Here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2015, at least so far:

1. I’ve been invited to guest lecture on Milton at a state university in Brazil. I will be presenting a paper that applies Robert Brandom’s analytic pragmatism to Milton’s Areopagitica. Here’s an abstract of a paper that I presented at the SCMLA conference in 2013 along the same lines: what I present in Brazil will be revised and expanded.

“Pragmatics in the Public Square: Robert Brandom and Milton’s Areopagitica

Robert Brandom’s Between Saying and Doing (2008) suggests a richly and intricately intertwined relationship between semantic and pragmatic approaches to a philosophy of language. Semantic approaches, being concerned with meaning, have been the primary domain of philosophies of language in the analytic tradition, but Brandom argues that pragmatics provides “special resources for extending and expanding the analytic semantic project” (8) by asserting that the meaning of a term originates in its use. The specific use value employed here is one explored by Brandom in Making It Explicit (1994), where he seeks to articulate the expressive or nonlogical content of logical statements, specifically how “deontic statuses. . . are made explicit by the use of propositional-attitude-ascribing locutions” (xx). In other words, Brandom is concerned with how statements of propositional truths are in fact relational claims made upon the hearer of these truths, means of both making and staking one’s claims or rights.

Brandom’s theoretical stance therefore seems especially apropos for analyzing public discourse, especially discourse about rights, as this form of discourse is rife with implied relational demands upon its speakers. John Milton’s Areopagitica (1644) is an especially compelling test case for Brandom’s pragmatics. As an impassioned plea for freedom of the press in the midst of the English Civil War it is a foundational document for establishing free public square discourse, yet it seems riddled with contradictions. Milton excluded papists from the benefits of freedom of the press, for example, and not long after publishing it accepted the position of state censor. Understood in the light of Brandom’s pragmatics, however, these contradictions seem less thorny. Though Milton appeals to a number of compelling ethical and political principles, Brandom’s pragmatic approach might also read Milton’s propositions as a series of claims made upon his readers, claims intended to serve the practical goal of the establishment of Milton’s ideal republic, one characterized by a limited public square comprised of members who recognize and acknowledge Milton’s relational claims.

2. I’ve been invited to submit a chapter to a forthcoming anthology devoted to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ll be writing about Guardians of the Galaxy. My previous post on this blog about the Guardians soundtrack was a kind of note taking for this article. Here’s the abstract:

“Silly Love Songs and Gender in Guardians of the Galaxy

“Silly Love Songs and Gender in Guardians of the Galaxy” argues that this film’s juxtaposition of aggressive and murderous males embodied in the characters Ronan and Thanos against nurturing and protective females embodied in the characters Gamora and Nova Prime illuminates how gender relationships work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. Specifically, the power of nurturing is extended from a femininely-conceived earth to a hostile and aggressive cosmos through Peter Quill’s music, particularly in the two mix tapes given to Peter by his mother, Awesome Mix Vols. 1 and 2. Director James Gunn describes the Walkman on which Peter plays these tapes as an “umbilical cord” connecting Peter to Earth, so that it represents the extension of Peter’s mother’s nurturing and care across time and space. When non-human characters come into contact with Earth music, they are invariably calmed or, in Gamora’s case, feminized and nearly seduced. It could even be argued that Ronan was finally defeated because he was distracted by the music on one of Peter’s mix tapes, which happened to be playing when he stepped onto the surface of Xandar, home planet of the Nova Empire. Because both Peter and Gamora must simultaneously embody stereotypically masculine and feminine characteristics in order to defeat an exclusively and stereotypically masculine villain, the film idealizes characters who embrace an androgynous mind, complicating these stereotypes by combining them in different ways across a variety of central characters. These gender relationships can also be seen in other films both within and auxiliary to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, such as Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and the 2011 and 2013 Thor films.

3. I will finish coding Mary Russell Mitford’s Watlington Hill for the Mary Russell Mitford Archive, and I mean soon.

4. I will get out my next book proposal. I’m about 1/3 of the way through it.

5. I will be presenting a paper at the national 2015 CCCCs conference this coming March, for which I wrote the session proposal:

6. I will start submitting articles to journals. I have a backlog of conference papers that could be revised and expanded.

7. I will finish revising my poetry and start sending out submissions to publishers.

8. And I will see to it that Marty Reaves finally has one of his novels published by a decent press.


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