Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Questionnaire : états de English aux Etats-Unis

Au groupe de travail formé par un petit nombre de collègues du English Department de Brooklyn College, j'ai proposé ce questionnaire sur la situation de la discipline. Il est le produit à la fois de mes questions comparatistes (questions exportées de France, pour une ligne de fuite), et de mes observations de terrain, mes surprises, et mes tentatives pour fouiller les points où il me semble sentir que des enjeux sont à vif.
Les questions seront posées en séminaire cette semaine - si certains des collègues en ont la curiosité, elles pourront aussi trouver des réponses écrites, que je proposerai de publie en ligne sur le site de Polart.

English: state of the discipline/s – Brooklyn 2007

Here are some questions – too many questions, I am aware – on which I would like to have your views. They are meant just as a starting point for discussion. What will probably be most interesting is which ones you will choose to discuss, and how they will turn out to be not quite the right questions.

Some recent reading that forms the background to my questions:
. Gerald Graff: Professing Literature, Beyond the Culture Wars
. Bill Readings: The University in Ruins
. Butler, Guillory: What’s Left of Theory (incl. Culler’s article on the literary in theory)
. Critical Inquiry: special issue publishing the papers from the “Future of Criticism” conference (I think that’s the title – 2004 maybe?)
. Jonathan Culler: The Literary in Theory (2007)
. Daphne Patai & Will H. Corral: Theory’s Empire. An Anthology of Dissent (2005)

1. research and teaching: do you consider the two sides of your work as separate or as inseparable? or…? How does the teaching environment at BC enable you to articulate the two?
Do you feel that you do your research in isolation or do you feel involved in research communities? Which organizations are there that you belong to – or that you don’t belong to?
Do you supervise research students?

2. publishing: do the current publication opportunities answer your needs? How do you view the field at the moment – for articles in journals, for books? What is possible to get published, what is not? What is the relative situation of university presses and commercial publishers (not sure what to call them, to make the distinction), in the humanities?
Where does publication online fit into the system?
Are there people working at changing the publication landscape? how?

3. social and political situation of the intellectual and academic worlds: how do you view the current debates over “academic freedom”? over the “culture wars”? (or is that passé?) Do you feel there is anti-intellectualism in the current cultural climate in the States? If so, how does it manifest itself? What are the responses and defences?
What is the state of health of the academic world, in you analysis? What are the problems? What are the strengths and hopes?
Do the concerns about the rise of the corporate, globalizing university affect you?

4. national, international: how important is the national scale of things, in teaching and in research? How important the international?

5. professional: is your professional situation (tenure, prospects, pay, working conditions, possibilities of research leave, financial support for your research, etc.) a major concern in your day to day work, or are you reasonably comfortable and able to just concentrate on your work? What are the problems you encounter, or are likely to? What pressures, what opportunities?

6. disciplinary landscape and the crisis in the humanities: do you feel the humanities are, or are felt to be, under siege? Is literature? particularly?
Which disciplines or fields do you feel are currently on the wane, and which blooming and developing? Do you understand the determinants for this? Is inter-disciplinarity still in vogue? Is the notion of discipline still pertinent; has it been or is it being redefined?

7. English: how is the discipline doing? And what is the relation of English to literature?
How (well), in your view, does composition fit in? How does creative writing fit in? How about ESL?

8. theory: do you feel that the debate over theory in the last decades has really shaped the academic landscape in the States, or has it been a local story, or even a fantasy? Have you encountered its battlefields? Where and in what terms? What do you feel is now the status of theory in the academic world – in research, and in (undergraduate/graduate) teaching?
What are the current major theoretical references, buzzwords, issues, debates? What do you feel is happening, in theory? (what is not?)

9. poetics: where do you feel the question of literature is at stake currently? How has the opening of new fields – cultural studies, gender and queer theory, postcolonial studies, even comparative literature, etc. – left it now? Is it a central concern in your own work, or has your interest shifted to other cultural dimensions?

10. problems and issues: are there things that worry you about the state and future of English? of the American (or wider) academic world? of its status in the political present? What would you say are the problems that preoccupy the academic community currently?

11. utopia: what would be an ideal department/(inter-)disciplinary configuration for you? In your ideal university, in your ideal department, what ideal course would you teach? Would you have an ideal student? What are the institutional, societal or cultural forces that stop this from happening? Are you working towards making it possible? How?

12. lines of flight: do you, or do you wish you could, do intellectual or creative work outside of academia?

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