Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's time...

It's time to wrap up this blog, everyone. I'll be maybe sticking a couple nice quotes up here over the next few months, but there won't be much more new content. Mostly, this is because there are more important things to do, but also because I think I've learned what I can from this experience--that is, just jotting down things in a more public form, with an eye trained towards an audience of thoughtful readers.

I know blogs can be a lot more than this, of course, so it's not like the medium is failing me in any major way. It's just that I went in with the aim to write a bit better and think a bit more clearly, and, well, I think I've seen it through. Insofar as the blog remains something you can keep continuing even without such a goal, indeed, there it might have failed me: its informality, or unformedness, too easily moving in the space between a diary and an essay or project (the horrible vagueness of "log" hits at this), like everything electronic now can quickly become a crutch, a way of keeping you from beginning something definite and finishing it definitively.

I know that this is also part of the new (or is it old? 17th century cavalier poets did something similar too) practice of creating a public image, or a virtual identity, which you can manipulate and alter as you see fit--probably some way of giving ourselves some sort of narrative for ourselves in such a fragmented society. I think too often this ends in us merely giving ourselves excuses or justifications rather than narratives or passing off the former for the latter: I believe this or this, I take this position and so that was the reason I acted that way, I was consistent, never a hypocrite (one of the topics I gave my students for their essays this semester was the following: "Characters in fictions can be ambiguous where someone, realistically, might be called a hypocrite. Show how a narrative we have read tells a hypocrite’s story as a tale of two desires (without necessarily justifying them), rather than of self-contradicting (or even conflicting) beliefs or biases."). However, the project, insofar as it tends towards making sense of things, is a good one. It's just that I've never really been interested in that, or if I have been, I'm not quite interested any more. And in the end, all of this doesn't quite matter much anyway. Media are not responsible for what is said through them, and first and foremost blame for whatever is at fault here lies certainly with my various incapacities: inexperience; lack of skill; an over-systemic way of thinking; a tendency, drastically lessening as soon as I got into grad school, to read for critique rather than with sympathy and with the aim of understanding; a lack of inventiveness, drollery, incoherence--to name a few things that my readers have had to slog through on occasion.

The human factor broached, I feel on this level there is also an even more basic reason for bringing things to a close: I feel the blog is a good place for people who don't have anything more concrete to do on the intellectual level to just do something, put things to work. That's pretty basic, but I think it's true, and, far from being a testament to the laziness, etc. of such people--I don't mean to say this at all--it testifies to the the absolutely incredible inability of our current society to make something of people's intelligence, skill, time, and desire to be useful: we have to ask ourselves what is going on when our society has to create a massive virtual repository for less professionally oriented intellectual work, give it none of the material benefits of the actual world of letters or make it subject to the same restraints or regulations, and then even have the gall to call it "self-publishing." Of course it's not all bad: people should be able to just have an area to talk to others casually in a weird world where it is hard to do this sometimes, and people do things with blogs that are of course much more than a waste. Again, I don't mean to indict the medium or anything: I just mean to recognize the fact that I don't know if I'd find myself fulfilled writing these things if they weren't notes merely to other work (most of which, in fact the majority of which, has nothing to do with what I write here: I write on 18th century literature), and that has to be weighed into the whole scheme of things when you are at the point of deciding whether you should quit the thing or not. I also just want to recognize, on more of a human level, how lucky I feel that I'm one of the really, really fortunate ones out there now who has more concrete things to do intellectually.

To do this another way, I might again turn the lens not on the notes here but on myself, and just say that as you get older, the desire to engage in such open-ended things as this just fades. You've been around enough to see what results from actions; you have a good measure of your force in the world, and what type of force it is. The blog at its best extends all this and deepens it, and at its worst makes you think you can extend it much farther and go much deeper than you can: in that respect, it seems more appropriate for the young, or the young at heart, who are also more willing to get into fiery all-night-long debates about and critiques of things. I'm past that moment, I think, perhaps earlier than some of my friends (though later than a few I can think of, certainly). That doesn't at all imply I'm more mature, too cool for school--far from it. It's just that, at a certain point, you crave doing something much more actual--by which I mean, more appropriate to your measure. Some people precisely have made blogging their thing: that's great. But for me, it's in scholarly work and teaching, and the fun I have with this just can't compare to the fun and fulfillment I have with that.

Obviously, there's a nice middle way in here somewhere, and I probably will try and gesture towards it in quoting some nice bit every now and then. Of course I won't delete the blog, a few of you good souls out there have pleaded with me not to do that. But as for new things, new thoughts, you won't really be getting many from me. My point here is just to say that maybe this is for the best for you too, reader, in some small way: it encourages you not to read these little notes looking for thoughts, but to go out and think and jot down some yourself.


Corry Shores said...

Thanks so much for all your writing. I found your work to be at the highest quality I know, and in a way you define the medium for me. I am always impressed with what you write, so I welcome whatever that will be.
Take care, and thanks again,
Corry Shores

Robyn said...

It was a good run!

Shiraz said...

Your blog will remain a thought treaure for anyone interested in thinking hard about literature and philosophy at a time when they, and especially their convergence, are being gradually devalued and yet increasingly necessary.

Thanks for all your efforts!

Shiraz Noor (University of Toronto)

Sebastian C. Galbo said...

Always enjoyed reading.

BlaBlaBla said...

I really enjoy reading your blog, so I'm up to everything what comes and remains.
Thanks for all your efforts!
Greetings from Europe,
Petra (Univerity of Vienna)

TQ said...

Excellent stuff. I can understand why you needed to stop blogging as indeed you have expressed very clearly in your final post here. As a philosopher (of sorts), a teacher of long-standing (some 32 years at Second Level as we call it (High School) here in Ireland, a former theologian (a career choice long personally abandoned), a person intending to inscribe for a Ph.D. in philosophy to while away the long days of my not-too-distant retirement before I "slough off this mortal coil" I have been quite bowled over by the well-thought-out posts of your blog, written with such obvious delight and no little passion. I shall return to these pages often! Many thanks,

Tim Quinlan, Dublin, Ireland!

Robert Bond said...

Thanks for these remarks. I have just posted a few remarks in response on my blog,

Sidharth Ullal said...

Yours was (is) a great blog! Pity you didn't continue it. The blogosphere needs more blogs like yours