I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Signing up to the Tower of Babel

I'm pleased to say I've just joined the BABEL working group - an engagingly engaged and non-hierarchical network of scholars interested in ... all sorts of things. The ideas that intrigue me most are their interest in pre-modern cultural studies, in multiple temporalities, and in the subjectivity of the humanities scholar. Their website is brilliantly energetic. I've never met Eileen Joy, but she is clearly a dynamo. Lots of people talk about re-thinking the hi-falutin' formality of literary studies, but this looks like a place where a different kind of work might be done.

Here's some of what they say:

... how could we have a collective that could act as a lever for a new discourse within the academy aimed at reformulating and redefining what we think we mean by "humanism" and "the humanities," such that we could also advocate for the important role of humanities study in the post-historical, post-human, hell, post-everything university, and also in public life? We also desired to be able to undertake this venture, as well as engage in various collaborative activities, with scholars working in more modern humanities fields, as well as with artists, and also with scientists working in cutting-edge fields such as biotechnologoy, robotics, artificial life, particle physics, etc. ... Finally, how could we create a space where, following Bill Readings, "the question of being-together is raised, raised with an urgency that proceeds from the absence of the institutional forms (such as the nation-state), which have historically served to mask that question" (The University in Ruins, p. 20). After much scribbling of all of this on Meantime Lounge cocktail napkins, BABEL was born. Well, kind of.
As to another reason why we are attracted to the Tower of Babel as a source of inspiration, we begin with the image of the Tower in ruins. As historians, we are the sifters of the fragments of this site, but we are not its rebuilders. We are collecting these disjointed fragments and we are bearing them to the present, not as artifacts of the past, but as tablets on which new possibilities can be written, read, and even lived.
And here is the official BABEL Sonnet (oh! Friday poetry blogging! a convention I might try to activate on Humanities Researcher):

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child!
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whether better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

(William Shakespeare)
How neat is that?

But best of all, I followed the link on Pavlov's Cat and did the What Tarot Card Are You? test last night. If I sometimes follow such links, I don't always paste the results, but this is irresistible. I know almost nothing about the Tarot, but the synchronicity of this result is perhaps a good argument for finding out more...

You are The Tower

Ambition, fighting, war, courage. Destruction, danger, fall, ruin.

The Tower represents war, destruction, but also spiritual renewal. Plans are disrupted. Your views and ideas will change as a result.

The Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. The Tower stands for "false concepts and institutions that we take for real." You have been shaken up; blinded by a shocking revelation. It sometimes takes that to see a truth that one refuses to see. Or to bring down beliefs that are so well constructed. What's most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, makes room for something new to be built.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.


Jeffrey J Cohen said...

The best part about signing up for BABEL is when Eileen shows up suddenly on your doorstep to teach the secret handshake and give you the BABEL patented martini recipe. She has a long flight ahead of her ...

Eileen Joy said...

Stephanie: thanks so much for joining BABEL and for this lovely plug! It's true what Jeffrey says: there *is* a secret handshake, but only Pierre, our monkey, makes the martinis, and he won't share his recipe. And here is to synchronicity/synergy in all things. [sound of clapping, or is it martini glass being raised?--after all, it *is* five o'clock somewhere in the world and even right now, here in South Carolina]