Monday, June 22, 2009

I call out her name.

In the toughest title battle yet, The Thermals emerge champs as usually happens: 'cuz when you're hot, you're smokin'. They took down an extremely quality field: The Clash, "What's My Name," Guided by Voices, "Your Name Is Wild," The Kinks, "Did You See His Name","Lynyrd Skynyrd, "What's Your Name", Terence Trent D'Arby, "Sign Your Name," The Velvet Underground, "I Heard Her Call My Name," and The White Stripes, "Sister, Do You Know My Name?"

Q: What's this all about then?
A: My "second" book was to have been called “WHAT’S IN A NAME?”: IDENTITY, PROPERTY, AND THE EARLY MODERN NAMING FUNCTION 1485–1832 and should have been entering post-production about now. This book project modeled on David Cressy's magisterial Birth, Marriage & Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England was at once much more focused in topic while also diachronically much wider in scope. The book concept spun out of an unpublished essay entitled “Tom, Dick, and Francis”; or, The Trouble with Harry: Status Anxiety amongst the Gentry in Early Modern England. This essay itself served as a bridge away from dissertation work on alehouses and theaters. We still visit the world of the Boar's Head Tavern in the second tetralogy but more with an eye to Hal and his many concerns about class, status, and patrilineage. Following from a seemingly toss-away neologism, "Tom, Dick and Francis" we ask the Hitchcockian question of Hal just what is The Trouble with Harry?

Central to the answer was my theorization after Foucault of an early modern naming function. And that's why this post exists at all. My "first" book is still in the works. My own academic status is rather ambiguous, but I continue to be a publishing scholar.

My latest work in collaboration with Bryan Reynolds is a melding of my "naming function" with his transversal poetics providing we hope through "investigative-expansive modes"
to show that certain signature theoretical contributions of structuralism and poststructuralism have definite precursors in the early modern English understanding of the proper name with respect both to semiotic-semantic systems and subject formation. Moreover, another aim of this book is to establish more explicitly the historical trajectory of this book . . . between the premodern and the modern . . . to graph the various lines of critical inquiry into subjects, subjectivity, and subject matters. (51)

So we pursue a basic question, "What's in a name?"

One of my very smartest friends asked "what is your naming function?" And he is not alone, though many of my grad school buddies already hipped to the Foucaultplay at work in my neologism. In short from our "Glossary of Transversal Terms":
the naming-function replaces the problematic term "name" to emphasize the many uses of proper naming. . . . The naming-function reveals that proper naming need not operate simply in one direction, from sociopolitical conductors of state power to subjects, but also in reverse, differently, multi-directionally, and multi-dimensionally. (280)
Focusing on a class bias "the naming-function encodes, eludes, and scrambles power relationships among the aristocracy, much as the the author-function admits ownership of texts, yet obscures the state's punishment of their transgressions" (61). For more, read the book. Thanks!

Thus we come to my Declaration of Scholarly Principles (with a wink of the eye to CFK and JL).

1) I promise never to follow a trend out of a desire for publication or advancement. In fact, I steadfastly promise to actively ignore trends in my own work regardless of the affects on my so-called career.

2) I vow to continue doing cutting edge interdisciplinary work in both the fields of early modern studies and popular culture of the twentieth century. I shall follow the questions and interesting bugaboos wherever they lead me: be it to the creation of 90s noise rock as a non-generic cultural phenomenon, the role of hops in the production of English national identity, a minor neologism which tinkers with a common adage but plainly hides deeper cultural anxieties about status, a re-reading and re-reading of the phrase "Out of sack" until every possible meaning has been parsed and squeezed from the literary shepherd's bag or The Mekon's interest in traditional country, disavowal of Alt-Country, and creation of a more politicized "Insurgent Country."

3) I vow to use theory as it was intended as a useful explanatory tool not as a system for living or some kind of ideological purity test.

4) I vow to write in clear and concise modern English that attempts to be both witty and wise.

5) I vow to live the life of the mind to the full, joyously and with all the vigor I can produce.

Desunt nonulla.

Works Cited

Bryan Reynolds et al., Transversal Subjects: From Montaigne to Deleuze after Derrida. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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