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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
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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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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blogger Bloggers & Academic Niceties

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/05/05 at 07:43 PM

As most of the Valve’s contributors are holed up in the places they hole up when deadlines press (West Hollywood), I thought it’d be a good time to discuss procrastination.  Academic writing’s Pretty Hard, Dammit; procrastination’s so easy I can do it while I write the very words you’re reading.  I’ve two points to this post, and I may even get around to them both, so here goes:

First, I’ve noticed that the majority of Blogger bloggers blog anonymously.  (If you browse the rolls over at, say, Bitch Ph.D. you’ll find an almost one-to-one correspondence between platform, Blogger, and anonymity.) Why would thoughtful and intelligent bloggers wish to remain anonymous?  I could understand if the point of your blog were to document the daily stupidities of the undergraduate population at the university of your employ; but if you’re discussing academic matters in a civil, appropriately academic tone, I don’t see the point of anonymity.  Am I a naive future-litigant and/or professional adjunct?  Should I consider, as I jested earlier today, stuffing the cat back in the bag?  (Lest anyone think I’m the least bit literal, I assure you I am not.) If I had to guess, one reason for the culture of anonymity is that it provides the freedom to discuss non-academic or strictly professional matters more frankly.  (E.g. You wouldn’t solicit advice on whether to accept an offer from another institution or discuss your personal, medical, mental &c. issues if you blog under your actual name.) But I don’t trust what I hazard.  On principle.  Sound principle.  I welcome your input.

Second, I mentioned academic civility earlier, which is something I’ve earmarked for a future post--or possibly series, as I adore series--but want to mention, briefly, now:

Wallace Martin’s “Literary Critics and Their Discontents: A Response to Geoffrey Hartman"--not to be confused with John Searle’s contribution to Theory’s Empire, “Literary Theory and Its Discontents,” although both essays partake of a phenonemon I’ve discussed before--opens with a thumpingly generous account of the debates about the new “style” of argument in literary studies (circa 1977) favored by J. Hillis Miller, Paul De Man and the rest of the “Yale group.” “The brilliance and variety of the criticism produced by the Yale group not only deserves to be recognized,” Martin argues, “it demands to be challenged, for if it is merely accepted without radically changing the kind of criticism produced in this country, the acceptance has been too easily accomplished and their critique of traditional critical assumptions has been evaded” (398).  Missing from this statement, as Appiah argues in “Battle of the Bien-Pensant” (from Theory’s Empire), is the “outlandish rhetorical inflation, [the] storming-of-the-Bastille bombast brought to bear on theoretical niceties” produced by the contemporary “intertwining of academic and social agendas” (446).

These pleasantries can be pushed too far, as happens in Murray Krieger’s evaluation of Derrida in “Poetics Reconstructed: The Presence vs. the Absence of the Word":

It is probably a mistake to press Derrida’s brilliantly chilling analysis of language functions, both a means to and a major portion of his metaphysical (or rather anti-metaphyscial) quest, into literary theory, which may seem rather trivial in light of his monumentally ambitious undertaking. (357)

Someone unfamiliar with Krieger’s opinion of deconstruction care to venture what it is? 


As a pre-first-semester graduate student (how’s that for “new to the game") I recently began writing an academic blog of sorts.  I chose to divulge my name and bio only after careful consideration of what that may mean down the line.  No matter how much we like to think it’s not, academia is characterized by its politics as much as its quest for knowledge.  I’m about as new as you can be to higher education and while I’m not sure where I’ll end up, I’m fully aware of anything I write on my academic blog (as opposed to my personal blog) now can have very real implications for future plans, jobs, etc.

But I completely understand while many academic bloggers want to remain anonymous...it makes sense.

By Will on 07/06/05 at 12:22 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I use Blogger and I don’t particularly try to hide my identity, and I know of plenty of other bloggers working in universities who publish their full names and institutions. 

Personally I’m suspicious of attempts to correlate blog genres and blogger identities with blog platforms (LJ being the typical example) but smart people out there are doing research along these lines even as we sit here procrastinating. 
I imagine some teachers who refrain from publishing their names on their blogs do so because they don’t want their students googling them up: others probably still feel that blogging is a designated Departmentally Questionable Activity.

By on 07/06/05 at 01:35 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Will, your placement of Tech Central Station under the “Academic/Science” category on your blog is hurtful to the feelings of UNCW alumni everywhere.

By Jonathan on 07/06/05 at 12:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Will, you have two blogs then?  One for shameless self-promotion of the professional sort, another for shameless self-promotion of the personal?  I suppose I do as well, what with being a contributor here in addition to my own blog, so I shouldn’t be surprised that others do as well; still, the idea that I even have an identity divorced from academia boggles the mind.  Would that that were a joke.

Laura, CultureCat’s Dissertation Fellowship Proposal (linked to from the site you pointed out) looks interesting, although it’s mainly about polit-blogging, a phenomenon I have little investment in; what I find interesting, and maybe this falls under the category of self-selection, but I think the academic blogosphere, er, the humanistic academic blogosphere is delightfully balanced between women and men (although it does seem predominantly white).  Even as I say that, however, it dawns on me that many more of the women who blog in it do so anonymously.  Rambling on, I know, but these are general impressions. 

I hope to convince someone to do a study.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/06/05 at 03:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jonathan, about the TCS link...I’ve been debating removing it from my blogroll (the public one at least), but to be consistent I would have to remove a bunch of other blogs that I would be embarrassed for people to know I read, like say, The Valve;)

By Will on 07/07/05 at 10:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s an apt comparison as John Holbo also doesn’t believe in global warming and his Dow 10,000! MS was rejected in 1999.

By Jonathan on 07/07/05 at 10:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I began blogging anonymously as part of an undergrad class in literary theory. The intent and benefit of doing so was to begin to think of one’s self as a theorist, to develope the voice of a theorist.  When the class ended I continued to blog, but some acquitences of mine who had found out about the project continued to read.  What resulted was some very superficial writing on my part, although I did not know that people I socialized with were reading, I pericieved them as the audience just the same.  Then I realized a most undesirable thing had accured, gossip. Many bloggers delve into the personal and I can understand why they wouldn’t want everyone they know reading their blogs, and instead chose who if anyone they want to reveal their identity to. Perhaps another reason for blogging anonymously is that doing so suggests a distance which could provide a more reflective and constructive discussion.  Or possibly what is so attractive about anonymity is that it is performance. You create and inhabit the character/role.  Just some thoughts on anonymity. I look forward to reading the series on academic civility, the preview is very interesting.

By cadence on 07/09/05 at 01:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m surprised no one here has yet brought up this week’s *Chronicle of Higher Education* (7/8/05).  In the Careers section you’ll find an article entitled, “Bloggers Need Not Apply,” with the by-line, “Job seekers need to eliminate as many negatives as possible, and in most cases a blog turns out to be a negative.”

Much of this article assumes that it’s proper to base academic hiring practices on getting to know the real or hidden self of a given candidate (as if an interview or campus visit gives much insight into selfhood!).  Some of the examples are fair—those bloggers who gossip about colleagues or students might not make the best colleauges themselves.  But other examples are essentially taste judgments about blogs passed on the candidate qua candidate—which is essentially the same as hiring on the basis of a shared love of Air Supply.  Or, more dangerously, hiring on the basis of other shared extra-curricular activities like politics. 

As advice, the column is probably right: minimize as many potential negatives as possible when you go on the job market.  This means blogs as well as your annoying habit of bashing A.S. Byatt at every available opportunity (well, *my* annoying habit, anyway).  But the column is also a bit scary.  It’s one thing if the candidate *told* the search committee about his/her blog; it’s another if search committee’s start going on-line in search of non-academic material on which to base a hiring decision.

By on 07/09/05 at 04:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

LB, I have brought it up.  Just not on the Valve.  The response for this post was so underwhelming that, my interest (and that of my gracious commenters) aside, I thought it better not to breach the topic again so soon.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/09/05 at 05:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’ve made this comment on two blogs so far, and I think the point I make is unanswerable and should change how you think about the column: the likelihood of so many bloggers ending up as finalists in this putative search is much smaller than the chance the column’s details are simply fabricated.

Every outraged blog-post just encourages the Chronicle to continue publishing like material.

By Jonathan on 07/09/05 at 05:30 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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