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Apr 24, 2004 8:18 am

Cliopatria and A Literary Blog ...

Last Sunday, before the birth of Violet Mai Holbro, John Holbro at Crooked Timber generated a lively discussion with the proposal for the creation of a new group blog in literary studies. Holbro noted a general sense that contemporary literary studies were impoverished by a preoccupation with theory that fell short of philosophical insight and of the interesting discussions of literature on the net, often by people who were not professionals in the field. The discussion at Crooked Timber was picked up by Erin O'Connor and others here and here at Critical Mass. In the course of that discussion, O'Connor suggested that Cliopatria was one model for the kind of blog which a group of professional and non-professional literary critics might develop.

Holbro's proposal did not receive universal assent. Even while wondering at his own lack of interest in fiction or, more precisely, an interest only in fiction of a philosophical bent, Adam Kotsko at The Weblog signed on for the new venture. Chun the Unavoidable defended literary studies from the slings and arrows of the blogosphere's resentniks. John Bruce over at In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood was also skeptical about a literary blog which would need to be" controlled" but not appear to be like an English Department at Tea. In the course of his discussion, Bruce alluded to O'Connor's suggestion that the new blog might be something like Cliopatria.

... based on what I read in the posts discussing this possibility, it would be something like Cliopatria, which Erin has, it seems to me, suggested as an example. But Cliopatria is made up almost exclusively of Ph.D. professionals debating, by and large, the arcana of their discipline in an atmosphere at least occasionally redolent of in-groupery and self-congratulation -- what everyone says won't happen in the proposed MLAChatredwagon. If Cliopatria is the example, I'm highly skeptical and think that people actively using the language for anything remotely like an original and creative purpose will have better ways to occupy their time.
Bruce's clever criticism of us may be unworthy of reply. It is clever because citing any number of posts by my colleagues which are illustrative of Cliopatria's interests ranging beyond"the arcana of their discipline" would be"redolent of in-groupery and self-congratulation." We'll continue to rely on John Bruce's"In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood" as a model for"original and creative purpose."
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More Comments:

Ralph E. Luker - 4/24/2004

You impute sweat to the wrong party, John. I'm all broke out in it over whether they'll join us. Back to your "original and creative purpose" now.

John Bruce - 4/24/2004

Sorry, something happened to my hyperlink in the comment above. I was trying to link to entitled "Cliopatria's milestones".

John Bruce - 4/24/2004

Well, OK, but I only had to scroll down">this far to find what I can only describe as self-congratulation and in-groupery (how those heavy hitters must be sweating your decision to let them in!). My experience of English Department teas is that, of course, they'll discuss all kinds of wacky stuff over sherry in addition to Snodgrass's latest on The Faerie Queene, so in reflecting on your comments and seeing if my calibration may have been off, I've got to say, no, I'd still suggest that if the shoe fits. . .

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