What This Blog is All About

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Me, of course.

But also, more specifically, the work that I’ll be doing over the next two-three years on my dissertation. I think it’ll be a productive exercise to work through my thinking-process on this blog, to put my ideas out on a provisional basis, and to build a community of readers who might even re-shape the direction my work goes in.

So what’s the topic of my dissertation? I haven’t had my colloquium yet (that’s going to be in the fall), but I am narrowing in on “post-irony” as a concept that might be particularly fruitful to explore. Since the early 1990s, and at an accelerated pace since 9/11, there have been a range of artistic efforts–from the Freedom Tower going up on Ground Zero to Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan to Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to Wes Anderson’s various movies to the many many brilliant episodes of This American Life–to reformulate the moral logic of earnestness in an ironic world. The artists engaged in this effort appreciate what irony (as a tool of cultural criticism and as a means of resisting the dominant culture) has let us do since the heyday of the counterculture, but they also desperately want to push beyond irony, and the negative critical methods of the counterculture, towards something else. Towards something postive, affirmative, or (at the very least) real. Put differently, all these artists are struggling to find a way, through art, to express deeply felt, often unbearable, emotions without seeming trite, cliched, or mainstream; yet they all seem somehow forced to use highly ironized and self-conscious means of doing so. The results are often odd but (almost) always interesting.

That’s my idea in a nutshell. I’ll post more on the contours this project soon. Eventually, I’ll post my colloquium paper here.