New Year

New Year

As it seems customary, I suppose I should report/summarize what this year has meant to me. People who have read me for a long time might have noticed the changes, but it seems logical to perhaps offer my own perspective on it. I haven’t been doing much personal writing here, and there are reasons for that. As I have been teaching online, and am in a secure relationship for the first time in years, it doesn’t seem right to have the sorts of self-indulgent pity fests that I used to have. Besides, I’ve just plain got too much work to do. I haven’t been writing as many flippant things as I used to, partly because of “audience” considerations and partly because I’m desperately trying to grasp about a thousand things at once.

I’ve been writing here since February 2001 without significant pause. Sometimes, it has been just to note something that I’d like to build from. Sometimes, these bits and pieces turn into something more by their conflation. Often, my head feels like it is going to explode from all the things I’d like to write. Inevitably, it turns into a weird sort of shorthand. Over the course of this year I have become less and less social about it. It’s not that I don’t value the comments and conversations that sometimes stir, but just that I really must focus on writing some fairly massive and important (to me anyway) stuff. Everyone (at school, anyway) says that the best thesis is a done thesis.

But I’ve never been good at finishing things. I think that’s why blogging is so seductive to me. You don’t really ever finish. The arc of my current research has been strange and beautiful to me. It began with an inquiry into the nature of heroes and heroism (which kept me firmly entrenched in the eighteenth century). It moved into the problem of images and texts (which has me stuck in the nineteenth century). Eventually, where I really want to be expending most of my research energy is in the 1930s, because that is when really exciting things began to happen, both in the formation of the national identity (and its perverse notion of heroism) and in the fight against resemblance and realism in images and texts. Realism is the problem that just won’t disappear—no matter how many times its futility is shouted down.

I guess what I’m really trying to figure out is how to be real in a world that is increasingly virtual. To do that, I think it is important to understand how what we experience (in image or text or both) affects who we are in the world. I do not think there are any real answers in psychology; I think the important answers are in the understanding of rhetoric and how it operates on us. People crave things that are real and the rhetoric of realism is profoundly disturbing and elusive. It changes a little more each day.

2 thoughts on “New Year”

  1. “The rhetoric of realism”–now there’s a problematic phrase! So much of that rhetoric seeks to deny its status as rhetoric. And yet I know exactly what you mean. I just came back form the Southern California desert, where I picked up three small rocks: one red, one black & one white. Obviously, I was gesturing toward the real, but the gesture was premeditated, i.e., rhetorical.

  2. This is fascinating — I hadn’t realized that’s where you were heading. You should really pick up The Dark Valley, about the politics and culture of the 1930s, with a focus on image-making; it aroused similar thoughts in me (and makes me want to write something really in-depth).

Comments are closed.