when you look at your friends and neighbors and say, “These are fundamentally good people; they’re not war mongers and they make up our military and government.”
But I think John McGinnis might have an answer: Continue reading
Like Matt Zeitlin, I often like what George Will has to say. When he’s wrong, he can be as ideologically unimaginative as other pundits, but he’s a sensible conservative voice on This Week. But the best is his baseball commentary–or rather, a great parody of George Will by Dana Carvey on SNL. What do you get when you mix an educated, elitist square with a baseball fan’s love of trivia? George Will’s Sports Machine. You’ve got to love the audience reaction to questions like: “The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.” Teh funny.
I think Megan McArdle and Dan Drezner are a little too close to the real economic policy to get the clear–well, non-technical and hazy–conventional wisdom about balanced budgets, especially among many left-of-center types. The filtered down CW, let over from the Clinton years, is that Democrats are the inheritors of the fiscal responsibility mantle, a notion cemented by overturing Ronald Reagan’s structural deficits in the late 90s. This was fairly clear in almost every Democratic speech innvolving economic policy in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
But the convential wisdom always lags behind the actual debates in the policy wonk trenches. Several months ago, Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman both argued that Rubinomic budget balancing merely enabled irresponsible Republican policies and a right-wing class war that lead to greater inequality. Krugman’s summed up his advice to the incoming Democratic Congress thusly:
The answer, I now think, is to spend the money — while taking great care to ensure that it is spent well, not squandered — and let the deficit be. By spending money well, Democrats can both improve Americans’ lives and, more broadly, offer a demonstration of the benefits of good government. Deficit reduction, on the other hand, might just end up playing into the hands of the next irresponsible president.
McArdle and Drezner miss this, I think, because they are too knowledgeable. While not necessarily agreeing, they’re savvy enough to know that Democrats don’t want to take their current short term gains and argue for fiscal strictures, especially in light of increasing populist sentiment. The mistake, however, is to make their informed opinions representative of the average political observer.
A lot of people are linking to this poem today, which I think is fine, but I’ve always been partial to this Adam Zagajewski poem, which appeared in the September 26th issue of The New Yorker, the first issue after 9/11. It was written before the attacks, but it does what poetry does best, moving past the merely narrative to what consolation can be found after a tragedy has been documented:
Try to Praise the Mutilated World
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
Tyler Cowen takes issue with one of Bjørn Lomborg’s central arguments in Cool It; specifically, Lomborg’s assertion that economists advocate only moderate policy changes to address global warming. One of Cowen’s more interesting caveats is that economists “do not even know enough moral philosophy to understand the issues involved (and the philosophers don’t understand enough economics), so there is no coherent consensus one way or the other.”
I’m not sure how much economic instruction it would take to bring a moral philosopher up to speed (or an economist training in philosophy) but I’m going to say that it’s a harder than it seems. There are lots of good representatives of specific moral communities (e.g. third-world populations) specific interests (e.g. wildlife, oceans) affected by global warming, and markets (e.g. economists), but none of them are properly linked. I think we’re looking at serious information constraints. Which is why I think some of the second (third or fourth best, really) options like raising CAFE standards aren’t a priori off the table, even though they are market distortions; there isn’t a very effective market (yet) for climate based economic policy.
Cowen also points out another glitch in developing a solution:
The strongest argument against significant action is not from cost-benefit analysis in the narrow sense, but simply that we are not very good at producing international public goods. Especially when it comes to extended, intertemporal collective action problems directed against small probability events, with unclear periodic feedback, and dealing with the Chinese and the Indians, who feel they have the right to pollute as much as we did, and also with the not-nearly-as-cooperative-as-they-might-sound Europeans (how’s that sentence for a mouthful?).
So not only is managing international institutions and regulations something of a crapshoot, but coordinating an international public good, which begins nowhere and can’t be excluded from use by any other country, is even more problematic.
If economic policy could benefit more from understanding moral philosophy and the vagaries of international regulation, I know my solution: how soon can we put Tyler Cowen, John Holbo, and Dan Drezner together in a room?
From the National Security Network (via Ezra Klein) a video about the progress of the “surge” and the crisis of confidence surrounding the administration:
Democracy Arsenal (whose authors are part of the National Security Network), also has a fact check of some of the claims made in General Petraeus’s speech.
The bottom line is that with credibility surrounding Iraq War management hovering around nonexistent, no one should be surprised that “give us another few months to assess progress” is rejected almost out-of-hand. To begin with, it isn’t clear what long-term goal the surge will accomplish, even it does prove effective at quelling violence. Yes, lives will be saved in the near term, which is always good, but if everyone is admitting that the real success comes from gains on the political front, then what good are military victories if there isn’t cooperation within the Iraqi government? Who are we making the country safe for if there’s no state to run it?
Furthermore, Bush’s past foreign policy decisions (like four years of a mismanaged war run by Don Rumsfeld) suggests that the President is content to stick with his own Iraq policy until the end of his term. The reports on progress with a “wait and see” approach are procedural niceties to keep public minimally informed and kick the can down the road so that attempts can be made to salvage something from Iraq.
I’ve been hard on the Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet, in the past, so I wanted to point out some quality posts, many of them from Kwame Dawes. In his latest post, Dawes discusses a recent column by V.S. Naipaul on another West Indies Nobel Laurete, Derek Walcott. As Dawes notes, Naipaul’s praise for Walcott “is oddly muted, and somewhat underhand.” For Naipaul, there is no “there” there in the West Indies; what the empire left behind wasn’t enough to make literary greatness:
It was something we with literary ambitions from these islands all had to face: small places with simple economies bred small people with simple destinies. And these islands were very small, infinitely smaller than Ibsen’s Norway. Their literary possibilities, like their economic possibilities, were as narrow as their human possibilities. Ibsen’s Norway, provincial as it was, had bankers, editors, scholars, high-reaching people. There was nothing of this human wealth in the islands.
Naipaul’s assessment, concisely summarized in his oft repeated assertion that “Nothing was created in the British West Indies,” strikes me cynical and deterministic. Although it’s true that the greater the level of economic development, the easier it is to support the arts (a better economy means more money and more time for cultural products), Naipaul misses the extent to which an empire leaves the tools of literary greatness behind as it retreats back toward the core. Human wealth is necessary to propagate cultural products, but not to create them. A Caribbean resembling Ibsen’s Norway would be more likely to produce a Walcott or Naipaul, but all it takes is one Walcott to remake the landscape of English language poetry.
Consider Walcott’s response to Naipaul (from a 1986 Paris Review interview): “Perhaps it should read that ‘Nothing was created by the British in the West Indies’. Maybe that’s the answer.” It is indeed the answer, and Walcott makes the reason clear earlier in the same interview when he states, “I am a Caribbean writer. The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.” Once given the tools of an English writer–language and an education–a post-colonial writer is free to make the language new, and make work of as much creative force as previous, European generations.
Walcott’s success demonstrates that out of the remnants of empire and slavery, voices can emerge that become models for the former empire (or those in America who speak the language). It isn’t only that Walcott had to leave St. Lucia to have his work recognized (though to some extent, he did) it’s that Walcott truly is of a piece with Milton and Marlowe, and he is of the Caribbean too. The empire can’t help being influenced in return by those it has conquered.
The “Wait, what?” sentence I read today:
Well, I’m not talking about the War to Make the World Safe for Democracy (World War I), the War to End Fascism (World War II) or even the Cold War, which ultimately brought down the Evil Empire, at least temporarily. (emphasis mine)
What the hell? Raise your hand if you think the Soviet Union is going to make a comeback. That’s what I thought. C’mon, this has to qualify as fundamental foreign policy unseriousness. Diana West needs to concern herself less with “The Death of the Grown Up” and more with the permissive nature of opinion journalism. Apparently, anyone with a B.A. in English can publish their personal sociological musings and political ramblings. Wait, on second thought–score!
I quoted this fact from Marginal Revolution to my girlfriend:
Of Vogue’s 840 pages, 727 are ads, or: 13 percent is editorial.
To which she responded, “Yeah, I know.”
The same issue of Vogue was sitting on the coffee table in front of us. She picked it up and began flipping through it, pointing at different ads, saying things like “Oh, that’s nice, I’d buy that,” or “Wouldn’t wear that.” Several pages later she dryly stated , “Oh look, here’s an article. And there’s some of one over here too,” which was hilarious. The magazine is mostly a catalog broken up by pictures that look like they’re part of a catalog–and some prose. Also, it doubles as a doorstop.
As as side note, I’ll actually agree that having a bunch of ads in an issue about fall fashion is complementary because people who buy the magazines will want to see what the designers are putting out for the fall lines. They may even want to buy some of it. But that’s a lot of ads to get with your magazine.