Blog neglect

I’m starting to notice an alarming pattern: when no one posts, traffic falls. We have so many great posts in the archives that one would think that people would take advantage of gaps between posts to go back and read all our old material, but it appears that, for whatever reason, people prefer fresh content. More than that, they prefer controversy, and so my posts on apocalyptic and patristics, growing out of my devil course, have not been big draws — there’s not a radical pro-Antiochus Epiphanes faction roaming the blogosphere, looking to set the record straight.

I’ve never been one to develop my primary work on the blog. For me, this forum is for the conceptual byways, the side readings, the odd reflections. The devil posts are the exception that prove the rule — those are leftover thoughts of a kind that are difficult to present in the context of a Shimer discussion. Normally I don’t even like to write up thoughts that emerge in class discussions, partly because I want to avoid any appearance of favoritism by focusing on a particular students’ ideas, but primarily because I don’t want to rehash something that was adequately developed in class.

A similar impulse has led me to refrain from posting my Harvard talk here — it’s still a work in progress, which I hope I can develop into the first chapter of my devil book, setting up the project in the context of the discipline of political theology. In fact, future speaking engagements will give me concrete motivation to continue developing it, so that I will likely have a presentable draft by early this summer and can begin approaching publishers. Some combination of my Shimer talk [PDF] and the reflections I have been posting here will likely congeal into a second chapter, and a third will consist of a condensation and recasting of the story of the devil’s shifting role in the atonement narrative from Politics of Redemption.

It’s realistic to assume I can get through those three chapters by the end of the summer, putting me close to the halfway point — and subsequently, I plan to teach a graduate seminar on the project at Chicago Theological Seminary, which will give me the opportunity to work through more theoretical texts alongside the historical sources and also, crucially, to lecture once in a while. Assuming disaster doesn’t strike, I should be able to complete the manuscript by the end of the summer of 2015, which is also when I’ve promised to complete my translation of Agamben’s The Use of Bodies. At that point, I can think about whether I want to follow up with a project about the devil’s fate in modernity or try something totally different. That’s a really big deal for me, as this devil project has been the outermost horizon for my research work since I completed my dissertation.

Meanwhile, teaching and administration work at Shimer are both time-intensive. People talk a lot about how colleges need to have more meaningful faculty shared governance — but as someone who’s actually living it, I can sympathize with those who preferred to leave many responsibilities to the professionals. I’ve already shared my reasons for posting about class relatively rarely, and it should be obvious that I won’t be blogging about Shimer’s internal debates and processes.

In addition to these time pressures, Twitter has provided a more convenient forum for short, dashed-off thoughts that a few years ago might have found their way into a blog post. In many ways, Twitter is a terrible format — the short messages, the difficulty of retrieving older tweets, the confusion that inevitably arises when people try to actually have a conversation — but the same simplicity that creates all those problems also makes it almost irresistibly tempting for the quick remark and instant response. I used to complain when people responded to links to blog posts via a Twitter response, but I’ve given up that battle — in part because people inevitably became incredibly offended, presumably because I was asking them to leave a format where they feel comfortable and in-control in favor of my own home turf.

None of this is to say that I’m giving up on blogging. In fact, we’re planning a few book events for the coming year. I just felt the need to feed my blogging superego, and I have so much going on that I don’t have much mental space to do more than tell you all what’s going on.

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16 Responses to “Blog neglect”

  1. Brennan Breed Says:

    My suggestion: way more posts on Hellenistic-era Jewish apocalypses and the development of the concept of radical evil. That should do the trick.

  2. Brennan Breed Says:

    Have you considered a series on 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch? Just a thought. (By the way, this aside is not a joke — I just thought of this: the theodicy section of 4 Ezra, dealing with theological reasons for the destruction of the temple in 70CE, should be really interesting for your topic.)

  3. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    Maybe you’d get more comments if you defended Antiochus Epiphanes yourself. He’s due for a comeback.

  4. Chris Bonner Says:

    Publish or perish is a fact of life in the blog world, I’m afraid, at least as far as traffic is concerned.

  5. ess emm Says:

    Some prefer freshness, some controversy; but I prefer wit, and your tweets are comedy gold!

    Can you make your devil funnier—like the one in South Park?

  6. robotsdancingalone Says:

    I’m not sure if it’s simply people preferring freshness; the focus on newer posts seems to me to be the result of the desire for curated content, whether that curation is an effect of simple chronology or not. The categories bar at the side is no match for readiness-at-hand. Not that that goes against the post in any way.

  7. Sly Horace Says:

    How about just re-posting the old posts, with a but more critique of myth, in a reverse direction of studious play that would do Benjamin, Kafka, Bucephalus and Sancho Panzo – the whole crew of sedate fools and clumsy assistants – proud? Agamben brings traffic, but it’s hard to do his evasions full justice: he is such a good Quaalude for the anxiety of academics. He burnishes left wing melancholy like a trophy, burns incense for the asceticism of study and grants a dustless and opaque alibi to those who fear the contamination of political action.

  8. Brennan Breed Says:

    Somebody’s been reading a lot of David Bentley Hart.

  9. Brennan Breed Says:

    He’s like a quaalude for the anxiety of conservatives.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Also never heard of quaaludes.

  11. Brennan Breed Says:

    From what I’ve (just) heard, they’re things that have an effect similar to Agamben when you melancholy, ascetic leftist academics read him.

  12. SLHinchey Says:

    To increase interest in archived posts I suggest leaving them open for comment. With the exception of occasional controversial posts for which commenting is closed early, why are all the other posts eventually closed for comment? It gives them a sense of being dead or frozen. Even though I very seldom comment there have been a number of times when I wanted to comment on an archived post.

  13. Sly Horace Says:

    Here, here – open posts would be great, because thinking never stops (and trolls can contribute read: my posts). By the way, I wouldn’t call my words conservative, and David Bentley Hart is a great big whatever singularity (& Terry Eagleton’s been treading on atheists before him). Perhaps the blog is Horatian: if we think of Agambenphilia as a sign of modern decline, similar to the symptom of parasites that, having fallen from the grandeur of use values in the grain temples Greece, stalked the forum, agitating for more dole? But that’s your call. I rather like these periods in history, as they lead to better things – perhaps not to that ye-olde divinae mentis Latin Empire that old Agamben hurls like a kid from the heights of La Republicca. No, douse your suspicions, the argument re: left-wing melancholy flows from an essay by Benjamin; I’m in more sympathy with left-wing thinking of Trotsky’s and Benjamin’s era than with Agamben’s post-historical materialist quaaludism. Still waiting for that coming philosophy.

  14. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I will ponder the question of leaving archived post comments open longer. I remember when I turned on the feature, but I don’t remember why — and yet I feel like there must have been some reason, perhaps a good one!


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