20090430

Back from Inner Space

So, here I am, back again. It's been a long and busy semester, as the cliché goes. I passed my Oral Comprehensive Exam on the 15th of April, which is nice, as I am now ABD. For that exam, I wrote and defended what amounts to the rough draft of my dissertation's theory chapter, in which I explained what I meant by "medieval utopian function" by going through some general/Marxist utopian theory (Marx/Engels, Karl Mannheim, Joseph Gabel, Ernst Bloch, Lyman Tower Sargent, and Fredric Jameson) and a few of the more medieval-oriented discussions (Michael Uebel, Hilario Franco, Karma Lochrie) that did not focus specifically on the genre of utopias. Having identified the two uses to which general theorists put utopia—ideology and culture critique—I noted that the trend in medieval uses of utopian theory has been some ideology critique, primarily by finding spaces of hope (Lochrie) or social difference (Uebel). From both major sources (general/Marxist and medieval) I derived the following definition of the medieval utopian function:
A form of social dreaming before the modern period that critiques some contemporary ideological “truth,” such as a point of church doctrine, the nature of fame, or the order of society. Part of that dream includes some solution to the problem, a solution that may take any form from basic wish-fulfillment to planned and dialectically open-ended society. The solution may or may not have been effective in the dreamer’s own time, but it can inspire hope and social critique in our own age.
This is, of course, still pretty vague, but until I've done more readings in the the texts, it will have to do. Speaking of, right now, I intend to work with the following texts: House of Fame, Pearl, Winner and Waster, Piers Plowman, Regiment of Princes, and Vox Clamantis. I have some ideas about all of them, and I may float some of those ideas here as the year rolls by.

Oh—also, I received an award from my department: the Blair Rouse Fellowship, which is given for "Superior Academic Achievement by a PhD Candidate in English." It came with honor, and with money, and I'm thankful to my department for both.

Meanwhile, I have been assured that there will be no jobs whatsoever in the coming year, and that I have picked the worst possible time to try to begin a career in academia. I have yet to be sure if that's true, but it is a cause for concern. We'll see.

2 comments:

Karma said...

Congratulations, Jacob, on both of your achievements. Kick ass!

As for the market, I've determined to either stop my ears with wax for the next couple of years and try to keep on smiling, or else become the most obscurely educated fry cook the world has ever seen. It's kinda crazy, but in a way I'm trying to let it free me to a certain extent - e.g., "it's ok to take a day off at the end of the semester to read trashy vampire fiction instead of German etymological dictionaries because there's no point in having a nervous breakdown over something you can't freakin' control anyway" - or something like that. Meh. I'll be rooting for you (and for all of us).

Jacob said...

Thanks, Karma!

I agree with you about the market situation--it can't be controlled by the likes of us (well, maybe . . . but there would have to be a lot of people committed to the fight, and, as several of us learned in our department recently, that can be very hard to pull off). It can be weird and, yes, a little liberating, to have those options of "endure in academia" or "leave the profession and work elsewhere," and I've been thinking about that "elsewhere," too. Museums? Publishing houses? Some government agency? Punching cattle? Anarcho-syndicalist artists' collectives?

Whatever it ends up being, I do hope things work out for the best, for you, for me, and for all of us.

(Feel free to chalk up 15% of this posts' cliches and sentimental tone to early-morning-low-coffee)