Blog Post

Hey y'all

Hey! My name Chris Taylor and I am a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin where I specialize in Medieval English Literature. Although my course of study may appear to have little in common with the projects the HASTAC community undertakes, I’d like to learn from y’all and implement my experiences here in both my teaching and research.


Teaching: For two years I’ve taught a class titled the Rhetoric of “Hipsterdom” in which we identify, analyze, and write about arguments that have been used historically to delineate culture from counter-culture. Increasingly I’ve asked my students to think about the concept of access as a potential model to describe the movement between so-called mainstream culture and various subcultures. Much of our discussion related to the mediating role of technology in bringing together cultures. I would like to think more about this relationship and our willingness to recycle a racialized term denoting the savvy awareness of the 1940s jazz musician and those much-maligned modern youth figures who position themselves as arbiters between popular culture and “underground” cultures. More specifically, I am interested in the degree to which the hipster models a modern undestanding of the humanities. In other words, despite its aims, the effects of the academic emphasis on the vague metric of “excellence” has little to do with civic participation in culture or even training the student for a global workforce, but bears most directly on the cultivation of instincts— the earlier, the better. Unlike the flaneur, free to cruise the ruins, the hipster learns to arbitrate the relevance of the impressions she comes into contact with. And very much like the contemporary university, the excellent hipster extracts surplus value from the management of knowledges she acquires. Ya know, the humanities and technology. Or something like that.


Research: My dissertation concerns the use of the unknown in late-medieval literature as a poetics that re-orients readers toward the positive consequences of recognizing some knowledge as permanently unknowable. One of my chapters concerns the nomadic movements of the mythical medieval king Prester John from 1150 to 1650. In order to bolster my argument about how important this medieval figure really was (especially for travel narratives and early European colonialist narratives), I’d like to design a project that tracks the movements of Prester John across time and space during this time period. John not only changes location in the cultural imaginary in step with political climate of the European West, he also shows up in texts written across the world. I’d like to show how this works.


Mostly I’m just looking forward to learning from y’all and getting inspired!



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