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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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About Last Night
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Amardeep Singh
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About Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is Assistant Professor of English at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island. His publications include articles in Raritan, PMLA, Shakespeare Quarterly, English Literary Renaissance, and several anthologies as well as poems in Raritan, the Paris Review, the Southwest Review, the Western Humanities Review, and Tikkun. He coedited an anthology called Edmund Spenser: Essays on Culture and Allegory, and is one of the Shakespeare section co-editors of Blackwell’s Literature Compass online publication.

Email Address: greenfield@mail.csi.cuny.edu


Posts by Matt Greenfield

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Theorizing Novels

Posted by Matt Greenfield on 07/14/05 at 07:38 PM

Proust, whom I have been reading on my family vacation, sometimes sounds like a contributor to Theory’s Empire: in the final volume of In Search of Lost Time, Proust says things like “I began to perceive that I should not have to trouble myself with the various literary theories which had at moments perplexed me”; “Authentic art has no use for proclamations of this kind, it accomplishes its work in silence”; “And it is perhaps as much by the quality of his language as by the species of aesthetic theory which he advances that one may judge of the level to which a writer has attained in the moral and intellectual part of his work.  Quality of language, however, is something the critical theorists think they can do without, and those who admire them are easily persuaded that it is no proof of intellectual merit, for this is a thing which they cannot infer from the beauty of an image but can recognize only when they see it directly expressed”; and “A work [of art] in which there are theories is like an object which still has its price tag on it.” These are peculiar suggestions for Proust to make, since they come in the middle of sixty or so pages of literary theory.  Inside the novel is a substantial work on the theory of the novel.  The culmination of this sequence of novels, the telos of thousands of pages of fiction, is the moment when Proust at last realizes how a novel should be written. 

Continue reading "Theorizing Novels"

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Getting Ranked

Posted by Matt Greenfield on 06/05/05 at 11:59 PM

The Research Assessment Exercise, which ranks departments and universities by the quantity of their publications, has had an unhappy effect on British academics.  When one’s own paycheck depends on the number of publications extruded by one’s department, the colleague who publishes three mediocre monographs in five years is a hero; the one who publishes one great book every ten years is not pulling her weight.  I have noticed that British academics often prefer to publish a collection of articles as a ninety-dollar book rather than as a special issue of a journal with a wide circulation.  Why?  A book counts for more in the RAE. 

Continue reading "Getting Ranked"

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Two Performances

Posted by Matt Greenfield on 04/30/05 at 06:15 PM

In one theatrical world, two sinister bronze statues, fifty feet tall, with flames shooting out of their heads, descend from the heights to hover above the singers, flanking a semi-transparent prismatic temple covered in hieroglyphs.  Three albino boys with long white beards fly across the stage on a weird creature, part pterodactyl, part World War One biplane with some of the cloth panels missing and the wooden skeleton showing.  Two singers descend on a magical elevator into the depths of the ocean while semi-visible figures fly fish-shaped kites.  There are samurai, Indonesian shadow-puppets, polar-bear kites, many different species of bird-people, some on stilts, and people with detachable wings and heads.

In another theatrical world, two African Sufi mystics kneel side by side.  They are both looking at a word, invisible to the audience, which has been scrawled in a wooden bowl filled with sand.  The set consists of several large woven straw mats, a ladder carved from a tree trunk, stools, pots, blankets, and some percussion instruments.  Neither man moves or speaks.  This is the play’s turning point: the protagonist is deciding that in the future he will recite a prayer called “The Pearl of Perfection” eleven times rather than twelve.

The first production is Julie Taymor’s Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera.  The second is Peter Brook’s Tierno Bokar.  Brook used to bring his productions to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, but Tierno Bokar is being staged in the gymnasium at Barnard College.  I saw both productions last week, and both now belong to my personal pantheon of transcendent theatrical experiences.

One of the stories which could be told about the conjunction of these two productions would center on the economics of the arts.  On one side are some big numbers. My tickets for The Magic Flute cost over two hundred dollars each (and were still almost impossible to get).  Mounting the production clearly cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.  Julie Taymor’s production of The Lion King has made over half a billion dollars for Disney and still packs them in after ten years; the Met must be hoping that this Magic Flute will have a similar run.  Unlike some European opera houses, the Met has a wage cap, but some of the performers still make five thousand dollars a night.  Meanwhile, although Peter Brook’s theatrical laboratory in Paris has significant state support, his audiences in New York find themselves sitting in bleachers, as if they had come to see the Barnard basketball team. 

Continue reading "Two Performances"

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Note on Poetics

Posted by Matt Greenfield on 04/23/05 at 11:14 AM

It is the spring of 1991 and I am sitting in a clean, modern-looking seminar room (I think I remember blond wood, steel, and large windows) at the University of California at Irvine.  I am trying to decide where to go to graduate school. 

The class begins with a series of student presentations.  The first two students deliver elegant theoretical arguments of a kind that is soon to become profoundly unfashionable (in 1991, the faculty of Irvine includes J. Hillis Miller, Jacques Derrida, and other theoreticians transplanted from Yale).  The third student, who is working on an MFA in creative writing rather than a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature, presents something rather different: an impassioned, repetitious, and poorly argued denunciation of T. S. Eliot’s elitism.  The professor and the Ph.D. students are embarrassed and fidgety.  Despite the anger in the presenter’s voice, I sense that she is experimenting in a playful and ultimately disinterested way; she is trying to figure out what role the critics want her to play and wondering what will happen if she doesn’t play it.

Continue reading "A Note on Poetics"
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