Friday, August 08, 2008

Supervalent Thought

Because she is coming to Melbourne next week, I've been directed to Lauren Berlant's blog, Supervalent Thought. It's on my blogroll, now, and I think I'll be checking it regularly. It's beautifully written, and both philosophical and personal in ways that do the kind of touching that is being discussed over at In the Middle's discussion of Carolyn Dinshaw's Getting Medieval. The most recent post, "On Potentiality, #1", writes wonderfully about "the sickening sense of knowing that you're what gets in your own way, and people who are ...

Smart, hilarious, winning, full of life and potentiality, energetic-depressed rather than just depressed, eloquent, almost smooth, and unsettled, unsettled so deeply that nothing, no project, could absorb them. There was rarely a career; just jobs, while the creative energy sought out just the right outlet. People defined by having potential. People whose observational intelligence takes your breath away: they’re Dorothy Parker, write the best letters to the editor, blog with perfectly formed opinions. Quipsters, they blaze hot and then enter a fallow time, until they forget somehow that they’re there and then say something revealing their brilliance, which restarts the arc of almost sustaining its energy into something like a life, but not quite.


There's more in this post I haven't digested yet, but potentiality is on my mind this evening, as I spent three hours today on our academic unsatisfactory progress committee. This is the last court of appeal after students have failed bunches of subjects, and gone through all the counselling and special considerations their faculties can offer them. All our committee is really empowered to do is make sure due process has been followed; that there has been no bias in the implementation of policy; and see if there is any further information.

Sadly, most of these students are international students; or Australian students with ethnic backgrounds that insist on discretion about family troubles, whether financial, medical or social. So they often haven't sought help or advice. But I had better not blog any more about them: discretion is appropriate here. The awful thing is realising how young these students are, and how difficult it is to learn what one is good at, and how hard it is, so early, to find the right path.

I do often feel lucky, in that I think I fell into the right path for me. Not because I chose the academic life over countless other possible paths; it was only that I could never really see anything else. Not that I couldn't see anything else I wanted to do: I just could never really see anything other than reading and writing. I'm sure my work is more mundane and humble that the brilliant arcs of potentiality Berlant describes, but on the other hand, it doesn't torment me, either.

P.S. The morning after... Actually, that's not quite true, that my work doesn't torment me: I'd say it's pretty much an equal mixture of pleasure and pain, especially the writing phase I am in at the moment. But it does at least, usually, eventually, lead to a finished product of one kind or another.

2 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Is Lauren Berlant really coming to Melbourne? I'm amazed. She and her writing have been preoccupying me of late, too. Do you know? Is she appearing in 'public'? If so I'd love to hear her speak again.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Hmm, Elisabeth, this posting was a couple of years ago.... I've no news on another visit. Perhaps check her website??