Friday, August 27, 2010
Time to get on with it!
A couple of months ago I wrote a post at Novel Readings expressing my impatience with the seemingly endless recurrence of the same questions and topics in academic blogging. It’s not that the questions have been answered or the topics exhausted--or that my own contributions have been especially original or revelatory. It’s just, as I said then, that “having done this dance before, I don’t think I want to do it again”:
At this point I just want to get on with it: trying to find a critical voice, and to hone and articulate perceptions that reflect both rigorous reading and a more personal, affective, and engaged vision of criticism.
What that resolution has meant for me, in practice, is that I have spent a lot of time this summer working on a couple of writing projects that (while they certainly draw on my academic experience and expertise) are not themselves academic projects--or at least, they aren’t, strictly speaking, scholarly projects. It has meant that I have become increasingly interested in the editorial work I’m now doing at Open Letters Monthly, which provides a forum for the kind of crossover critical style I want to develop. It has also meant a decline (indeed, nearly a collapse) in my interest in jumping into the never-ending debates that always resurface, in one form and forum or another, about academic writing, the value or scope of the humanities, the future of academic publishing or of peer review. And it has meant a decline in my posts here at The Valve, because however loose the official parameters of the site, it has always felt to me like a place best suited to more academic or theoretical discussions, not a general repository for either literary or personal reflections. These aren’t lines that are always very clear, and when the energy at The Valve seemed higher overall, it seemed natural enough to post a wider variety of things and just see where the conversation went. But lately, I have found myself hesitating about posting or cross-posting,and more often than not, I haven’t contributed anything. Rather than simply and silently joining the fairly long list of ghost bloggers here, people whose names are listed but who don’t in fact write for The Valve any more, I’ve decided that it’s better to make a clean break and ask the editors to remove me from the list of current authors.
I want to thank Joe Kugelmass and Scott Kaufman for inviting me to write for The Valve back in March 2008. It was a great two years: the conversations were varied and invigorating, and I appreciated the chance to participate. I know I’ll always look back on the Summer of Adam Bede as an inspiring example of the kind of cooperative intellectual experience blogging can become! I’ve learned a lot from all my fellow Valve-ers, who always showed both generosity and wisdom in their responses to my posts, not to mention rigor and intellectual curiosity in their own. There’s still a lot of interesting material going up here on a pretty regular basis, and I certainly expect to keep on reading and commenting. But I’m going to concentrate my own blogging energy just on Novel Readings for a while. I hope some Valve readers will come over and visit sometimes.
I haven’t visited The Valve for ages but just clicked on and read your sad news. I’m surprised there are no comments.
I would just like to say that your Adam Bede project was one of the most enjoyable online events I’ve ever taken part in so thanks for that and I wish you all the best in your future ventures.
Sad to see you go, Rohan. It was good having you around. & I’m glad you’ve found another home for your blogging activities.
I notice you’re still on the masthead as a current author. Should we set up a betting pool on when, if ever, that will change?
Hear, hear, Bill, well said.
I also liked the Adam Bede event, and it was too bad that they didn’t happen again after the Bronte book.
I think that the real problem isn’t the ever-recurring questions per se, it’s that so many of them have simple answers in the negative. Not a literal “no”, but looking back at The Valve, it seems to me that it went through a sort of mini Tech Bubble: are lots of things going to change about the future of academic writing / publishing / the humanities? And the answer was no. Well, there’s the ongoing change from tenured to untenured work, but there the question was, could that change itself change to some better regime. And the answer there appears to be no as well.
I’ve had a ghostly few months, Valve-wise, and understand your position here. You’ve been a great Valver, and I’m very glad to have been introduced to your posts, your humane and wise critical intelligence and yourself. I shall certainly keep checking out Novel Readings.