Sunday, February 28, 2016


So. This morning I woke up thinking about Haruki Murakami. His words are sublime; his work ethic unassailable. Some might even argue that his work ethic is borderline unhinged. Today is the last day of Spring Break, and I have finished about three of the things I wanted to do: grading a few things, meeting up with a few dear friends (not all, not at all), and playing Fallout 4 until my hands are literally aching.

Murakami has been one of my favorite romances for a while now. You'll see, if you check the last entry in this blog (5 years ago!), that I loved him then. One of the challenges, academically and pedagogically, that I've been thinking on this semester and year has to do with Murakami very intimately. In my field of Communication Studies, the notion of studying literature (or even reading fiction) is spoken of the way people at dinner parties talk about racism and farts. I know so many academics who react with dismayed surprise when I tell them that I read and love fiction. But writing off novels and stories is short-sighted and unimaginative. In the worlds created by Asimov, Vinge, Murakami, Austen, Carey, Stephenson, and Gibson (just to name a few of my dearest loves), readers may explore the parameters and implications of ethics-in-the-world or philosophy-on-the-ground, a kind of rhetorical space in which we get to see what our highest ethical and political aspirations might actually look like, given "variables" like blood, caste, love, and loss. You know. The little stuff.

The challenge, then: how to incorporate more fiction into my classes. This year, we are reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicaon in my Persuasion class. I figured a book about codes and war and secrets might work well after reading about the hyperreal and debunking, discussing cognitive dissonance and Stanley Milgram, and writing about Wag the Dog and "Rhetoric as Epistemic." How my students put these theories together is the best, most mysterious part of such a challenge. I will let you know how it turns out.

I'm still throwing around ideas for novels in my future classes: Rhetoric and Pop Culture (we read How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran last time. Perhaps this time we will read The Peripheral by William Gibson or Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee.
Novels open up different spaces for the students to stand. They can test out their own understandings of the theories we read, perhaps examine the sharp lines between dissonance-in-space and dissonance-in-practice; when the words are well written, we may see the blood spilled by hard ethical boundaries in ways that don't get done in academic journals. Perhaps. We'll see what they say.

Also, hello. I've missed you.