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February 16, 2018, by Joe Karaganis 

We’re on a melancholic run for the winter months.  February’s honoree is “The Professor of Longing” by Jill Talbot.

243: The Professor of Longing

Dr. Jill Talbot
Contact: | 426-7060
Office: LA 102 C (a room I share with a broken shelf and three people I never see)
Office Hours: Before and After Class and once in a booth in the Hyde Park Bar & Grill

Course Description: This course is about failed attempts. It’s about me standing in an office two states and two months ago handing over a letter declaring that I was leaving academia indefinitely. It’s about being on the road—Utah, Idaho, Montana—climbing north before having to turn around, scramble south. It’s about the trying months of summer and ending up in a circumstance not on any map. It’s about Boise instead of Missoula, about adjustments instead of adventure, about impediments edging out impulse, bi-monthly paychecks that can’t cover rent and daycare, my last cigarette. It will be writing in a cramped corner on a plastic tv tray in a foldout chair bought at a thrift store. By the end of the semester, the focus will be two am phone calls and bad checks. For the final, look for a bookcase and a loveseat in a living room with the front door left wide open, my four-year-old daughter’s favorite polka-dotted vest forgotten on the kitchen counter.

Texts: We’re not going to read anything beyond my own proclivities. We’ll discuss stories, essays, and poems that remind me of my most recent misgivings, the lingerings I’m unable to yield, the words underlining my past. Our study will include recurring images, my own, of course, as well as the themes of my disposition. The text in this class is me.

Attendance: It’s strange to think I’m even here. Years from now, I will feel as these weeks were nothing more than an interruption, a curve in the story’s road.

Disclaimer: While these aren’t the texts I really used that semester, they most accurately reflect who I was during those weeks when I kept my eyes to the sidewalk.


August 22


Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Selections

Whitman has many famous lines about celebrating himself and containing multitudes and taking to the open road, sounding his barbaric yawp, yet stylistically, he used a device called “cataloging.” A long list. Write that down. It’s important, because we all catalog, make long lists of lovers, of things to pack, pros and cons, items at the drugstore. Some catalogs come with details, like wine lists. Some in a shorthand no one but us can read, and if enough time goes by, neither can we, as we pull a forgotten slip of paper from the bottom of a purse or a pocket and stare at a mystery.

Dickinson used dashes in her lines, random capitalization, difficult to decipher punctuation. She wasn’t consistent in her usage, and often her poems were in unfinished forms. But it’s the dashes that draw me, so we’ll focus on those. Sometimes they appear at the end of a line, others in the middle, interruptions. Still, other poems are words alone, no dashes at all. Emphasis? A writer’s pen carrying over to the next word, down the line? Never intended as part of the prosody at all, like a pause in a conversation misinterpreted as silence or disagreement when it’s only search for the right words? Or are they like bridges crossing a question?

We’ll be seeing these elements throughout the semester: catalogs of loss, of what lies between or is left to the end, the choices too difficult to decipher.

I’ll tell you up front: he left. So let’s look at an opening line of Dickinson’s: “You left me, sweet, two legacies—”
And he did, one, the legacy of our years together that began with the Eagle River and a half moon. The other, the sweetest legacy, our daughter, who, I suppose, he never saw as part of his prosody. That dash—his disappearance. And so, to the Whitmanesque open road he went, “afoot and lighthearted,” while, me? My lines are a bit further down: “I carry my old delicious burdens . . . . I carry them with me where I go/I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them.”

The delicious burdens I bear because no state, not this one or the last three I’ve lived in can trace a line underneath Kenny and make him pay child support. He’s the dash that keeps dashing, a catalog of unanswered phone calls.

The rest is at Diagram.

January 24, 2018, by Joe Karaganis 

This month’s honoree is:


Instructor: Kevin Temple
Office hours: By text message

Course Description

There is no such thing as the Philosophy of Adjuncting; but rest assured, this course is authentic, for I am being deliriously underpaid to teach it. As the “instructor of record,” I have made the syllabus distinctly my own because that tiny gasp of freedom is to tenure what adjunct pay is to an actual salary. What have I put on it? Nothing of use. It is self-defeating, for that is what a philosophy of adjuncting must be.


Week 1: Marx on alienation

My adjunct friend says, “The irony of adjuncting is being alienated labor while teaching future alienated laborers about Alienated Labor.” Read the Alienated Labor section of Marx’s “Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts.” Alienation happens in a bunch of ways; for example, when instead of doing something great on your own terms, an arbitrarily powerful person forces you to do it his way. He ruins what you do by breaking it down into a series of distinct tasks, automating whatever can be automated, measuring how long each remaining task takes, and then paying you as little as possible per task. That’s how administrators created adjuncting. It’s almost like they’ve read Marx.

Week 2: Adorno saw it coming

We discuss the “culture industry.” Universities as a whole have what Adorno called a “culture monopoly.” As such, he says, “They cannot afford to neglect their appeasement of the real holders of power if their sphere of activity in mass society … is not to undergo a series of purges.” Well, guess what? The purges happened anyway. This is why we commute.

Continued at Adjunct Commuter Weekly…

May 29, 2017, by Joe Karaganis 

This month’s honorees are Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West from the University of Washington for their very ambitious INFO 198 / BIOL 106B course:

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

  • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
  • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
  • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
  • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
  • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.


February 4, 2017, by Joe Karaganis 

This month we highlight RISD Professor Clement Valla’s course, Uncreative Design, and ponder its relationship to the OSP.


“In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Heubler wrote, ‘The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’” So opens Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, published in 2011. Following Goldsmith’s lead, this class will explore various strategies in art, writing and political activism that will lead us to an uncreative design. We will make use of copying, repetition, appropriation, detournement and bricolage in a series of studio experiments. Though the class will be focused on ways of (not)making, class participation and discussions of assigned readings will also play a major role in guiding studio work, and in evaluating student projects. There are no prerequisites, though students should be willing to take major risks and have a very open approach to different modes of working.

Creativity, intuition, improvisation, composed, hand-made, unique, original, subjective, genius, authored. These are all to be avoided in this class. Rather what we create will be uncreative, systematic, scripted, chance based, calculated, mass produced, digital, appropriated, objective and copied. The role of contemporary producers is no longer be to create new things, but to channel, frame, re-assemble and contextualize existing things – from creative production towards an ‘uncreative’ production. Uncreative Design explores how new meaning is produced by collecting, archiving, captioning, erasing, parsing. There are many examples of this work and theory in other disciplines, including writing, art, new media, music, film and video.