The letter, published via Modernism/modernity’s “Print Plus” platform, considers academia’s responsibility to respond to current events and asks how we, as scholars, can respond to these times.
A journalist friend of mine complained a couple of days ago that “the downside of writing about the Trump era is you spend two hours writing and even worse shit has erupted in the meantime.” I know what he means. In the week since I set out to write this brief note—an invitation to continue, in a new blog forum, the work of Lesley Wheeler’s current posting on “Scholarship and Justice”—the very earth seems to have shifted beneath our feet. Threats have become reality. Neologisms have erupted. Websites have disappeared. Though the task hasn’t altered, the touchstones have changed. If my first vague intention was to push back, high-mindedly, against what one might call “scholarly object envy”—that nagging feeling of guilt that one’s academic specialty is not the now—with special reference to what the methodologies of the New Modernist Studies have taught us about the cultural embeddedness of even the most impervious modernist objects, well, that already seems both redundant and belated.