Sunday, June 19, 2005

File Under: Unfinished Projects

So my dissertation is all about the role/status of things in modernist art and literature. I've got an essay on mimesis, junk culture, and the outmoded in James Joyce, one on the problem of artifice in Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp, another on theories of the Renaissance and anti-occidentalism in Ezra Pound and Charles Olson, the problem of over-accumulation and value permutation (or the gift, the collector, and trash) in Melville, Borges, and Citizen Kane (as read through Derrida), another on a similar problem in Vittorio de Sica's films Bicycle Thief, Umberto D, and La Ciociara, a piece on slapstick comedy and the blurred line between the organic and the inorganic in Marcel Proust's A la recherche de la temps perdu (with notes on Bergson, Heidegger, William Carlos Williams and Buster Keaton), and maybe some others. It's a mix of theory (both old and new) and what I hope are some original readings of some key texts. I have a review to write by the end of the summer of two recent books by Bill Brown from the University of Chicago, Things and A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature, that will also stand in as a kind of survey of the field: "thing theory," as Brown coined it in 2001, has become an interesting and fairly vital offshoot of the whole lit-theory enterprise within the past few years. What I hope to do (both in the review and the dissertation) is to crystallize what's already been done and open the door for something fresh and new.

But every once in a while, I get the urge to leave things behind and write about something else entirely. These are two projects I've been kicking around for a while now (the first quite a bit longer than the second) which might make for good ideas for courses or book-length projects once I've had my fill with thing theory. Also, since I've been reading a lot of ancient Greek literature this summer, I've been thinking about each of them quite a bit.

Read the first here: Punishment and Drama.

And the second here: The Literary History of Paternity.

And please, tell me what you think. I hardly ever get comments on this blog, at least by regular readers, and here more than anywhere I need feedback, some ideas about where to go next. You know, once I finish this first thing.

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