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I saw this thread over on the history board and thought it would be good to see what it evokes here:

 

"Which topics, theories, and themes are "hot" in (English) today? What are the buzz words, and what is everyone reading about across various regional interests and fields?"

 

On the history board there was a lot of consensus about DH (just like us I guess) and also some mention of things that are probably old hat in English (like "transnational" (read: postcolonial) and "interdisciplinary").

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Probably right around the time you decided to go to Purdue, amiright amiright? The thing I don't like about these "hot" "new" "fields" is that they aren't new, they are only hot because people are a

thestage, Fishbucket, you guys are aware that you can study some things, and other people can study different things, and that's okay, right?

Yes, all that new technology that we've developed to turn us into insects and allow us to communicate with aliens has really rejuvenated the humanities!

Are the cornell SCT seminar topics any indication? Because if so, then disability studies, ecology of things (ecocriticism + thing studies?), postcolonial + anthropocene, and design theory, applying cognitive science to literary criticism...

 

I present these things without comment

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This might be more trouble than it is worth, but what is animal studies? Any introductory reading you could recommend?

 

It really depends on your scope and approach, but a good place to start would be Calarco's Zoographies: The Question of the Animal and Haraway's When Species Meet. Also check out Cary Wolfe, Kelly Oliver, Giorgio Agamben (The Open and Homo Sacer), and Heidegger. As for literature, I'd recommend Kafka (especially "A Report to an Academy"), Coetzee, Frankenstein, and Planet of the Apes.

 

You only asked for introductory material so I'll stop here.

 

ETA: Animal studies is essentially posthumanism -- the study of nonhuman animals and a move away from anthropocentrism (not always, though). Again, it's really broad and depends on the approach. 

Edited by christakins
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Something that's really hot in the UK that has seemed to be a bit slow on the uptake in the US is corpus linguistics applied to literary studies. It tends to fall under DH, but here there's a whole field called Literary Linguistics and it's studied there. There's a cool project being done on Gender and Renaissance drama in Glasgow and another one on Dickens at Uni Nottingham, off the top of my head. 

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Am I the only one who feels like all the stuff that's "hot" is deeply uninteresting and also somewhat pandering to the outsider's view that humanities in themselves are unimportant, therefore they must imitate the sciences in order to be valued and taken seriously?

 

I mean I like the idea of post-humanism in theory, but I feel like there are two fundamental problems with it. 1. we can't actually exit the human perspective, and 2. it leads to a lot of prostelytizing veganism.

 

maybe I just have a general issue with the nature of humanities scholarship. It can feel so vapid sometimes.

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Am I the only one who feels like all the stuff that's "hot" is deeply uninteresting and also somewhat pandering to the outsider's view that humanities in themselves are unimportant, therefore they must imitate the sciences in order to be valued and taken seriously?

 

I mean I like the idea of post-humanism in theory, but I feel like there are two fundamental problems with it. 1. we can't actually exit the human perspective, and 2. it leads to a lot of prostelytizing veganism.

 

maybe I just have a general issue with the nature of humanities scholarship. It can feel so vapid sometimes.

 

I actually have to agree with this. I don't know what anything about "animal studies" or "post-human" studies, but I can't help but think that we, as humans, cannot think and/or perceive outside of ourselves, so, good point. with Problem #1 above. Perhaps this is stemming from environmental theory and ecocrit, and that we, as humans, should stop being douche thinking that we're right all the time. 

 

Someone, please correct me on this. 

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Aside from perhaps the "cognitive science applied to lit crit one," I don't see how any of those subfields are imitating the sciences (which, for the record, is a tendency I find incredibly annoying, since I think the value the humanities have is precisely because we are not a science. I say this as someone who does STS stuff and is interested in the value of various epistemologies).

I tend to agree with Michael Berube:

But I do want to say one thing about the fields of expertise we have created and validated in the humanities over the past 30 or 40 years. They have been, on the whole, pretty awesome. That's a technical term, so let me explain. I have never been among, and indeed I have never quite understood, the people who believe that the rise of the study of race, gender, and class represented a vitiation of the humanities. Nor do I see the rise of the study of sexuality or postcoloniality or disability as an indicator of a decline in the intellectual power of the humanities. Quite the contrary. Though I have not agreed with every aspect of every intellectual initiative of the past 30 or 40 years, I think there is no doubt that the study of the humanities is more vibrant, more exciting, and (dare I say it) more important than it was a generation ago.

And every year I think: This is what makes graduate study in the humanities so fraught, so full of contradiction for so many professors and students. The sheer intellectual excitement of the work, whether it is on globalization or subjectivity or translation or sustainability or disability, is one thing. This work is so valuable—and it offers such sophisticated and necessary accounts of what "value" is.

It's from a quote in this article, which is about alt-ac and how to translate that value to the wider culture: http://chronicle.com/article/Humanities-Unraveled/137291/

I don't think the solution is to go back in time to a politically neuter version of literary study, which I do find boring.

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Something that's really hot in the UK that has seemed to be a bit slow on the uptake in the US is corpus linguistics applied to literary studies. It tends to fall under DH, but here there's a whole field called Literary Linguistics and it's studied there. There's a cool project being done on Gender and Renaissance drama in Glasgow and another one on Dickens at Uni Nottingham, off the top of my head. 

This is crazy popular in Scandinavia, too.

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I'm not interested in post-humanism myself, but it's odd to me to see people talking about it as if it doesn't resonate outside of the academy. With the rise of Google Glass, smartphones, and ubiquitous and wearable computing, posthumanism is more relevant now than ever. I read people referencing it in popular press publications like The Atlantic all the time.

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It really depends on your scope and approach, but a good place to start would be Calarco's Zoographies: The Question of the Animal and Haraway's When Species Meet.

 

You can read the first few pages of Calarco's intro to Zoographies on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Zoographies-Question-Animal-Heidegger-Derrida/dp/0231140223/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363898199&sr=1-1&keywords=0231140223, which I thought was pretty helpful.

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It really depends on your scope and approach, but a good place to start would be Calarco's Zoographies: The Question of the Animal and Haraway's When Species Meet. Also check out Cary Wolfe, Kelly Oliver, Giorgio Agamben (The Open and Homo Sacer), and Heidegger. As for literature, I'd recommend Kafka (especially "A Report to an Academy"), Coetzee, Frankenstein, and Planet of the Apes.

 

You only asked for introductory material so I'll stop here.

 

ETA: Animal studies is essentially posthumanism -- the study of nonhuman animals and a move away from anthropocentrism (not always, though). Again, it's really broad and depends on the approach. 

Thanks for this. Animal studies (and posthumanism, I guess?) is one area I'm not sure I even understand a little bit and it's one of those areas that I want to look at a little more closely over the summer/next year.

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I actually applied to grad school with a major interest in posthumanism. I would not identify it as trendy, or trying to force science into literary studies. In fact, it has a lot to do with study of history of consciousness mind-body dichotomies, animal representation in literature and representations of human bodies, which are relevant to many different periods of study. I personally am very interested in the concept of disembodied information.

 

N. Catherine Hayles's book How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics is a totally fascinating read, as well as much of Donna Haraway's work. Judith Halberstam has an excellent book called Posthuman Bodies that I would strongly recommend.

Edited by gradschoolwannabe
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For the theory people, object-oriented rhetoric and post-process theory seem to be really in. Ecocrit and posthumanism, too. On the empirical side (which is my side), there's been a push for RAD research in the meaning of Richard Haswell-- Replicable, Aggregable, Data-Driven. Also, interface with Second Language Studies/TESOL stuff just seems more and more necessary, given the changing demographics of the university. Pedagogically, digital and multimodality still rule the day, I'd say.

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I'm not interested in post-humanism myself, but it's odd to me to see people talking about it as if it doesn't resonate outside of the academy. With the rise of Google Glass, smartphones, and ubiquitous and wearable computing, posthumanism is more relevant now than ever. I read people referencing it in popular press publications like The Atlantic all the time.

Thank you.

 

Also, for posthuman doubters, it's essentially marxist materialism on steroids.  The ultimate decentered subject that consists of networks, ecologies, and emergences.  Obviously, posthumanism is not necessarily somehow exterior or outside of humanism, rather, it's a critique of humanism that decenters the idea that there is any essential "human" kernel or seat of self.  In order to do so, you look at the agencies that objects, animals, things, and spaces provide for, interact and merge with, (and in some readings (That I like personally) literally produce) a subject.

 

If you take the axiom that there is no essential human, suddenly the designing and production of things that we make takes on important political and ethical contours that humanism can elide.  In fact, while posthumanism decenters the subject completely, it has a redeeming factor in that you can modify, enhance, or change things (and therefore your subjectivity and position).

 

It's actually a liberating politics, in a strange way.

 

I could go on about it, but that's the very quick summary of what it is and why it's relevant 0 @fishbucket and @rems)

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