Sorry: Another one of those “thinking out loud” posts

I apologize if these posts about future plans are too self-indulgent. Perhaps they could be viewed primarily as a way of coping with my own anxiety, and thus you should feel free to skip them. Hopefully there is some value, however, in seeing how I think through my long-term planning.

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Other summer projects

My two major projects for the summer — my Islam syllabus and Creepiness — are now basically done. There will be further work on both (continued background reading on Islam and the process of editing on Creepiness), but they will no longer require the kind of sustained effort I’ve put in so far. I had been anticipating spending all summer working on both, along with the translation of The Use of Bodies, but there have been delays on finalizing the Italian text that have meant that particular project is on pause for now.

In the meantime, I have a few things to work on. The most exciting is a collection of essays on Agamben that I’m putting together with Colby Dickinson, which will amount to a two-person edited volume. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reading each other’s contributions (which have mostly been previously published or presented at conferences) and giving some feedback, as well as putting together a proposal. I’ve also promised a couple pieces for a reference work on the doctrine of the atonement and hope to complete at least one (the shorter one, which is due in early fall), and I need to write up a syllabus for my Theology and Politics of the Devil course at CTS (for which I’ve “assigned” myself some fresh reading). Finally, I’d like to rework my Birkbeck talk into a sample chapter for The Prince of This World and put together a prospectus for a publisher. And until I head back to Chicago, I have the weekly Agamben reading group that just started.

I guess that sounds like a lot. The problem is that no single one of them is either as lengthy (or as fun!) as Creepiness or as urgent as the Islam syllabus, so I can picture myself wasting a lot of time deciding which to do first — and then repeating the procedure when I finish whatever I finally settle on and need to move on to the next thing. Somewhat more pathetically, experience teaches me that when I don’t have an overarching project to work on during the summer, I become bored and depressed. That’s one major drawback of being such a productive person: workahol withdrawal can be harsh.

Adventures in Trying to Do Research During the Semester

My research project on the devil has been long deferred. It was immediately clear to me after finishing my dissertation that the devil theme was the most interesting aspect and worthy of its own study, and that remained my “official” position on the matter despite the fact that I was doing relatively little in the way of actual work toward that goal. I explain this partly by the vagaries of the job market — in my years as a VAP, I wasn’t sure where I was going to wind up, in the sense that I didn’t know if I’d find a job at all and I also wasn’t sure what department I’d be in. Hence I focused more on my little pop culture project, along with more occasional writings that were mostly dictated by invitations rather than any kind of systematic program. I gave myself time off from thinking about such things while finding my feet at Shimer, and then once I was through my first year, I had already committed my summer (and much of the fall, as it turns out) to my Agamben translations.

But now, dear reader — now I have actually done something. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve seen the future, brother — it is murder

As the years go on, it increasingly seems to me that my life as an academic is characterized by two different rhythms. First and most obviously, there is the academic calendar, the “school year,” which determines my day-to-day activities. For my long-term research goals, however, the calendar year plays an increasingly important role. Summer vacation comes in the middle of this second rhythm — the first part of the calendar year consists of laying the groundwork for whatever I’m going to be doing during the summer, and the fall and winter provides space for the “mop-up work” when I inevitably don’t get as much done as I’d planned during the summer.

This year, my rhythm was dominated by the two Agamben translations, which turned out to be much more labor-intensive than I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress report

We academics always have big hopes for the summer, and it is usually around this point that we are able to recognize what was realistic and what was not. My goals for this summer, outside of my Shimer-related obligations, were lofty. Read the rest of this entry »

To-do list

This week I’ve been on spring break. Though one might think that would be especially propitious for blogging, my production levels this week tell a different story, as I’ve spent much of my break either “spring cleaning” at home or getting a bit ahead of the curve on grading and class prep. Both those tasks are necessary and satisfying in their own way, but they aren’t particularly inspiring.

Yet it has inspired me to daydream about summer vacation and all the amazing things I will accomplish. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer goals — Or, Goal #1: Not to have goals

This summer two factors — namely, continuing to get a paycheck and not yet being on the tenure track — have combined to give me remarkable freedom. The only thing that I really have to do is develop the Global Christianity course, which will take significant work but won’t require the whole summer by a longshot. I am probably also reaching the point of diminishing returns when it comes to pre-tenure-track publishing, given the two books coming out next year. I do have a handful of article ideas that I could probably work up relatively quickly, and I would like to do one just to show, as my advisor says, that I haven’t retired.

For the most part, though, this is my first major opportunity to do concentrated reading since I finished my exams. I’m trying to let my interests guide me and so am not setting myself a strict list — but I do know that I want to do further research in Judaism, and for that I’m starting with a list of recommendations Bruce gave me when I was trying to figure out how to develop courses in the area. I’m hoping to go through some 2nd Temple stuff as well, as time allows, primarily the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

Aside from the global Christianity stuff, I’d also like to get into postcolonial theory (which will help for that course and for doing the feminist theology course again next year) and just generally “catch up” on things that I’ve been neglecting. This summer might actually see me engaging with Deleuze, for example, and I’ve also picked up a copy of the oft-mentioned Hegel Contra Sociology by Gillian Rose. The books that I currently have bookmarks in are Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism and The Messianic Idea in Judaism (the latter of which I put on hold until I finish the former, because nearly all the essays I have left are on Hasidism, which I didn’t know very much about) and Talal Asad’s Formations of the Secular.

I also want to work on my Greek, primarily by working my way through the authentic letters of Paul. I’ve done them roughly in reverse order of length, so at this point I’ve gone through 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon, and I’ve started 2 Corinthians. I’m hoping to go over all of them at least twice, and then perhaps I’ll start going through the rest of the NT, too. I already feel more confident on Greek from doing it nearly every day, but at some point I think I’ll need to go through a grammar again to really solidify everything.

So overall, viewed from a career perspective, I’m taking advantage of this limbo period to really solidify language skills and engage with new bodies of literature, which will provide a firmer foundation for future research and teaching. From a human perspective, I’m enjoying having a chance to just read.

Yet another to-do list

For some reason, AAR always seems like a more significant dividing line for me than the end of the first semester (or quarter this time around), and so my mind is turning toward what I need to do in the next few months — essentially until the time my Agamben translation is due, which is also the end of the winter quarter. I invite everyone to indulge their superego along with me if desired.
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Summer plans in retrospect

Looking back, my list of what I wanted to do this summer would have been more accurately designated what I wanted to do by the end of the calendar year. I’ve crossed off what I got done; as you can see, the two Zizek articles, my AAR paper, and beginning in earnest on the translation still loom large. I decided a while back that the AAR paper would be better delayed until the fall, when I would actually be teaching over patristics, and I also felt that translation seemed like something that could be easily integrated into my new fall routine once it is established. As for the Zizek articles, I honestly gave them very little thought. Neither is due until the end of the year, however, so I don’t see a major problem.

The summer is not over yet, and in the next couple weeks, I’m obviously going to be forced to complete my (pre-quarter) course prep, of which my Tertullian reading was a part, and I will also have to devise a syllabus for Classical Christian Thought II (Medieval and Reformation — for reasons of institutional history, this will be focused on Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin) relatively soon so that it can be approved for use in the winter quarter. That should pretty well clear the decks on the sections other than “writing.”

On the positive side, I wrote a short book, an article, a book review, my first-ever peer review, and two brand-new syllabi. I don’t think that’s too bad.

How did everyone else do with their goals for the summer?

Summer Plans

It’s nearly July already, and I am at this a nearly-forgotten bastard-son around these parts, but I thought I’d be the next one to detail my plans for the summer.

Currently, I’m a rogue academic.  It’s kind of gratifying, in a way, to publish articles that are naked of institutional affiliation.  I feel especially “street” when it says below my name, “Oakland, CA.”  I forsee this being the case for at least another year.  While this may cut down on my productivity, it has thus far not snuffed it out completely.  I credit people like Anthony & Adam for helping me stay engaged, and can but hope that they don’t give up on me as a lost cause anytime soon.  (My goal, actually, is eventually to be one who is spoken of by former colleagues at the AAR, all of them agreeing, silently or verbally, it matters not, that “What a shame, he had such potential.”  The whisky bottle over Jesus, my friends.  Drink two for me.)


  • I am due to submit an essay on John Ruskin and aesthetic theology for the volume Anthony is co-editing.  I still have some reading to do on this, but much of the writing is done.  It is a considerably shorter version of a proposed three-year project I once detailed on this blog.
  • I’ve been toying with the idea of taking some of the ideas from the above paper and translating them into popular form.  There have been a couple of notable books about the joys of labor published this year, and I think I might try to peddle my own proposal on the same topic–from the perspective of somebody who positively hates work.
  • I am still waiting to learn whether Northwestern University Press is going to publish my book on Herman Melville and theology.  A final decision has been a long time coming.  I can hope, but am not optimistic, that I’ll learn something one way or the other by the end of the summer.  If they ultimately spurn it, I suppose I will need to write up a new proposal and send it out to somebody else.  I am not looking forward to that.
  • A friend of mine based in L.A. has compelled me to co-write a couple of screenplays with him.  We’re trying our hand first on a short.  If that goes well, we’ll turn our sights on a feature.  Maybe I’ll be IMDB’d by this time next year!


  • I’ve been working my way through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and am confident I’ll finish it by the end of July.  That will be, I would imagine, the highlight of my summer’s reading.
  • A close contender, though, might be Laurel Schneider’s Beyond Monotheism, which I will start reading as soon as I can finally procure a copy.
  • I recently bought a huge book of Ibsen plays.  I might dig into this, too.

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