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Soundtrack: The Raveonettes—“Chain Gang of Love”

 

What a great day! The exam went well, although I didn’t get to brandish any of my prepared arguments, and Keats got shut out of the proceedings, very much against my will. I still haven’t slept, but don’t seem to be manifesting any of the expected difficulties, although my face is a lot redder than it should be—I’ll have to get that under control… When I got home from school, my 2000 income tax refund was waiting for me (not Canada’s fault—all mine, I’m afraid. In fact, they sent me a threatening letter demanding that I file the return and take my goddamned 200 dollars!)—so I promptly returned downtown to buy the CD that I’m listening to as we speak. It is truly wondrous, but I suggest you check out the “Pop Culture Gadabout” Site (September 3rd entry—his log doesn’t allow me to link directly to that specific post; or, if it does, I can’t figure it out) for a better review than I am prepared to give in my sleep deprived state.

 

I don’t know how much you people care about the historiography of New England Puritanism, but I got a book through Interlibrary Loan today that seems like it will actually add to that particular edifice of knowledge—Janice Knight’s Orthodoxies in Massachusetts. The title is a riff on Perry Miller’s seminal work on the Puritans (1933’s Orthodoxy in Massachusetts—Miller is an amazing figure: he was hard at work one day, loading a barge on the Congo River, when, all of a sudden, he fell down, and arose with a vision of “THE MEANING OF AMERICA” before his eyes. Naturally, he came back home, got his degree and became the greatest historian of the 20th century. Yeah. Naturally…), and I was worried it was going to make me angry, but after reading the introduction, I’m expecting to enjoy the ride immensely. Knight is a rarity, a historian under fifty who understands that the endless piles of monographs devoted to “retroactively empowering” a bunch of dead, marginalized folk have done no one any good, and have considerably damaged academic discourse—we have actually reached the point where you are more likely to hear a reasonably intelligent individual with a doctorate talking about how mean the Puritans were than about the endlessly fascinating subject of their theology and ideas on polity… Knight’s introduction is very judiciously phrased, for example: “One might expect that more substantive challenges to the consensus model (of Miller/Sacvan Bercovitch, etc.)might be lodged by scholars whose cultural-analytic foregrounds conflict. Yet recent studies of sectarians, women, and other disenfranchised groups are governed by an interpretive model that positions dissent at the cultural margins. In so doing, these works tend to confirm, even reify, the seamless coherence of the orthodox center.” Translation? These people are writing the dullest stuff imaginable, and only scholarly etiquette prevents Knight from pretending they don’t exist at all… As a person who is planning to wade back into the academic culture wars, I am gratified  to find so perceptive a person out there publishing. (And her first chapter is on the Antinomian Crisis! Believe me, as Crises go, that’s one of the best!) When it comes to writing strongly thesis-driven material, you really cannot rise above your context, you have to have interesting people to play off of, or you will flounder, regardless of the intrinsic value of your ideas…(there really isn’t such a thing as an “intrinsically valuable idea”, as far as I’m concerned)

            And there you have it—grad school seems great to me again, even though I often have to read a lot of stuff I don’t want to read, and go through meaningless ordeals like the comprehensive exams… Now, before I turn purple–

 

Good night friends

Dave

 

 

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