And not “just another” manic Monday. In fact, I can’t remember another day on which I’ve had to give three big public performances — and on different subjects to boot (though in my mind there are significant areas of overlap among them).
9:30 a.m. — First up, a Writing New York lecture on on E. B. White’s Here is New York, introducing the week’s theme of “History, Modernity, and Nostalgia.” In fact, the interplay among these three ideas will turn out to be a major area of exploration as the course unfolds, and Monday’s lecture serves as a kind of second overture for the course after the introductory lecture last week. I’ve described the lecture over at Patell and Waterman’s History of New York, and I did last year, I introduced the discussion by telling an anecdote about Hillary Rodham Clinton invocation of White’s book during her debate with Rick Lazio during the 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate seat from New York.
2:00 p.m. — American Literature I, Lecture Two. Luckily, this lecture belongs to my comfort zone, because I decided this year to frame the course with Moby-Dick. So this lecture was an introduction to Melville’s life and writing and the opening sections of Moby-Dick. The students had been asked to read the “Etymology” and “Extracts” sections that open the book and the land chapters (1-22) to get their feet wet as it were. Lecturing about Moby-Dick has become a little bit like playing in my band used to be back in the day: I look forward to certain solos and riffs, but also to varying them in event.
6:30 p.m. — A panel on “Multiculturalism or Cosmopolitanism” for the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute as part of a year-long series on “The Cosmopolitan Idea.” Sharing the stage with two of your intellectual heroes — this case the intellectual historian David Hollinger (UC Berkeley) and the cultural critic Walter Benn Michaels (University of Illinois at Chicago) is bound to be a little bit … disconcerting. The two of them, in their different ways, hover over my recent work on emergent literatures in a kind of good cop-bad cop routine. (Guess which is which.) I offered a preview of the event PWHNY over the weekend, and later this week I’ll write about each of their talks individually (and maybe my own). Some video excerpts will eventually appear on the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute website. (You can see the entire first session in the series there now.)
Needless to say, my brain felt more than a little bruised come Tuesday morning.