My Time at Durham

The view from my IAS office.

The view from my IAS office.

It was an immense privilege and a lot of fun to be at the Institute for Advanced Studies, and I’m grateful for those at the IAS past and present who supported me getting to be there. (I arrived home to St. John’s last night–just in time for hopefully our last massive snow storm of the winter.) Let’s see how I did with my to do list:

1. I began by working through Derrida’s Death Penalty lectures more systematically, both for a review at Berfrois (it will be published April 7) but also as part of a project I’m coauthoring this year tentatively titled The New Derrida, and I outlined and wrote the section of the chapter in which that will go. (I also completed another couple of book reviews while in Durham.) I’m looking to do my graduate course next year comparing Foucault and Derrida’s writings on the death penalty, since I think their differences are accented best here, but also there are congruancies that I would also want to highlight. Thus as a bonus I have largely outlined in terms of the source material what I would teach, so a lot of prep (other than re-reading) is taken care of.

2. I also put together a paper for proposed session at SPEP on a theme in Derrida’s later writings (given the blind review process, I won’t say what it is). This was something I had wanted to write about for awhile and the first couple of weeks at the IAS gave me the time to do it.

3. I prepared both a seminar and a lecture at Durham on the year’s theme of light. The seminar was more of an overview of this foundational metaphoric opposition in Western philosophy, theology, and culture, which I’ll submit the IAS’s journal. The lecture, though, focused, on linking the rhetoric of working the “dark side” to a long tradition in the West dating to Plato’s Laws. I’ve turned that into an article and have submitted it for publication.

4. I went through editorial corrections moving from a Word version to the page proofs for Speculative Realism: Problems and ProspectsWhile Bloomsbury outsources the editorial work, I had a very good experience with the copy editor and the process thus far. Whatever errors that are still there have to do with me reading it several times over a month. (Thankfully I was the IAS, since I would receive a copy of the MS and be asked to have any changes a week later.)

5. I finished up the line-up for The New Continental Philosophy of Science. The upshot is that lots of philosophy of science type questions returned again and again at the IAS, given the talks by fellows who were scientists. I’m appreciative to those who responded positively when I got in touch with them. (For some reason I wasn’t good at communicating that I was looking for something more pedagogical than tight readings of this or that text.)

6. I also made progress on my book on type, reworking the introduction as a way to reorient the whole MS. I’ve carried this baby for long enough. The reasons are myriad. But essentially, questions of time and the chapters I’ve chosen to do mean making sure to show what I think is missing from its framing in recent analytic debates and philosophy of physics (needless this also means reading up on various literatures in these areas), but also making a shift as the volume goes on for the political stakes involved. Luckily I have next couple of months here in St. John’s, before shifting to other work during the summer, to get this done.

I had a wonderful time in Durham and I’ll miss my time there. While I expected the kind of wonderful interactions with the other fellows–or at least had good hopes there–I was particularly surprised by what a difference it made being in Durham’s Hatfield College. The college system is currently under review, but it is unique and makes quite an interesting experience. Staying there, I got a better chance to get to know Durham’s students as well as the Durham alumni who are members of Hatfield’s Senior Common Room. This will sound to some vaguely Harry Potter-esque (two formal dinners a week, wearing robes!), but I participated in various events with the SCR folks (the dinners, a wine tasting, a long hike around Durham, etc.), who were just normal teachers and so on from the Durham area. It was a great way, despite living on campus, to get to know northeastern England, and also academics from around the university who would come to these events as well and whom I would not have otherwise met. Thanks to Tim Burt, head of the college, and of course those at the IAS who, despite a busted foot midway through, made it a wonderful living and working experience in Durham.