Meetings of the Mind

Meetings of the Mind

Meetings of the Mind

Meetings of the Mind

Synopsis

Comic in tone and serious in intent, this book gives a vivid portrait of academic life in the nineties. With campus populations and critical perspectives changing rapidly, academic debate needs to look beyond the old ideal of common purposes and communal agreement. How can we learn from people we won't end up agreeing with?

This question is explored by four very different scholars, who meet and argue at a series of comparative literature conferences: David Damrosch, liberal humanist and organizer of the group; Vic Addams, an independent scholar of aesthetic leanings (and author of "The Utility of Futility"); Marsha Doddvic, a feminist film theorist; and the Israeli semiotician Dov Midrash. Throughout the 1990s, in four cities, they meet and debate the problems of disciplinary definition and survival, the relation of literary theory to society, the politics of cultural studies, and the virtues and vices of autobiographical criticism.

As their partly antagonistic, increasingly serious, surprisingly fond, and always funny relationship develops, Damrosch seeks common ground with his friends despite the fundamental differences among th

Excerpt

The Hakone region has aerial cable cars traversing the mountains, boiling hot springs, and lake cruises…. the most worthwhile attraction in the area is the moa Art Museum, named after its founder, Mokichi Okada. While establishing one of Japan's new religions, the Church of Messianity, Okada was able to collect more than 3,000 works of art…. Located on a hill above the station and set in a garden full of old plum trees and azaleas, the museum also offers a sweeping view over Atami and the bay. Admission: ¥ 1, 500. Open 9: 30–3: 30; closed Thurs. Fodor's 91: Japan

The projector, which was fitted with inadequate bulbs, threw faint images on to an over-large screen, and the lecturer, however closely he peered, could hardly discern their outlines, while for the public they were scarcely distinguishable from the damp stains on the walls…. To this mixture of moth-eaten ghosts and restless infants the lecturer was privileged—as the supreme reward for so much effort, care and hard work—to reveal his precious store of memories, which were permanently affected by the chill of the occasion, and which, as he spoke in the semi-darkness, he felt slipping away from him and falling one by one like pebbles to the bottom of a well.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

I arrived at Narita airport, late in August of 1991, not knowing what to expect. Several hundred comparatists from around the world were assembling for the triennial meeting of the International Comparative Literature Association; this would be the group's first meeting in Asia. My uncertainty had partly to do with the conference's theme, if it had one; “The Force of Vision” was a pretty vague topic, though I'd certainly seen vaguer. My chief concern was with my fellow panelists. I knew none of them well, their work only a little better. As I waited for the airport train into the city, still groggy . . .

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