Thursday, March 05, 2015

MLA Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities Forum in the Commons Newswire


by J J Cohen

A significant change to MLA structure was the recent reorganization of divisions and discussion groups into forums, along with the introduction of a few new ones. Among these new forums is Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities. Though proposed by Sharon O'Dair, Stacy Alaimo, Stephanie LeMenager and me (and the four of us thereby became its inaugural executive committee when it was approved), the establishment of Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities is in fact the culmination of years of lobbying by numerous MLA members, many of them allied with the visionary organization ASLE.

Now that the forum is up and running, we are planning all kinds of events both at future MLA Conventions (in Austin we will sponsor a roundtable on "Energy, Matter, Force") and within the wider structure of the association (stay tuned, for example, for -- we hope -- a PMLA announcement). We are committed to honoring the ethics of the environmental humanities in whatever we do, and therefore have special interests in environmental justice, activism, critical pedagogy, interdisciplinary alliances, queer practices, postcolonial and critical race scholarship, the new materialisms.

A piece on the new forum appears in the latest Commons Newswire. We are especially proud that the our MLA Commons page has become a place for scholars to post and download syllabi. Read the whole interview (we composed the answers together) and you'll see why we think this forum matters -- and not just because it's a space where medievalists, early modernists, and more contemporary types are able to join across temporal divides in a shared project.

Monday, March 02, 2015

What You Can Do To Help: BABEL Access 2015

by the Members of the BABEL Steering Commitee

Today we officially launch BABEL's most ambitious fundraising effort ever, even bigger than the Kickstarter that Nimrod ran to erect the original Tower of Babel: an insane attempt to raise ten thousand dollars. TEN. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. Who raises that kind of money for a nonhierarchical nomadic entity that wanders, provokes and catalyzes? It's not like we have a director of development. We run almost everything we do on volunteer effort. But we know what we do have: you. Your support. Your desire to develop more passionate and more compassionate intellectual and artistic community. We're certain we can do this together. We believe that through this project's success we will demonstrate that caring for those in precarious positions within, without and beside the academy is not a nice little afterthought but a central obligation.

The funds we raise will be spent ensuring that BABEL events are accessible to those who do not have much in the way of institutional support: adjuncts, graduate students, those who teach at institutions fond of declaring a state of emergency and suspending scholarship and development, artists, nomads, all the members of the precariat. We are raising funds for three intimately related purposes.
  1. $1,000 for the James Paxson Memorial Travel Grant, to be awarded for travel to the 2015 Kalamazoo Medieval Congress. Two grants of $500 each will be awarded to presenters who lack institutional support for travel.
  2. $1,000 for the Radical Conviviality Fund, the money used to ensure that all BABEL social gatherings are open to all regardless of financial means.
  3. Most importantly, $8,000 to aid precariat presenters to travel to BABEL Biennale at University of Toronto in October 2015. This fund will be used to cover travel and hotel for those who do not have the institutional support to cover their own travel.

Consider the tangible, immediate and material ways you can help graduate students, NTT faculty, artists and others who do not have access to adequate professional development resources -- as well as to conference enjoyment. Please contribute generously. We want as many people as possible to have access to BABEL.
AND: Members of the BABEL Steering Committee have donated prizes. Your life will change in their wake! If you contribute, you are eligible for things like: punctum books and records, poems made in your honor, a stack of cool books, a compilation of weird out of print texts, bestiary wear, parchment, a guest post on the Material Collective blog, hand knit mitts, BABEL swag (and yes, if you buy your own BABEL swag during the fundraising effort, the profit becomes a donation to BABEL Access 2015)


Thank you!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Applications Now Welcome for the 2015 James Paxson Memorial Travel Grant

by EILEEN JOY

It's that time of year again: the application process is now open for the James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant for Scholars of Limited Funds, initiated by a generous gift from a former student of Jim's at the University of Florida, Mead Bowen, and sponsored by the BABEL Working Group. The grant was specifically established to aid scholars to travel to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held each May at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In brief, for those scholars who have had a paper accepted by the Congress, but for whom travel to the Congress presents a financial hardship (due, especially, to lack of institutional and other support), we have established this grant in memory of Jim Paxson, and, more pointedly, for persons presenting on topics that would have been dear to him, whom many of you will remember as an important person in the support and development of theoretical medieval studies through his role as an associate editor for so many years at Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. This year, we will make two awards of $500 each. Please see below for the full description of the Travel Grant, and note that the deadline for applications is MARCH 31, with a decision to be made by APRIL 10 (and monies to be disbursed prior to actual travel).

The 2015 James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant for Scholars of Limited Funds 

The BABEL Working Group invites applications for the 2014 James J. Paxson Memorial Grant for Scholars of Limited Funds, available for presenters at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held each spring at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan). This grant honors the late Prof. Paxson, an energetic and creative scholar who was particularly devoted to exploring medieval allegory, Piers Plowman, the relations between literature and science, medieval drama, and the works of Chaucer. He produced the important monograph The Poetics of Personification (Cambridge, 1994) and authored an extensive body of articles on a variety of literary and other subjects, while also helping to steer and edit the journal Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (a journal that has been vital to the development of theoretical medieval studies) through its formative and later years. His enthusiasm for research was surpassed only by his commitment to his students. He mentored countless men and women at the University of Toronto, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the University of Florida, and he regularly encouraged them to present their findings at academic conferences. Yet he often lacked the funding necessary to present his own work at the conferences he urged his students to attend, and it disheartens us to think that, had he been able to do so, we might have learned something more of the work he was conducting before his passing, and more of us might have received the gift of his encyclopedic knowledge, boundless enthusiasm, and love for teaching. Prof. Paxson was also warmly supportive of the BABEL Working Group at a time when they needed such encouragement, and he was known for his helpful encouragement of those just starting out in the field. Through the James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant, we hope to extend the encouragement he freely gave and the funding he deserved to scholars who wish to honor his legacy of kindness, erudition, and commitment to both expanding our knowledge of the medieval world and also embracing new ideas. 

Two grants of $500 each will be awarded to help defray travel costs, registration fees, lodging and other expenses for scholars who would otherwise find it a financial hardship to present their work at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. First priority will extend to those presenting on topics dear to Prof. Paxson: medieval English literature, especially medieval allegory, and even more especially Piers Plowman; medieval drama; science and literature; critical theory; and/or Chaucer. Scholars whose careers would benefit the most from this opportunity, such as early career researchers, and also graduate students and recent doctoral graduates, will also take precedence in our selection process. Applicants should send a brief prospectus of their accepted ICMS paper (350-500 words), a statement of financial need (briefly outlining why this award would be helpful at this time), and a brief (2-3-page) c.v. (including full contact information) -- please submit these as one document -- to Eileen Joy -- eileenajoy@gmail.com -- by MARCH 31, 2015. The recipient of the grant will be announced on APRIL 10.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Larry Benson

by J J Cohen


Last week I learned that my dissertation director, Larry Benson, died. Here is a slightly adapted version of some thoughts I offered on Facebook at the time.

Larry Benson was (among many other things) the general editor of the Riverside Chaucer, a distinguished teacher, and scholar who brought the field in important new directions, especially in mapping the entanglement of medieval literature with its material history. He was a proto-DHer, an acerbic wit, a heavy smoker and (until late in life) drinker. Like all complicated people -- that is to say, like all interesting people -- he had his demons, he had his excellent impulses, he is not easy to reduce into a story.

I'd been thinking about what makes a good thesis mentor when I learned of his death -- partly because I know that I am not always the easiest person to work with in that capacity. My seeming jocularity can make it disconcerting when I express my expectations about depth of research, originality of argument, and sustained attentiveness to a project. And I am very direct. A conversation on effective mentoring that I initiated on Twitter garnered responses that described a relationship nothing like the one I had with Larry when I was a graduate student. These responses stressed presence, engagement, challenge and support. Larry knew that I was self-motivated to the point of being self-punishing. He also knew that I disagreed with him deeply about politics, the academy, social justice as a literary concern, and the value of theory. We had little in common (and I dwelled too much on that fact), so even though I took several classes with him and two independent studies, we seldom talked about anything other than medieval literature. Every now and then someone would send him a book that touched on feminism or poststructuralism, and he'd place it in my mailbox with a note stating that giving the book to me was not a sign of approval. He wrote little on my seminar papers, and he was sufficiently satisfied with me as a teacher that he visited my class only once to ensure everything was OK. The letter of recommendation he wrote for my file (I learned later from a search committee) had a coffee mug ring on it -- but it was a kind letter that admitted not always getting what I was doing, arguing that was a good and necessary thing. Larry was in Florence the year I finished my PhD (I was hellbent on moving from BA to PhD in 5 years; I did not enjoy graduate school, and blame that sourness as much on my own immaturity as anything else). He therefore signed off on my dissertation nine months before I submitted, asking me to mail him a copy when it was done. On the one hand, that sounds terrible, and maybe it is. On the other, without that neglectful confidence -- along with which came no pressure to conform to someone else's vision of what proper scholarship amounts to, or to re-instantiate the field as it was given -- well, I likely would not have been able to research projects that have been so sustaining. 

My scholarship is not much like Larry Benson's, and for a long time I thought that from his point of view that must have seemed a failing instead of a gift. I realize in retrospect that despite ambivalence and second-guessing, despite all those things you feel when someone who was more important to you than you realized dies ... well, I was lucky to have been mentored by someone whose distance was also a mode of trust.

I was asked this morning to send along some memories of Larry Benson, with an emphasis on the positive. Here's what I said:


Some good memories: Larry Benson's conviviality, insisting that graduate students accompany faculty to lunch every Thursday at the Dolphin, a nearby restaurant (this out of class mentoring and conversation, which could be silly or serious, also modeled how to be an intellectual while socializing -- not an easy task); the seriousness with which he took his undergraduate teaching (I was his TF for many years and watched him agonize over getting his lectures right, even though he could have given them from memory and long practice); his desire to build a community of medievalists at Harvard (leading him to agree to play Herod when some of us decided to mount a mystery play as part of a holiday celebration, and to invite graduate students and faculty to his house for a picnic and croquet game -- and not complaining when we took such joy in beating him and Derek Pearsall at that game). 

Larry Benson left me to my work. What could seem like a lack of attention was, I think, also a confidence that I would make something of myself, something unique, mine and not his. He gave me a space that many mentors would not have granted, and that's why I chose to work with him.

RIP, Larry Benson.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

National Adjunct Walkout Day #NAWD

by J J Cohen

Wednesday February 25 2015 is National Adjunct Walkout Day, a day of action to call attention to the labor conditions and unjust payscales of part time and non-tenure track faculty at universities and colleges. Please join part-time faculty and their allies for this day of action. Too often I hear TT faculty speak of "the adjunct problem." Adjuncts are not the problem: a system built around exploiting their labor and minimizing their voice is the problem.

Copious information here; Facebook page here; MLA Action for Allies page here.

QUICK UPDATE on 2/25 [by Jonathan Hsy]:

Monday, February 16, 2015

changes at postmedieval + new editor needed


by EILEEN JOY

With its special issue on "Philology and the Mirage of Time," edited by Michelle Warren (which I blogged about HERE), postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies completed 5 years of some of the most methodologically-innovative and forward-looking scholarship, and also, I really believe, editorial practice, in the fields of not only premodern studies, but also cultural studies more largely. In addition to the more traditional scholarly "article," we have published scholarship in the various guises and genres of prose poem, theory-fiction, "weird tale," personal journal, abcedarium, interview, short story, thought-experiment, Möbius-strip, litany, lyrical essay, roundtable, avant-garde antiphon, poetics, etc. I am really proud of everything that Myra Seaman, Holly Crocker and I have accomplished together, especially as regards our mission to put the past and present into productive critical tension (with a special emphasis on demonstrating the important value of medieval studies and the longest possible historical perspectives to the ongoing development of contemporary critical and cultural theories that remain under-historicized). And that has MAINLY been accomplished thanks to our guest editors: Craig Dionne, Karl Steel, Peggy McCracken, Helen Dell, Louise D'Arcens (twice!), Andrew Lynch, Jen Boyle, Martin Foys, Julie Singer, Jane Chance, Lara Farina, Holly Dugan, Jeffrey Cohen (twice!), Cary Howie, Lowell Duckert, Laurie Finke, Marty Shichtman, Kathleen Kelly, Anna Klosowska, Holly Crocker, Kathryn Schwarz, Daniel Lukes, Hannah Johnson, Nina Caputo, and Michelle Warren. A HUGE THANK YOU to all of them for not only putting together a remarkable array of specially-themed issues, but for also, in some cases, leaping into our editorial experiments, such as our open crowd reviews and also our online FORUM, inaugurated and edited by Holly. I am also happy that Palgrave has been willing to assist us and the journal in inaugurating and sustaining the Biennial Michael Camille Essay Prize, which allows us to foster and support earlier-career researchers. 

Something which I myself would be terrified to have to write, but which we have featured in nearly every issue thus far (fifteen out of seventeen issues: a small miracle!), is the Book Review Essay, a genre we somewhat cadged from The Hedgehog Review, a public humanities journal which I have always loved, partly because each issue's contents is grouped around a pressing contemporary (yet also historical) theme and is then also accompanied by a "bibliographic essay." We thought we might try something similar at postmedieval, in which we would ask scholars to write review essays in which they might take on a group of several (3-5) titles that could be seen to be in conversation with each other as well as with the theme of a particular issue (or with a provocative theme, period), such as critical animal studies, the eastern Mediterranean, post/humanism, eco-studies, historical nostalgia, the affective turn, mobile sociology, fault/error, the material turn, mind studies, comedy, etc. 

Much to my and Myra's delight, Holly Crocker agreed to take on the role of Book Reviews Editor and the results have been stupendous, with essays published by a wide variety of established scholars with significant publishing records of their own in medieval and early modern studies, who I also wish to publicly thank here, not least because reviewing is often considered as mainly uncompensated and uncounted service work, but also because in this case it resulted in an important "volume" of expert viewpoints for deftly navigating the many "states" of many "fields" with more specific analysis of particular books and why they importantly contribute to these field-states. So many THANKS, then, to Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Paul Strohm, Sarah Stanbury, Carolyn Dinshaw, Sharon Kinoshita, Juliet Fleming, Aranye Fradenburg, Clare Lees, Vin Nardizzi, Kathleen Biddick, Stephen Murphy, Glenn Burger, Nicole Sidhu, Ruth Nisse, and Seth Lerer. It is no small feat that Holly Crocker, over five years, has assembled such a cast of reviewers and has also helped to produce review essays that do not nit-pick at this or that supposed failing of a book so much as they consider the ways in which various books have contributed (both positively and negatively) to particular currents of scholarly discourses and fields as well as to certain currents of more public-intellectual thought. It was only natural, then, that Holly would also propose and go on to edit our FORUM, the journal's open-access, serial "extra" in which Holly has assembled thinkers to enter into dialogue and debate on subjects such open review, post-history, dissent, and pedagogy. BRAVO, then, to Holly Crocker, for these accomplishments, which are gifts to the field of premodern studies (and beyond), and for which both Myra and I are so very thankful and grateful. It is with some sadness, then, that I must also announce Holly's departure from postmedieval, at the end of 2015. Holly will be piloting two more FORUMS in 2015, one devoted to "The Material Turn" and another to "The Public Middle Ages," and she will continue working on Book Review Essays through the end of Volume 6. Holly's many contributions to the journal are a major reason for the journal's success. With over 3,000 fans on Facebook, over 3,600 Twitter followers, and institutional subscriptions on the rise every year, we are one of Palgrave's best-performing journals, and that's saying something for the relevancy of the premodern to the present. YEAH MAN! And also: thank you, Holly, because we could not have achieved this without you. Thanks for going on this weird adventure with us, with all of its ups and downs.

While we are sad to see Holly's departure, Myra and I are thrilled that Julie Orlemanski will be joining us as our new Book Reviews and FORUM Editor, about which both Myra and I are thrilled. Julie has already been a contributor to postmedieval, with her essay "How to Kiss a Leper" featured in a cluster of essays on "Disability and the Social Body," edited by Julie Singer in 2012, and with her essay "Speculations on a Dissenting Passion" appearing in our 2013 FORUM on Dissent. Julie has long been a vibrant and important interlocutor within the various projects of the BABEL Working Group, and along with Myra and Allan Mitchell, she organized BABEL's 2013 symposia series on Critical/Liberal/Arts, which has as one of its outcomes a special issue of postmedieval later this year that Julie, Myra and Allan are co-editing. You can read more about Julie's scholarship HERE. Again: WE ARE THRILLED.

Myra and I would also like to announce that Molly Lewis, PhD candidate in medieval and early modern studies at George Washington University, is joining us as our Editorial Assistant for the 2014-2016 term, about which we are very happy, since Molly was a student of Myra's at College of Charleston and is now working closely with faculty and other students at GWU who have played no little role in the development of BABEL, postmedieval, and punctum books. SPEAKING OF WHICH . . .

. . .  as I have been drawn more into the project of running punctum books (more than) full-time, as well as continuing to pilot (with Myra) BABEL's ever-growing enterprises, Myra and I have decided that we need to add an Editor to the journal who would split primary "chief" editorial duties with Myra while I would continue to serve as an Editor, but one whose primary focus would be on long-term issue planning, public relations, and the development + oversight of postmedieval's various innovations (such as the Crowd Reviews and whatever else we are currently dreaming up, like our "Singles" repository -- about which, hopefully more soon ... so STAY TUNED). THEREFORE . . .

. . . WE HEREBY INVITE INTERESTED PERSONS TO APPLY FOR THE POSITION OF EDITOR OF POSTMEDIEVAL, to begin as soon as is possible:

In sharing editorial duties with Myra, the new editor will --
1. serve as Lead Editor of 2 issues per year, which involves being the primary contact person for guest editors, contributors, book review essay and FORUM editor (now Holly, eventually Julie), and Palgrave representatives in order to ensure each issue stays on schedule; performing final copy-editing of edited materials submitted by guest editors of each issue (with assistance of Editorial Assistant) for submission to Palgrave by production deadline; and helping to oversee and manage crowd reviews;
2. review and correct final page-proofs of the other 2 issues each year (with assistance of Editorial Assistant), which often requires a rapid turnaround time (of a few days to a week);

3. secure reviewers for open-topic submissions and edit Online Advance Publication pieces as they are accepted for publication;

4. actively communicate with co-editors Eileen and Myra, Book Reviews and FORUM Editor (Holly, then Julie), Editorial Assistant (Mollie), and various Palgrave representatives relative to all aspects of the journal's management and editorial direction

6. regularly attend conferences at which postmedieval aims to have a regular and vibrantly-engaged presence: BABEL's Biennial Meeting, Kalamazoo Congress, New Chaucer Society, MLA, and/or others as appropriate.
The Editor will receive a small annual stipend from Palgrave and will need to work toward securing a one-course release at his or her home institution. [Nota bene: an R1 institution is no guarantee for securing course releases for editing a journal, and all institutions are fundamentally idiosyncratic on this score. Neither Myra nor I have worked at R1 institutions, although we both managed to secure course releases to edit postmedieval, whereas I know editors at R1 institutions with no support for their editorial work other than receiving credit for professional service. So this is simply a conversation one has with one's Chair and Dean.] Other than the fact that a one-course release is necessarily conducive for the success of such a co-editorship, no other restrictions apply, and persons at all stages in their careers are welcome to apply (event those who may not have an institutional, or conventionally academic "siting"). Those interested in the position should contact Myra Seaman -- seamanm@cofc.edu -- with a brief statement of interest and qualifications, plus any queries, no later than MARCH 15, 2015.

 



New Chaucer Society London 2016: CFP

by J J Cohen

The call for papers has been posted for NCS16 London: check it out here. Thanks to Kellie Robertson and Emily Steiner and the program committee, it's going to be quite a conference: the nine threads collect an astonishing number of smart and creative sessions:
1. London: Books, Texts, Lives
2. Error
3. Medieval Media
4. Scientiae
5. Chaucerian Networks
6. Ritual, Pageant, Spectacle
7. Corporealities
8. Literary Forms
9. The Uses of the Medieval
Open Topic Sessions
Poster Groupings
ALL the sessions are well worth your time. I'm posting the two I'm organizing here and asking you to please submit a 250 page abstract via this webpage by April 15.

4. Environing London
Roundtable
This roundtable gathers some recent work by medievalists and others on ecology and ecotheory. It asks participants to discuss, what happens when we consider London as an urban ecosystem that surrounds (that is, environs) overlapping systems of life while being environed by others (the Thames as estuarine microclimate, weather in constant flux or as part of a Little Ice Age, the long durations of geological history)? Short papers will provoke a lively discussion of the impress of ecosystem on text, and of the possibility of reading ecological change and catastrophe from the literary archive. This session will welcome papers that ruminate over longues durées, so that A Burnable Book meets theBook of the Duchess meets the fossil record and archives of ice and fire.


47. Are We Postcolonial Yet? Pale Faces 2016 
Paper panel
This session will ponder the ways in which literary medieval studies has both changed and resisted some profound challenges to its self-identity over the past decade and a half. Returning to the theme of Carolyn Dinshaw's 2000 Biennial Lecture in London ("Pale Faces: Race, Religion and Affect in Chaucer's Texts and Their Readers"), presenters will wonder about diversity among medievalists, the place of the personal, the matter of race, and the decolonization of medieval studies as a discipline. Sixteen years after Dinshaw's lecture, in the wake of important work by scholars like Ingham, Heng, Warren and Davis (among many others), we will ask if we are postcolonial yet, and wonder why we remain so pale.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let Us Now Stand Up for Bastards: The Importance of Illegitimate Publics

by EILEEN JOY

I recently had the great pleasure and honor of participating in the recent symposium, "Disrupting DH," convened under the auspices of GWU's Digital Humanities Institute, managed by Jonathan Hsy, M.W. Bychowski and Shyama Rajendran, and blogged about already, quite eloquently, by Jonathan Hsy, Angela Bennett Segler, M.W. Bychowski, and Alan Montroso (the symposium's live-tweeting has also been Storify-ed HERE and it is importantly connected to the larger "Disrupting DH" project, which was inaugurated at the 2015 MLA Convention in Vancouver and will eventually be published in a variety of platforms, by punctum books).

The symposium was significant, in my mind, for bringing together 6 speakers (Angela Bennett Segler, Dorothy Kim, Jesse Stommel, Roopika Risam, myself, and Suey Park) who are not just DH theorists, but also DH makers and/or activists. I would never privilege DH making, by the way, as the ONLY way the humanities will somehow move forward (and thrive) -- I believe instead in cultivating what I call a "biodiversity" of practices and modes of thought within and outside of the Academy: just as with various biospeheres, a diversity of communities of living organisms, and the (productive and mutually-sustaining) connections between those communities, promises an ecological well-being that certain measures of supposed "economic" austerity and competition for resources NEVER WILL provide. Nevertheless, it was refreshing and invigorating to be part of a symposium in which various notable practitioners of the so-called "Digital Humanities" were asked to collectively re-think what "disruption" means, or might mean [historically, theoretically, practically], at a point in time when DH is often spoken of as a sort of monolith in ways that distress early adopters such as Kim and Stommel, who have written in their prospectus for the "Disrupting DH" project --
Many scholars originally were drawn to the Digital Humanities because we felt like outcasts, because we had been marginalized within the academic community. We gathered together because our work collectively disrupted the hegemony and insularity of the “traditional” humanities. Our work was collaborative, took risks, flattened hierarchies, shared resources, and created new and risky paradigms for humanities work. As attentions have turned increasingly toward the Digital Humanities, many of us have found ourselves more and more disillusioned. Much of that risk-taking, collaborative, community-supported, and open-to-all-communities practice has started to be elided for a Digital Humanities creation-and-inclusion narrative that has made a turn towards traditional scholarship with a digital hand, an interest in only government or institutionally-funded database projects and tools, and a turn away from critical analysis of its own embedded practices in relation to issues around multilingualism, race, gender, disability, and global praxis.
So, again, I was honored to be part of this group of scholars and, decidedly, activists, who committed themselves, if even for one Friday at the end of a chilly and windy January, to re-thinking and challenging what we [whoever "we" might be] think we mean when we say, "Digital Humanities."

My own thoughts, of late, have often grown dark. In the almost 2 years since I stopped receiving a paycheck from Southern Illinois University and began to devote (almost) all of my (uncompensated) labors to running and sustaining punctum books (and in tandem and partnership with Dan Rudmann, who ignited and runs punctum records, and who is my partner in all labors we have jointly devoted to a recuperative public cultural commons), I have mainly encountered the specter of financial ruin and a variety of institutional, foundational, and other impediments that have given rise to no few feelings of despair (and occasionally, anger). It turns out that the ventures most worth fighting for are never the easiest, the safest, nor the most popular (nor able to be instrumentalized by those who therefore need to clear you out of the way, or more minimally-but-no-less-harmfully, act as if you don't exist), and they are also the most difficult to explain to funding agencies who like to hear the same buzz-words over and over again (like "born-digital," "mega-journal," "massive open online" anything,  "outputs assessment," "data visualization," "aggregation/disaggregation," etc.), while at the same time there is no end to the numbers of persons who require the safe harbor and sustenance of such ventures. One has an existential obligation to "go on" even while one feels, "I can't go on." My own contribution to the symposium, originally titled "Down With Authority: The Importance of Illegitimacy," was written in a spirit much aligned with Kim and Stommel's disillusionment with the ways in which DH has become more of the business-as-usual, but also with a fierce commitment to keep insisting otherwise [which I believe meshes well with the overall ethos of the larger "Disrupting DH" project and its practitioners]. My talk was also partly structured as a response and riposte to Johanna Drucker's essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books, published in January 2014, "Pixel Dust: Illusions of Innovation in Scholarly Publishing." So, without further ado, I share with everyone here the audiofiles of the talks by Angela Bennett Segler and Dorthy Kim -- “Medium Data–Machine Reading, Manual Correction and the End of the Archive” and "Disrupting the Archive: The Ethics of Digital Archives," respectively -- along with an expanded (textual) version of my own talk, which is going to be published in Chiasma: A Site for Thought, as a follow-up to my earlier Chiasma essay, "A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics."

Angela Bennett Segler,
Medium Data–Machine Reading, Manual Correction and the End of the Archive



Dorothy Kim,  
Disrupting the Archive: The Ethics of Digital Archives


My own paper:
  
Let Us Now Stand Up for Bastards: The Importance of Illegitimate Publics[1]


[What might be] the possibility of liberating oneself from a cycle of disengaged production motivated by a craving for legitimising praise? Paradoxically, I looked toward a mutual admiration society — to that ecstatic reciprocal attention-paying of lovers — as an alternative model for understanding how and why intellectuals might freely collaborate.

~ Frances Stark, Structures that fit my opening and other parts considered in the whole (2006)

In her essay “Pixel Dust: Illusions of Innovation in Scholarly Publishing,” published in the Los Angeles Review of Books last January, Johanna Drucker cautioned against what she calls “the hyped myths of digital publishing.”[2] Drucker, who has described herself as both an “aesthetician” and “token humanist” within the digital humanities and information sciences[3] (where she has played important roles, both at the University of Virginia and, more recently, at UCLA), believes there are many “prevailing misconceptions” relative to digital scholarship, such as —
·      that it is “cheap, permanent yet somehow immaterial, and that it is done by machines”;
·      that “everything” is digitized and that everything digital is available;
·      that it participates in all sorts of “fantasies about crowdsourced, participatory knowledge generation that would essentially de-professionalize knowledge production”;
·      that it operates with a “business model in which publishing thrives without a revenue stream”;
·      and, that it provides multi-modal platforms for dissemination and reading that go far beyond the supposed flat “linearity” of the print book.
Drucker is concerned about these “hyped myths” (her phrase), in part, because they arise, along with the digital humanities itself (writ large as a field that cuts across multiple institutions), at a time of crisis in academic publishing, described by Drucker as a situation in which: university presses are shrinking, not expanding, their lists; libraries are being crippled by rising and exorbitant journal subscription rates; sales of monographs have dropped dramatically; and the production of PhDs has not abated while at the same time the outlets for the dissemination of their work has dramatically narrowed. And what Drucker is most at pains in her essay to demonstrate is that, in the face of this publishing crisis, “we can’t rely on a purely technological salvation, building houses on the shifting sands of innovative digital platforms.”
            I actually think Drucker, whom I deeply admire and who is herself a significant innovator within and theorist of the digital humanities, raises some important cautions in her essay, about which I am mainly in agreement — for example, digital scholarship is not cheaper, easier to produce, nor even necessarily more accessible than traditional print scholarship. Indeed, born-digital scholarship can be extremely expensive, especially in terms of the technical expertise and software+hardware required, and it also often necessitates long-term funding strategies that are overly reliant on private foundational support. Further, open-access publishing initiatives, such as those initiated in the UK after the Finch Report, and also by the University of California’s Office of Scholarly Communication,[4] do indeed bring with them serious funding perils: if all academic work is to be made fully available with no fees imposed upon readers and users, then the financial burden falls more squarely upon institutions of higher learning and governments at the exact moment that funding for higher education, and especially for more speculative forms of research, is shrinking and under siege.[5] A troubling recent development in this regard is revealed in the (revised) “White Paper” released by University of California Press on April 30, 2014, “The Future of the Humanities in the Digital Age at UC Press.” This “White Paper” was developed as an outcome of a twoday workshop that involved “an interdisciplinary group of fifteen faculty across the UC system, four senior staff from the UC Press, and three representatives from the library community.” The “White Paper” proposes that the “perennial problem of monograph publishing” (meaning, it is both required for tenure and promotion at most institutions while it is also not economically sustainable) be addressed by creating “a new Open Access model which would make [monographs] … freely available in digital form, with the costs of publication shared between the different stakeholders (the Press, the author/department, and libraries).”[6] In other words, a severe (and importantly, new) financial burden would be imposed upon authors and their departments, and where do their monies come from, anyway? Is it not the same stream of revenue (legislative appropriations, for example) that ostensibly funds the UC Press? This feels economically tautological in the extreme, not to mention that it places faculty authors under the strain of having to compete with other faculty authors for already-limited resources, and perhaps even unwittingly will cause a situation where authors situated in departments and colleges with higher enrollments (and thus more tuition income) and generous endowments will have an unfair advantage over authors working in more esoteric (yet still highly valuable) fields that do not attract as many students, and they will have an unfair advantage as well as over faculty in more economically-disadvantaged institutions. Not to mention that if you are a scholar who is not attached to an institution, you are in a somewhat precarious position if you had any notion of UC Press (or other presses adopting this model) publishing your book. Ultimately, what this really signals, in my mind, is that state legislatures and the public universities funded by them are somewhat turning their back on their responsibility to disseminate research findings, which should be a matter of great public concern (and outrage). Surely there is a better “business model” for academic publishing that neither lapses into “author-department” pay schemes nor merely hands over all of its existing funds for research development to commercial presses that have no concern for the university other than the profits to be derived therefrom?
            It is thus also worrisome, in this vein, that large sums of money are already being set aside (such as by the UK Research Councils), in the wake of the Finch Report, to pay commercial and university presses to publish open-access monographs, edited volumes, and journals at exorbitant rates that are based on exceedingly bloated “business-as-usual” pricing structures.[7] And what this means is that, even though publishers such as Palgrave Macmillan are willing to work with universities and research councils in order to make the scholarly archive more fully open and accessible, they are only willing to do so at very high prices — prices that, understandably, represent what they need to make in order to survive, and yet that also reflect the increasingly untenable overheads they carry into the bargain, and at a time when the actual editorial quality of their publications is actually on a downturn, and has been for quite some time. For example, publishers such as Palgrave, Oxford University Press, Springer, Nature Publishing Group, Fordham University Press, Duke University Press, Taylor & Francis, and a host of other supposedly “gold-standard” academic presses have been outsourcing most of their editorial work (proofreading, copy-editing, typesetting, illustration and design, HTML and XML coding, etc.) to companies such as Newgen KnowledgeWorks (http://www.newgen.co/), which has offices in India, the US, and the UK, and is growing at a rapid rate, with lots of proliferating spin-off and copycat companies.[8] Although Newgen describes itself as having been established to “cater to the pre-press publishing needs of books and journals publishers in the UK, US, and Europe,” it is clear that their current ambition is to essentially take over all aspects of the pre- (and maybe even post-)press publishing processes, with services now also including “digital archiving, data conversion, electronic publishing, and large-scale ePUB conversion services.” I wouldn’t care if they did all of these things well, but as the editor of a Palgrave journal, postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, whose proofing and copy-editing is handled by Newgen with somewhat minimal oversight by Palgrave, I can categorically assert that their care for the editorial quality of our journal does not even come close to the care it would receive from dedicated copy-editors whose experience and expertise would not only hew closely to the journal’s subject matter, but whose efforts would not be compromised by also having to edit hundred of other journals, all with different style guidelines, in sweatshop-like conditions.
            Finally, with Drucker, I believe that print technologies actually are more impervious to the ravages of time than digital technologies. Yes, I also know about LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe),[9] an open-source, library-led digital preservation system: I believe that this is the same strategy, along with piracy, employed by the Ptolemaic dynasty in ancient Egypt, and it’s the reason why today we are thankfully and miraculously able to read Homer and Aeschylus and Sophocles and so on,[10] and using a platform called a ‘manuscript’ or a ‘book’ that doesn’t require electricity, software, or hardware to be legible. The book is its own best all-in-one platform, and that is one of the reasons why we still buy and read them,[11] whereas, at the same time, you will have to search far and wide to find someone to develop your 35mm celluloid film or the machine that will still read and play your cassette tapes, your zip-discs, your CDs, your DVDs, and so on (and yes, ‘old’ media, such as LP vinyl records, are witnessing a comeback, and there are good reasons for that).[12] For the most part, so-called ‘hard’ media and the devices for ‘playing’ and storing those are disappearing: Welcome to the Cloud: you live in it now, you don’t own any piece of its ephemeral Unreal-estate, your ‘stuff’ no longer really belongs to you (you’re just leasing it), and if Benjamin Bratton is right, cloud computing promises a future of delaminated and partially private, partially inhuman accelerationist, semi-privatized polities operating in de-sovereigned territories that will take over the core functions of state powers in order to provide dividends to an elite technologized minority: welcome to Cloud Feudalism.[13] For better or worse (probably, worse), it is the future-to-come, and you have probably already uploaded a prototype of yourself there.
            But that’s not really my concern here. Nor are Drucker’s cautions about the supposed “hype” surrounding the digital humanities and its ability, or supposed lack thereof, to save publishing. Her cautions are worth considering even while at the same time we move forward with new (and truly helpful) digital platforms for scholarly publishing. At punctum books, we are concerned to continue lavishing attention on the printed book as a cultural arts artifact with certain sensually phenomenological presencing and time-traveling powers, while we also want to make as many of our publications as possible available in open-access, digital form and also in special web-based environments with navigational structures that are not merely analogues nor surrogates for the print-based medium. And this is because we are pluralists who believe that a ‘biodiversity’ of intellectual matter and media are critical in the cultivation and fostering of the most lively and vibrant public commons possible, and further, that such ‘biodiversity’ is critical to liberty and democracy, or to what Ivan Illich once memorably advocated for as “the protection, the maximum use, and the enjoyment of the one resource that is almost equally distributed among all people: personal energy under personal control.”[14] Drucker herself, after all, wants to call our attention to the “mirages” of the digital humanities in order to help us better steer ourselves towards the more “usefully innovative” digital publishing initiatives, such as (in her view) the Digital Public Library of America, launched at Harvard, “a fully public, completely integrated online library with access to,” in Drucker’s words “the highest quality of ongoing knowledge production.”
            And this brings me to what really gave me pause and serious unease in Drucker’s essay: her emphasis throughout on the ideas that:
1.     “crowdsourced, participatory knowledge generation … would essentially de-professionalize knowledge production”;
2.     that the Academy-proper “provides a gold standard of scholarship” that is valuable precisely because that scholarship “filters” downward and “stimulate[s] thought in virtually every field of human endeavor”;
3.     that “[h]ard, serious, life-long dedication to scholarship, the actual professional work of experts in a field,” should “remain at the center of knowledge production”;
4.     and, finally, that the humanities should be careful not to risk its “cultural authority in the process of becoming digital.”
 It is to this idea of “cultural authority” that I now want to turn, and I want to say something like: cultural authority is the last thing the humanities needs right now if it truly wants to innovate, in the brightest sense of the word — from the Latin innovare, to renew, to restore, to change — and in a fashion that does not mean trashing the past nor smashing all of the tools seen as supposedly hopelessly outdated and outmoded, but instead means harnessing all of the energies of the tools and platforms (old and new and futural) at our disposal in order to create the most richly tapestried and noisy public commons. Because, contra Drucker, I do not want a trickle-down knowledge economy that comes from the University mountaintops down to the streets — at least, not in the humanities. In order for the public commons to be more open, more diverse, and hopefully more rowdily democratic, the University itself has to be more open to the ideas and voices of its supposed non- and para- and anti-institutional Others. It is precisely at the moment that we believe that the humanities has, or should have, cultural Authority, that we should revolt. We should also attend better to one of the questions implicit in the term and practice of ‘open’ in ‘open-access’ that is rarely attended to: who has access to the modes of being published, and who doesn’t? Open-Access (OA) should not just mean publications that are open to users and readers, with no impediments such as pay- and firewalls; it should also mean that the services necessary for the production of public-ation (understood as the formation of publics and counter-publics ‘seeded’ by new works, however they may be ‘delivered’ -- more on which below) should be accessible to all. Fully open to authors and open to readers. This point is rarely discussed as if it matters when publishers and academics gather to discuss the future of publishing in a digital world, occasions on which they often appear intent on mainly figuring out ways to continue, in changing times, to maintain the ‘legitimacy’ and 'prestige' of their exclusive (and exclusionary) Establishments.
            We might remind ourselves that English studies were partly founded in the living rooms and salons of rogue amateurs such as Frederick Furnivall and his compatriot para-academics who founded the Early English Text Society in 1864.[15] When James A.H. Murray was working on what would become the Oxford English Dictionary, he had to do so in a tin shed in his backyard in Oxford, which tin shed was sunk into the ground several feet so that it would not obscure the view of the Oxford don who lived next door, about which situation Murray himself wrote that “no trace of such a place of real work shall be seen by fastidious and otiose Oxford.”[16] Because his Edinburgh degree was not recognized by Oxford and he was also a Dissenting Congregationalist, he was not initially allowed access to the Common Rooms or even to Bodleian Library, until Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College, prevailed upon Oxford to grant Murray an Honorary M.A.[17] It is worth mentioning as well that Murray was grossly under-compensated and always in debt, and that the University hounded him fairly mercilessly for always falling behind schedule on the Dictionary, so much so that he was often on the verge of a nervous breakdown and often in ill health.[18] Murray was eventually knighted in 1908, multiple honorary doctorates were ultimately conferred upon him, and he was also feted in a parade in London where he walked alongside Thomas Hardy, so … take that, you Oxford bastards. And indeed, cadging from Edmund in King Lear, might now be the time (again) to stand up for bastards, and for bastard thought — id est, the thoughts, and the work (such as Murray’s and Furnivall’s) that the Academy does not (initially) want to claim as its supposedly “rightful” progeny? I definitively answer: yes. There is no way to move knowledge forward without this “standing up.” The more difficult question is how to refashion the academic press such that it actually "stands up" in this way so as to provide safe harbor and nourishment for such refugee bastards.
            And let me be clear here that when I reference the term ‘innovation’ (as I do above) as a practice of restorative change and renewal that would be opposed to the stances and further entrenchment of academic Authority, I am careful to distinguish innovation as a practice that does not sign on to the ways in which that term is used within corporations, such as Microsoft, whose new CEO, Satya Nadella, wrote a letter to Microsoft employees this past July, after laying off 18,000 of those employees, in which he precisely opposed innovation to tradition (“our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation”) as a survival strategy for staying ahead of the pack in our supposed “mobile-first and cloud-first world.”[19] Whereas, for me, innovation within publishing implies change, yes, but this is a change that both clears the way for the new while also reclaiming the ground of certain valuable historical structures (such as the Library, the Scriptorium, the Studio, the Salon, the Seminar, the Lab, the Hermitage, the School, and so on) that have been smothered and deformed by an increasingly powerful techno-managerial class of administrators that want to run the University as if it were a business.[20] So, yes, Johanna Drucker, we should be wary about the ways in which some persons and groups, even within the University, tout their “innovations,” but I also say, “down with [your] cultural authority” and “up with the people.” Academic publishing is definitely facing a crisis, but please let us recall, too, that wherever intellectuals gather to discuss and disseminate ideas, they are always under threat and always have been, which is to say, do you want your hemlock hot or cold? So what we need right now, in my view, are more distributive collectives of someones, nomadic para-institutions, or “outstitutions,”[21] who would take responsibility for securing the freedom for the greatest number of persons possible who want to participate in intellectual-cultural life. And a publisher would be a person, or a group, or a multiplicity, who desire to be held hostage for securing this freedom.
            Let’s distinguish, then, as Paul Boshears has urged, between “publishing” — “making stuff knowable” — and “publication” as “public-making,” which is a “process . . . the process of saturating,”[22] of instantiating and also drenching with writings many publics. Publication would thus be focused on creating tools and platforms and holding areas (some call these books, journals, zines, serials, weblogs, podcasts, databases, editions, etc.), around which certain communities might coalesce, and be sustained. More than just ‘publics,’ these spaces would be ‘counter-publics,’ in the sense given to them by Michael Warner as “spaces of circulation in which it is hoped that the poesis of scene making will be transformative, not merely replicative.”[23] And a ‘press’ would be that which, following the word’s Old French etymology, serves as the imprinting device, but also as the pressing “crush” of the crowd into the commons. The university — and the presses associated with it — will hopefully continue to serve as one important site for the cultivation of thought and cultural studies more broadly, but increasingly their spaces are so striated by so many checkpoints, watchtowers, and administrative procedures, that truly radical modes of publishing are difficult to pursue and develop. One has to do only a brief survey of all of the new academic publishing initiatives cropping up everywhere — partly due to, on the one hand, a genuine enthusiasm for digital and open-access and post-monograph publishing modes, and on the other hand, the fears and anxieties that coalesce around such new directions, and on yet another (third) hand, the almost anxious hyper-reaction to governmental and university mandates that would dictate open-access publishing as compulsory — and one will see that a concern for certain forms of what I will call elite and bureaucratic-managerial academic oversight still exist (with few exceptions).[24]
            Whether traditional old-school or forward-leaning progressive in its publishing methods, the Academy always seeks its own imprimatur as a sign of so-called legitimacy. And it always talks in the language of austerity and false choices (like, “monographs only for tenure!” or more recently, “screw monographs; it’s all just one huge digital mega-journal from now on and everyone can aggregate their own books and cataloguing systems using Mendeley!”). What we need now are illegitimate publishers willing to build shelters for illegitimate publics, which is to say, public-ations, ones that would be hellbent on pressing a rowdy and unruly crowd of ideas into the ventilating system of this place we call the University-at-large, an Academy of Thought (and also, thought-practices) that would not be bound by the specific geographic co-ordinates of specific schools and colleges, but which insists, nevertheless, on playing the shadow-demon-parasite-prod-supplement to the University-proper (its para-mour/more). What we need now is an excess of counter-thought, an excess of modes and forms of counter-public-ation. There is no epistemic rigor worth guarding here; there is no good reason to put a limit to thought within the setting of the Academy of Thought: one must allow in the mad, the chimeric, the deviant, the teratological, the wayward, the crooked, the lost, the invalid, and so on. Here be monsters in the Academy of Thought.
            In my view, the time is propitious for reinventing (innovating) the Academy as a site that would oppose the current situation of overly professionalized performance, with ‘performance’ here cadged from business management discourses where it is often invoked as the “key to increasing corporate productivity by eliciting individual commitment and competitiveness between employees” — a situation in which, in the university at least, we may believe “we are the avant-garde but we are also the job-slaves.”[25] With Jan Verwoert, I would rather dream and enact a University and an Academy of Thought where we would practice (and protect) “another logic of agency, an ethos, which could help us defy the social pressure to perform and eschew the promise of the regimented options of consumption.” And this would also mean “claiming the imagination and the aesthetic experience as a field of collective agency where workable forms of resistance can be devised,” and also “interrupt[ing] the brute assertiveness of the I Can through the performance of an I Can’t in the key of I Can.”[26] Most important, we have to begin with the caveat that we are existentially obligated to others, and that publishing — as a vital mode of disseminating research findings and thus also of ‘seeding’ publics and counter-publics — is a form of care whose economic limits could never be set in advance and which requires instead what Verwoert calls a “community committed to the politics of dedication,” a sort of “mutual admiration society.”[27] The idea would not be to accumulate capital as a publisher, but instead to focus on the expenditure of everything we have already accumulated and will accumulate (talents as well as money) in order to lovingly build and foster the reparative hospice wards of the convalescent and increasingly inoperative communities of the para-academic precariat — those who are the most vulnerable, both within and without the University proper, and who are literally ‘convalescent,’ literally meaning, those who are recovering, who are recuperating, who are always getting better while also always being unwell, and who choose to ‘recuperate’ together, which itself literally means ‘to take back” — to take back ourselves to ourselves, to take back our humanities, our university, and our commons, and to have some room, finally, to conspire, which is to say, to breathe together. Or, as Verwoert puts it,
If, living under the pressure to perform, we begin to see that a state of exhaustion is a horizon of collective experience, could we then understand this experience as the point of departure for the formation of a particular sort of solidarity? A solidarity that would not lay the foundations for the assertion of a potent operative community, but which would, on the contrary, lead us to acknowledge that the one thing we share — exhaustion — makes us an inoperative community . . . . A community, however, that can still act, not because it is entitled to do so by the institutions of power, but by virtue of an unconditional, exuberant politics of dedication.[28]
            punctum books was founded, partly following the lead of Michel Foucault in his Preface to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus,[29] as an exercise and experiment in convivial and not-sad militancy of open thought, in refusing allegiance to the old categories of the Negative, and to publication itself as an art of living, an ascesis of freedom. Like the practitioners of Hakim Bey’s amour fou, we strive to be “illegal,” “saturating” ourselves with our own aesthetic, engaging in publishing ventures that would fill themselves “to the borders” with “the trajectories of [their] own gestures,” and never tilting at fates fit for “commissars & shopkeepers.”[30] One of the things we have lost sight of in the university, and especially in our publishing practices, is the importance of play — now is the time, again cadging from Hakim Bey, to “share the mischievous destiny” of runaways, “to meet only as wild children might, locking gazes across a dinner table while adults gibber from behind their masks.”[31] Without non-utilitarian play, and without the right to flail, flounder, and fail while playing, we risk the frigid stasis of the status quo, of always being trapped in what has already been said (the literal definition of ‘fate,’ from the Latin fatum, ‘that which has already been spoken’), what has already been played out. How did we get here? How did the creative arts get so thoroughly de-cathected from the liberal arts? How will we give birth to heretic-misfit love-child thoughts without unbridled play (which is to say, experimentation — how does one maintain one’s cultural ‘authority’ while also playing the fool-who-experiments?).[32] Publishing, then, and public-ation, as the site where fools do indeed rush in, taking more seriously the phrase, field of play.
            punctum has grown, and continues to grow, through a vast network of talented persons dedicated to radically independent publishing ventures that would not be beholden to any specific university nor to any commercial academic interests, and is dedicated to fostering the broadest possible range of open-access print- and e-based platforms for the sustenance of what we are calling a “whimsical para-humanities assemblage” — an assemblage, moreover, that refuses to relinquish any possible form of public-ation: the making of cultural-intellectual stealth publics that would seep in and out of institutional and non-institutional spaces, hopefully blurring the boundaries between Inside and Outside, an ultimate fog machine. And we are also intent on resuscitating what we are calling postmedieval and pastmodern forms of publication (from breviary and commentary and florilegium to telegram and liner notes and inter-office memo, from the Book of Hours to the cassette mixtape).[33] Public-ation, then, as also salvage operation, the re-purposing of discarded objects, discarded forms, and discarded genres as a means for maximizing the possibilities for thinking. Forms matter. The forms of thinking matter. In the plural. Again, it is a commitment to excess, and a refusal of all austerity measures. punctum books is not interested either in the maintenance of specific genres or disciplines (is it literary theory? poetry? philosophy? art history? memoir? sociology? cybernetics? speculative fiction? code? who can tell?), and thus we take seriously Derrida’s belief in a university “without condition,” where we maintain that it is the humanities’ singular purpose to protect the right of anyone to publish anything, or as Derrida himself put it, the “principal right to say everything, whether it be under the heading of fiction and the experimentation of knowledge, and the right to say it publicly, to publish it.”[34]
            As the authors of the “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics” aver, there may be no possible stemming of the tide of neoliberal capital’s narrow-minded “imaginary” and hyper-accelerated technologized infrastructure; therefore, the task now might be: how to hijack and “re-purpose” this infrastructure to different ends and unleash new, more capacious imaginaries?[35] In this scenario, there is room for an aesthetic avant-garde that, in McKenzie Wark’s words, will “have to reimagine possible spaces for alter-modernities … . Just as the Situationists imagined a space of play in the interstitial spaces of the policing of the city via the dérive, so too we now have to imagine and experiment with emerging gaps and cracks in the gamespace that the commodity economy has become.”[36] This is not just a leftist-activist situation with regard to capitalism, it is also an academic situation, with regard to the techno-managerial culture of the University, and thus I ask that we replace the idea of the humanities as some sort of guarded (and self-regarding) reservoir of cultural Authority, whose ideas trickle down into society, with the idea that the humanities — especially in its role as a disseminator of knowledge and builder of knowledge forms and platforms — be reconceptualized as a site for the care and curatorship of knowledge and of all persons wishing to contribute to a public commons that must be shared by and accessible to all.  The humanities, and the University more largely, and also the Library, as sites of care: to care for ourselves, to care for each other, and to take care of the public commons, not in order to maintain its borders and authority, filtering what is allowed in and what is allowed out and to whom, but rather, to fashion this shared (and always precarious, always vulnerable, always convalescent) commons as a house of hospitality, an invitation to all, to the friends and the strangers, those with papers and those without papers.[37]
            As Derrida reminds us, in Plato’s philosophy it “is often the Foreigner (xenos) who questions. He carries and puts the [intolerable] question,” and thus he is the very “someone who basically has to account for [the very] possibility of sophistry.”[38] The “paternal authority of the logos” is always ready to “disarm” the Foreigner who nevertheless prevails as an important figure of Thought’s (difficult) natality. To welcome this xenos, this Foreigner, invites danger (the guest as enemy, the host as hostage) as well as a way forward, a way out of Authority, out of our settled (overly-professionalized) selves, and toward the wilder shores of vagabond (and free) thought.
             The publisher as host and hostage, and also as the person, or collective of persons, who are willing to devote their lives and service to converting as many illegitimate ideas as possible into objects of beauty, erudition, and legibility that would hopefully provoke us to rethink everything we thought we knew and to let go, finally, of our Authority, while still insisting on Care (which is a gentle form of co-management). So let us take care.


[1] This essay was developed out of two talks that I presented, both in Washington, DC, and I wish to thank Heidi Dowding for inviting me to give the first of those, “The Open Library of Babel,” in March 2014 at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library as part of the National Digital Stewardship Residency Enrichment Series, and I also want to thank Jonathan Hsy for inviting me to George Washington University to give a talk, “Down with Authority: The Importance of Illegitimacy,” in January 2015 as part of a symposium, “Disrupting DH,” that he organized under the auspices of GWU’s Digital Humanities Institute (http://gwdhi.org/gwdh15/). I want to also thank Dolsy Smith, Humanities Librarian at Gelman Library, GWU, for the very warm and inspiring introduction he presented on my behalf at the "Disrupting DH" symposium. The title of this essay is inspired by Edmund’ soliloquy in Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s King Lear, when Edmund, plotting against his brother Edgar, the ‘legitimate’ heir to their father, the Earl of Gloucester, says, “Fine word, ‘legitimate’!— / Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed / And my invention thrive, / Edmund the base / Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper. / Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”
[2] Johanna Drucker, “Pixel Dust: Illusions of Innovation in Scholarly Publishing,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 16 January 2014: http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/pixel-dust-illusions-innovation-scholarly-publishing. Unless otherwise noted, all citations of Drucker are from this LARB essay.
[3] See Johanna Drucker, “SpecLab’s Experiment: The Humanist, the Library, and the Digital Future of Cultural Materials and Their Interpretation,” lecture delivered for the Scholarly Communication Lecture Series, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, 9 April 2010: http://youtu.be/RgsyWKgmaSA.
[4] See the Research Council UK’s 2012 “Policy on Open Access and Guidance,” as well as a link to the “National Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings” (a.k.a. the ‘Finch Group Report’), here: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/openaccess/policy/.  See the Open Access Policy adopted by the University of California and ratified by the UC Academic Senate in 2013 here: http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/open-access-policy/. For the ways in which the “open source” movement does not always spell “public good,” and even poses a danger to a truly public commons, see Christopher Newfield, “Corporate Open Source: Intellectual Property and the Struggle Over Value,” Radical Philosophy 181 (Sep/Oct 2013): http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/commentary/ corporate-open-source.
[5] There are too many examples to count of the University, and especially the humanities, under siege, but for a recent example from the state of Wisconsin, see Richard Grusin, “Meet the Regents, Wisconsin, or Welcome to Our New University System Overlords,” Ragman’s Circles [weblog], 5 February 2015: https://ragmanscircles.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/meet-the-regents-wisconsin-or-welcome-to-our-new-university-system-overlords/. For important reports on what is happening within the University of California system (the canary in the coalmine, if ever there were one, for higher education in the US), Michael Meranze and Christopher Newfield’s weblog Remaking the University is always indispensable: http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/. Finally, see also Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011) and Andrew McGettigan, The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education (London: Pluto Press, 2013).
[6] The UC Press “White Paper” can be accessed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8fjaxhzvte3ltkk/Hum Workshop REV_draft_whitepaper_043014.pdf.
[7] And as a result of these bloated pricing arrangements, universities are increasingly finding that they can no longer afford journal subscriptions. See, for example, Harvard University’s 2012 “Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum on Journal Pricing,” where it is stated that, “[m]any large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive” (http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k77982&tabgroupid=icb.tabgroup143448). Further, reflecting in 2004 on a battle between Reed Elsevier and the University of California library system over the pricing of science journal subscription packages, Daniel Greenstein, Associate Vice-Provost and University Librarian for the University of California system, writes that “the business model of commercial publishing, which once served the academy's information needs, now threatens fundamentally to undermine and pervert the course of research and teaching. Put bluntly, the model is economically unsustainable for us. If business as usual continues, it will deny scholars both access to the information they need and the ability to distribute their work to the worldwide audience it deserves”: “Not so Quiet on a Western Front,” Nature.com, Web Focus: Access to the Literature [web supplement feature], 28 May 2004: http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/23.html.
[8] For more on Palgrave’s open access programs, see Palgrave Open here: http://www. palgrave.com//page/about-us-palgrave-open-faqs/. For more of my own thoughts on this state of affairs relative to government funding of for-profit open-access initiatives, see Eileen A. Joy, “A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics,” Chiasma: A Site for Thought 1 (April 2014): 10–23; http://chiasmaasitefor thought.com/issue-1/.
[9] See LOCKSS: Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe, based at Stanford University Libraries, here: http://www.lockss.org/.
[10] On the subject of the ancient Ptolemy empire’s grandiose ambitions (and even crimes) as librarians, see Luciano Canfora, The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), and on the history of the library, and the books and other readerly artifacts contained therein, relative to their continual entropy and destruction, as well as their endless re-bootings, see Nicholson Baker, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (New York: Random House, 2001) and Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003). For an intriguing online collaborative digital humanities project, based at Harvard University, that seeks to trace the “evolution and the resulting multiformity of the textual tradition, reflected in the many surviving texts of Homer,” see The Homer Multitext: http://www.homermultitext.org/.
[11] Sales of print books are currently outpacing sales of e-books. See Claire Fallon, "Print Books Outsold EBooks in First Half of 2014,” The Huffington Post, 6 October 2014: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/ebooks-print-books-outsold_n_5940654.html.
[12] Punctum Records (http://punctumrecords.com), an ‘imprint’ of punctum books, similar to the books’ division continuing to invest in the printed book while also exploring and cultivating digital platforms for dissemination, is similarly investing in media such as vinyl and cassette tape, while also releasing materials in digital form.
[13] See Benjamin Bratton, “The Black Stack,” e-flux 53 (March 2014): http://www.e-flux.com/ journal/the-black-stack/.
[14] Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); quoted in Mark Seem, “Introduction,” in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Schizophrenia and Capitalism, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), xxiv.
[15] On this point, see David Matthews, The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).
[16] Katherine Maud Elisabeth Murray, Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 248.
[17] Murray, Caught in the Web of Words, 248.
[18] Murray, Caught in the Web of Words, 256.
[19] Satya Nadella, “Bold Ambition & Our Core,” Microsoft.com, 10 July 2014: http://news. microsoft.com/ceo/bold-ambition/index.html.
[20] On this state of affairs, Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), never ceases to be instructive.
[21] I borrow the term “outstitution” from Jamie Allen, who deploys (invents?) that term in order to describe “grassroots and DIY teaching and learning movements that really don’t care about, or for, the way that universities decide (or don’t decide) to share and impart knowledge,” such as The Public School New York (http://thepublicschool.org/nyc): Editors of continent. & Speculations, “Discussion Before an Encounter,” continent. 2.2 (2012): 145 [136–147].
[22] Paul Boshears, in Editors of continent. & Speculations, “Discussion Before an Encounter,” 147. See also Paul Boshears, “Open Access Publishing as a Para-Academic Proposition: Besides OA as Labor Relation,” tripleC 11.2 (2013): 614–619, and Paul Boshears, “Para-Academic Publishing as Public-Making,” in The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for Making-Learning-Creating Acting, eds. Alex Waldrop and Deborah Withers (Bristol, UK: HammerOn Press, 2014), 175–188.
[23] Michael Warner, “Publics, and Counterpublics,” Public Culture 14.1 (2002): 88 [49–90].
[24] See, for example, the final conference report of Jisc Collections and OAPEN on “Open Access Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences,” a conference which was held at The British Library in July 2013 to explore the ways in which the publication of monographs would intersect with new digital publishing platforms, and where one of the overall conclusions was that the humanities and social sciences will still rely to a certain extent on monographs as a significant ‘output’ of their research dissemination while those monographs will also need to be delivered in a variety of open-access platforms if they are to have any sort of wide impact and also be sustainable over the long term. That all makes sense, but there was also a lot of hand-wringing during the conference over how to continue to ensure that these open-access monographs would continue to build and confer “prestige” and “authority”: https://www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/Reports/oabooksreport/. 
[25] Jan Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform, pamphlet for the exhibition “Art Sheffield 08: Yes, No and Other Options”) (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum, 2008), 90.
[26] Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance, 91–92, 94.
[27] Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance, 102.
[28] Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance, 110.
[29] Michel Foucault, “Preface,” in Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, xv–xvi.
[30] Hakim Bey, “Amour Fou,” in Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1991); http://hermetic. com/bey/taz_cont.html.
[31] Bey, “Wild Children,” in T.A.Z.
[32] On the importance of artful play to the humanities as well as to well-being, see L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, “Living Chaucer,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 33 (2011): 41–64, where she writes that, “Playing and pretending are crucial to the becomings of living creatures, to adaptation and behavioral flexibility; . . . it is transformative and transforming. We can neither thrive nor survive without it” (57). See also Aranye Fradenburg, “Frontline: The Liberal Arts of Psychoanalysis,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry 39.4 (Winter 2011): 589–609, and also L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts, ed. Eileen A. Joy (Brooklyn: punctum books, 2013).
[33] See, for example, punctum books + records’ joint project, Minóy, which comprises printed book, open-access e-book, cassette, and CD: http://punctumbooks.com/titles/minoy/.
[34] Jacques Derrida, “The Future of the Profession or the University without Condition (thanks to the ‘Humanities,’ what could take place tomorrow),” in Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, ed. Tom Cohen (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 26 [24–57].
[35] See Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “#ACCELERATE: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics,” May 2013: http://accelerationism.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/williams-and-srnicek.pdf. See also McKenzie Wark’s response, “#Celerity: A Critique of the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics,” May 2013: http://speculativeheresy.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/wark-mckenzie-celerity.pdf.
[36] Wark, “#Celerity,” 2.4. See also, on the possibilities of tactical-poetic interventions into the networks, McKenzie Wark, Telesthesia: Communication, Culture and Class (Cambridge, Eng.: Polity, 2012).
[37] My interest in care is partly inspired by Michel Foucault who, in his later writings, was concerned with “care of the self,” and in which writings he began to explore how certain practices of ascesis (including “thought on thought”) might open the self to certain individual freedoms and the invention of “a manner of being that is still improbable.” See Michel Foucault, “Friendship as a Way of Life” and “The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom,” in Foucault Live: Collected Interviews, 1961-1984, ed. Sylvère Lotringer (New York: Semiotext(e), 1989), 308-312, 432-449. See also Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981-1982, ed. Frédéric Gros, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2005).
[38] Jacques Derrida, On Hospitality, trans. Anne Dufourmantelle (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 5.