What’s up?

Blogging has been scarce these past weeks. Initially the hiatus was about travel: a vacation followed by holidays with family followed by an unexpected week away. But the time away let me work on other projects and think about what this space is for, and that whole process isn’t done yet.

The news I have:

1. I’m done for now with the Faulkner hypertext project. I had no real appreciation for how radically different hypertext writing was. Neither did I realize how much I need, personally, to let go of an old project that feels done for me. Faulkner needs to be set aside. That said, the questions about linearity that trying to make the project readable brought up for me are very much alive…and very troubling. I hope there will be more to say about that here soon.

2. A series of work projects have taken on a life of their own. None of them are appropriate to discuss here. (An interesting insight: not everything is internet-ready.) This means that life and blog are competing a bit for the time being. This too shall pass, right?

3. More abstractly, this blog feels adolescent. I’ve spent a lot of time these past weeks wondering what this blog is for and what I want it to be. Because I am old the idea of blogging about blogging makes me shiver. Because I am not that old, the questions sting. What started as an experiment has become important, but how? And that “how” is public. /sigh.

4. I have planned for months to blog about the way I’ve been experimenting with wikis in my classroom. In the coming weeks, I may spend some time catching up on what I’ve been doing there. It’s a matter of finding the time to pull out my notes and making posts that I feel ok with.

Finally, I’m sure that anyone who’s read this far will already have read Mark Bernstein’s recent series of posts about Wikipedia and the ongoing GamerGate fiasco. I’ve found them inspiring enough that:

5. This semester I’ve decided to throw GamerGate at the students in a first-year research writing class I’m teaching. It’s the sort of topic that teachers dream of: it touches an intensely personal aspect of students’ lives and challenges them to think about what their casual pleasure mean. But to make sense of the conflicting materials (and their reactions) will require classroom skills they prefer to cordon off in a box labelled simply “school.” Bernstein’s posts set alongside Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency videos, Zoe Quinn’s blog  and supplemented with the resources Bernstein links to in posts like this one and the various articles in news sites and in magazines like The New Yorker, will present my students with a real problem. I can’t wait to talk about it with them and to see what they write. Depending, I may keep tabs on it here.

So that’s where things are and why posting is slow.


DraculaI’d never actually read this novel, so around Halloween I picked it up. I liked it, especially the late confrontation in Dracula’s home and the long race back to his castle.

The novel revels in technical intelligence and skill with tools, which makes sense because the gothic is generally about the pre-modern threatening the modern. It also identifies this modernity with women (and again, women standing as signs of what men desire and fear is a common trope). As a result, the gothic threat to industrial modernity plays out here as a foreign man stalking and violating upstanding British women.

Fine. whatever. Charlie Hebdo, etc. etc.

What caught me off guard is how overtly and directly the novel portrays the men in the story—despite their certainty that women need their protection—as completely lost. Mina more or less saves herself and all of London by working through them. Yet the men seem to believe—to actually believe—that she’s desperately in need of their help. But their help is comically, stupidly sexist: despite the fact that she’s the only one who ever figures anything out, [note]But what about Van Helsing? Well, he doesn’t figure things out so much as provide the knowledge necessary to establish the situation and advance the plot. In archetypal terms (ack! lol), he’s the magician rather than the hero.[/note] they keep locking her in her room to save her from the horrific details of the situation and then when they fuck up and make things worse, they let her out, tell her how bad things have gotten, and she fixes everything and gets them going again. It’s exhausting.

The final race to the castle under threat of sunset, which is narrated from a distance and at a breakneck pace, pulls off something of a miracle by allowing these foolish men to kill Dracula at the last moment and in a satisfying, redeeming way. My uninformed, out-of-context read is that Stoker identifies with Mina, is disappointed by the men around him and that the final scene (and not the portrait of Mina) is the novel’s wish: it imagines a world where the lame men of modern London get it together and act heroically, proving themselves dashingly worthy of the Minas who love them.

Back (Again)

I can’t think of the last time I’ve travelled so much is so short a time. It’s been really great to see everybody (shout out to the clan!) and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I could, but I’m also happy to be home and ready to get back to my very ordinary life.