Saturday, January 08, 2005


To evoke the Final Solution is to call forth at once a reflex of aversion and, I fear, inattentiveness. We know the Nazis were evil. Nough said, it seems.

But somehow the banality of that evil is never banal for me. That is, I'm always pulled into articles and programs (like this one in today's NYTimes, reviewing a new exhibit on Nazi science at the Holocaust Memorial Museum) that take up the question of how it could have happened. Yes, the banality of evil. But, how? How? What keeps people from noticing that, hey, we're killing innocent people here?

As an academic, one thing that chills me and keeps me on my toes is the fact that the Nazi scientists were simply working out of a popular and well accepted paradigm. Eugenics, racial hygiene, was all the rage. (In fact, I wonder if Alfred Kinsey's sex research was the heir of the eugenics department at Indiana University? Oh yes, Indiana was a state very obsessed with good racial hygiene.) So doing eugenics research wouldn't have seemed the least bit odd: indeed, it would have seemed quite banal, no doubt.

In today's article, though, one thing that really got me was the photograph of blind German children being taught to recognize racial distinctions by touch: they are shown handling plaster busts with exaggerated facial features (this is more clear in the print version of the article, where one child can be seen holding a very racialized black head). The photo is a kind of inverse version of the one on the cover of Eve Sedgwick's Touching Feeling, in which a textile artist (a woman who would probably have been judged racially inferior by eugenicists) embraces and folds her body into her artwork. In the Nazi photo, the girls touch the heads tentatively: one girl's body posture is much like the artist's, bent toward what she touches, but the touch isn't an embrace but a light, investigative fingering.

The way one approaches the world--to embrace or to investigate. To move beyond the banal or to stay unmoved, taking it in. And to be offered the banal as something good for you: education. Charity.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Gotta Post

It's January 4, so I need to say something here if I'm to be a blogger and not just another blogger wanna be.

What I need to work on today is the feminist WPA piece I'm writing with I. (who, sadly, is currently out of the country: in fact, she's in southeast Asia, though not in one of the countries hit by the tsunami. Still, I wonder how the devastation in the area has affected her trip and the work she was planning to do there. To donate directly to a Sri Lankan relief agency, go here: There are others, of course. Other countries and other relief agencies.)

At any rate, the feminist WPA piece is something we originally wrote back when we were in grad school, and I'm finding it difficult to re-enter the piece and to make it say something relevant. I think our original point is less original now. (Collaboration isn't perfect! It isn't even necessarily feminist! Being feminist means something else!) We need to focus more on that second part: what does it mean to be a feminist WPA? And it is a crucial question, given the preponderance of women in rhet/comp and hence the increasing numbers of women in administrative positions. Still, the whole freaking book is about feminist approaches to WPA work, so we can't work at that level of generality. What's distinctive about our proposal is indeed that we were graduate students when we wrote it, that we were writing out of that experience. So that focus is something we can't readily do away with.

So I'm off to work on that.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Blogging in the New Year

All right, then. I told Marcia that I would start keeping a blog regularly on January 1. And back in the fall, Collin inspired me with his very smart post about how blogging has changed the "rhythm and ratio" of how he writes. Plus I'm supervising Marcia's independent study linked to Collin's course, so I need to be blogging if I'm to have any integrity as said supervisor.

Plus I just want to blog. I've started up a few blogs (including this one last April) but have never kept them up. (I have, though, used blogs in my classes: ,, the first time was the most successful, maybe because it was a graduate class and maybe because I had a better system for contributing.) Now that I've been lurking on several blogs pretty regularly for over a year, I think I have a better sense of the genre(s) of blogging and how I might use it.

We'll see, won't we?

But I have a lot to learn. I don't know much about changing up the template (how do I keep a blogroll, for instance?).

And while learning all that, I also will finish my book manuscript this year. That's right: I'm saying it here for all the blogosphere to see. I will finish my manuscript this year. It's time. Truly time.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.