Steph Ceraso on “Sound”

As Steph Ceraso notes on the Sound section, that there is a renewed interest in “sound studies” but scholars have trouble analyzing the place of sound in various fields. Ceraso notes that there are four approach to sound studies that are useful tools; writing with sound, curating sound, sound mapping, and critical listening. She also presents several sources which would be useful for scholarship. I have worked on a sound studies project before and I can attest that multiple sources seem to be necessary at times. Mapping sound, for example, requires sound curation, especially when dealing with sound in history.

Fitzpatrick Planned Obsolescence and Authorship

Fitzpatrick’s chapter “Authorship” in Planned Obsolescence tackles the challenges presented by digital technologies of academic authorship, especially in the humanities. In the humanities, academics are expected to produce creative and original work on their own (in contrast to the science where multiple authorship is common.) Single authorship causes anxiety, Fitzpatrick argues, because the demands of producing scholarship and how scholars tend to tie their work (and ideas) to their egos. Single authorship, she notes, is a product of historical and cultural forces, which created copyright laws and the environment of scholarly publishing. Some critics and philosophers (Michel Foucault among them) have noted that the author has “died.” Moreover, the digital world, however, has forced the academy to consider where authors fit in the internet era where the gift-giving economy, collaboration, “remixing,” and the process is privileged and important. Fitzpatrick suggests that the academic community should start to assimilate community, “remixing,” and process into their own work.

This chapter raises a few important questions. Has “single” authorship, and the authority that accompanies it, really been accorded to individuals? What role do governments, universities, and publishers play in backing or “creating” single authorship? The chapter suggests, as do some thinkers, that the author is “dead”; is this really the case? If academics are to make shifts based on the world of the internet what kind of collaborative authorship or creation is useful or not? What about the other innovations? What would be useful or not?

Franco Moretti’s “Graphs”

Franco Moretti’s chapter entitled “Graphs” from Graphs, maps, trees abstract models for a literary history analyzes the trends in literary history across the world, with a special focus on novels. Moretti’s stated goal is to create a more rational literary history because the sheer number of novels published over time prevents scholars from relying on close reading because it is logistically unfeasible to closely read the many thousands of novels. Moreover, focusing on one author or groups of authors leaves out too many others to be able to make reasonable arguments about literary history.  Moretti’s solution is to “graph” hundreds of novels over time either to measure the number of novels per decade and number of novels in a given genre. The graphs he produces demonstrate, perhaps, the connection between political instability and novel writing during the 19th century in Europe or the impact of colonialism on literary forms. This chapter raises a few questions. Where does Moretti’s work, the graphs, fit in with the rest of literary history? Does it intend to replace or improve literary history? Does close reading still matter when graph making can chart provocative and insightful arguments? Does this method, for example, adequately provide explanations for how genres shift or are exported?

Provocation on Chapters 2 & 3 in Part I: The Political-Economic Context of Public Higher Education, in Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier, Austerity Blues: The Crisis in Public Higher Education

Fabricant’s and Brier’s Chapters Two and Three from Austerity Blues accomplish two remarkable goals. First, they succinctly describe and contextualize the development of the public university system during the latter half of the 20th century. Second, and more importantly, they analyze how post-war economic and political challenges shaped the development of public universities, particularly CUNY (and UCAL). The reading ends with the observation that public universities after the tumultuous 1960s and 70s would come under attack from austerity and neoliberal policies.  These two chapters tackle wide-ranging issues but three stood out the most to me. (The questions for the provocation are within the following three sections; I apologize if there is any confusion.)

First, the post-war fears of veteran unemployment and subsequent unrest and interest in molding citizens, employees, and scientists of the future drove the state and federal governments to heavily invest in higher education. It was a matter of furthering American excellence at home and dominance abroad. In light of this goal, what type of education would be privileged/sought after by the state? If the purpose was to grant educational opportunity to veterans, then how did public educational institutions respond to the influx of students who were different than the target population? What happens if these students are not interested in the aforementioned goals and values of public education? Did aiming to solve the particular challenges presented by nearly 8 million veterans/new college students limit how public universities approached latter challenges?

Second, the comparison between the creation and growth of the UCAL and SUNY/CUNY, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s demonstrates how institutions react to internal and external pressures. There are two developments I thought were crucial to each system. One was the development of the UCAL “multiversity” system and the other the CUNY BHE’s master plan. Can the multiversity program be considered a bridge to the later neoliberal/austerity policies? How does the multiversity impact how and what education receives money and attention? For CUNY, the emphasis on maintaining tuition-free education seemed to have backfired as the university attempted to grow. Now we have an emphasis from politicians and activists on affordable education (and from some quarters, tuition-free higher education). What does the development of the public university system in New York tell us about where funds should derive? Should the state bear all or most of the burden or should students share some if it for the good of all?

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