I came to Duke in 1989, after teaching at Princeton for a year and, before that, in Japan (at Kobe Daigaku), before that at Michigan State. For many people, Duke was Stanley Fish and the Duke English Department, notorious, poststructuralist, deconstructionist, theoretical. I am more techno-historian than techno-theorist but it is history deeply inflected by theory and by a childhood of quirky math geekdom that surfaces in odd ways . . . like admiration (I wish I could do it--I really can only see it in others) for the precisions of language on an almost particle level. People who don't know theory crab about "jargon." When you are inside a field, jargon is often, in fact, precision . . . when it is brilliant. So, anyway, two people who used to rock my intellectual world when I read them were Fred Jameson and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, partly because of the precision with which they were able to express ideas so subtle, complex, and important that it just blew me away every time I read them. How do they do that?
So I decided to come to Duke .. . and it was a good ride for about eight years and then several of my closest friends (like Eve) left, and I left and became a vice provost, and the English Department changed, and then it changed again, and it is just fine again although those early 90s days and nights, conversations at Crook's with Eve and Ken and other friends, the huge dinners that Eve used to have at her house, the performances, the visitors, the energy and generosity and flow. Eve, for techies reading this who have no idea who I am talking about, is the goddess of queer theory, a theory of sexuality, gender, and performativity that parses out and mixes up all the different configurations of those terms to try to understand better what it is we talk about when we talk (or do not talk) about sex. (You can see there are continuities between this blog entry and the last one.) Eve is a genius, a poet, an artist, and a capacious human being. Hal is a scientist, impish, funny, also brilliant, sweet. Great people. Eve is writing about Proust these days, and about sexuality again, and her last book was Touching Feeling, amazing, affect, and, literally, touch. Touch in a virtual world is a whole other topic for another blog post another day. I worry about that a lot, think about it a lot . . . is ADHD touch deprivation? Absence of physical play? Overactive stimulation and underactive play? Or fascistic reinforcement of StaY In Your Seat at All Times school rules to get kids through the rigorous banal crowd control mentality of Leave No Child Behind?
I digress. As we ate amazing food at Blue Hill, and talked about recent travels, siblings, friends, ideas, work, all that old friend deliciousness, we also talked about our lives on line a lot. I like that touching interactivity . . . Ken and Hal talked with cognoscenti precision about Trip Advisor . . . how when people, real people, contribute information you get great advice, learn about cheaper and wonderful places, and get warned about the cheap place that happens to have bed bugs (really!) We talked about Google and, with amazement, about Wikipedia, and Hal and Eve talked about medical advice on line, on how you manage a very long and serious chronic illness through medica professionals but also through self-education on line, sharing information, being in touch with others, and trial and error shared and communal.
We also talked about reading newspapers on line and we talked about some of the amazing tools on like like all of Proust on line so you can put in key words and find out, my gosh, Proust talks about India eighty times (whatever--I'm making that up) and transvestism 300 times (again, I'm making up the numbers). We travel, we work, we read, and we stay as healthy as we can manage on line. And we stay connected, to dear friends. But I was glad we weren't on line last night. The food tasted great. We laughed. We touched. Eve looked amazing, great new haircut, some sun that brought out her adorable freckles. Hal too was bright eyed and handsome as ever. Ah, touching feeling.