Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ottoman affairs

I really enjoyed doing this interview with Danny O'Quinn about his remarkable new book Engaging the Ottoman Empire: Vexed Mediations, 1690-1815.

Small teaser:
I’m pretty committed to this violent non-traditional archive and to this unfamiliar repertoire: once one sees these things, they can’t be unseen. But violence poses extremely challenging theoretical questions for what we do: questions pertaining to the limits of form and representation, to matters of historical complicity, to the affective dynamics of economic and political domination and subjugation. Much of my work has revolved around matters of wartime affect; Engaging the Ottoman Empire feels like my most sustained attempt to understand the precarity of life as it permeates the mediascape.
You can find older installments of this interview series at Medium and also at the Rambling.

For me, this format is perfect. I like choosing and reading the book and thinking up the questions - and at that point, my work is pretty much done! The annoying conventions that have to be followed when you write a formal review for publication are a small bane of my existence. In general I prefer to write comments on manuscripts rather than weigh in once something's already been published (and I also place a higher priority on tenure and promotion letters than on published reviews), but I like getting to pose a few questions about things that struck me.

(Note to self: just said yes to promotion/tenure letter #6 for the summer, that is large workload, HARD NO TO ANYONE ELSE WHO ASKS! But then again if it's someone you know, it's very difficult to turn down. At Columbia, declines to write tend to be counted against the candidate, even when the refusal comes with a reasonable explanation that doesn't have to do with the candidate's work.)

Pamela Weaponized

The stress of the trip gave me a huge relapse vis-a-vis ongoing lung ailment and precipitated a visit to a doctor who gave me some serious medications. But I was very set on seeing Martin Crimp's Pamela adaptation When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other so that I could write about it, and it was highly worthwhile in the end - my piece has just gone live at The Rambling.

A teaser:
My Pamela, when I teach or write about Richardson’s novel, is the Pamela of resistance. I don’t care whether or not my students read much (any?) of the dreadful parts that follow Pamela’s acceptance of Mr. B’s marriage proposal. I refuse to foreground the fact that Pamela voluntarily marries her would-be rapist, or that the main work (the deluded and delusory work!) of the rest of the novel is retrospectively to redeem all that was violent, coercive, troubling in the relationship between the two. Before that, in the first few hundred pages, Richardson has brilliantly conveyed the moment-by-moment consciousness of a young woman under constant threat from the sexual predator who employs her.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

"The glacier is experienced as a silence"

At the TLS, Robert Macfarlane on the memory of ice:
Ice is a recording medium and a storage medium. It collects and keeps data for millennia. Unlike our hard disks and terrabyte blocks, which are quickly updated or become outdated, ice has been consistent in its technology over millions of years. Once you know how to read its archive, it is legible almost as far back – as far down – as the ice goes.

Friday, May 03, 2019


Not really tracking online reading these days, but I thought it was worth linking to this illuminating NYRB piece about Edouard Louis written by Jason Farago. I must read the novel, but it will probably be worth my while to read the original - the points about structure and style make it sound riveting. Anyway, interesting to students of literature and politics alike...