WHY RESISTING EXCELLENCE IS (PARTLY) WRONG: RESPONDING TO AN INTERVIEW WITH INDOCENTIA

Have a look at this interview published in the online El Diario.es. The title is long but self-explanatory: “Disciplinar la investigación, devaluar la docencia: cuando la Universidad se vuelve empresa. Entrevista al colectivo de profesores y estudiantes Indocentia sobre la transformación neoliberal de la Universidad” (Amador Fernández-Savater, 19/02/2016, http://www.eldiario.es/interferencias/Disciplinar-investigacion-devaluar-docencia-Universidad_6_486161402.html).

Indocentia groups a number of Social Sciences professors and students at the Universitat de Valùncia (contact them at indocentia@gmail.com). Its name alludes to ANECA’S programme ‘Docentia’ (http://www.aneca.es/Programas/DOCENTIA), aimed at monitoring the excellence in teaching of the Spanish Universities. UAB’s reference is DOC14UAB/07, and we have signed up to obtain a certificate for the period 15/10/2014 to 15/10/2019. I didn’t know this–check the list at ANECA for your own university. I gather from the interview, though this is just implicit, that the application of Docentia at the UV appears to be quite unwelcome among the teachers there, hence Indocentia.

I feel an itch to play devil’s advocate, you’ll see why later on, so here we go.

Indocentia point out that the media critique of the Spanish university is outdated as it fails to understand how the traditional feudal system based on client networks has adapted to the new requirements of the (American-inspired) liberal university. We need, hence, they claim a “real-time critique” which surveys and questions new key issues such as, I translate, the demand of hyperactivity, the subjection of knowledge to the market, the devaluation of teaching, the frailty of the precarious jobs. They criticize the complicity with the liberal programme of many researchers who, they say, appear to be selfishly obedient and who only care for their own CVs.

Whatever knowledge is generated ends up, Indocentia claim, locked up in closed circuits and measured with standards set up by ANECA and CNEAI following the directives of, they point out, “two private companies, Thomsom Reuters and Elsevier (owners respectively of databases WoS and Scopus)”. Indocentia strongly criticise the bias which this generates in favour of English-language publication, which they connect with a “colonial logic”. They strenuously complain, in addition, against the Government decree (or ‘ley Wert’) which has turned the ‘sexenio’ (or personal assessment exercise) into an instrument to discipline both research and teaching, to the detriment of the latter. Docentia is in particular criticized for trying to measure teaching using ruthless computer applications that simply are not adequate to the task (at UAB we are not using this
 yet).

I am sure we all agree with the diagnosis. We must also be grateful to Indocentia for pointing out what we suffer in silence (or over coffee with other depressed colleagues): the constant anguish that we do not measure up, the psychosomatic complaints associated with the need to keep personal energies constantly available, the fear of mediocrity: “La excelencia mata, la competitividad enferma, decimos desde Indocentia”. Also the incomprehension–the look on my doctor’s face during my last visit a month ago regarding a scary, persistent headache. ‘So what do you do?’, the dialogue goes. ‘I’m a university teacher’. The raised eyebrow and the classic question: ‘And that’s stressful?’

The Indocentia interview, by the way, refers constantly to texts produced by the collective but they do not seem to be centralized in a single platform. You may want to read Carmen Montalba’s “El sueño de la excelencia: desvelarlo, desvelar-nos” (http://roderic.uv.es/handle/10550/49036) or LucĂ­a GĂłmez and Francisco JĂłdar’s “Ética y polĂ­tica en la universidad española: la evaluaciĂłn de la investigaciĂłn como tecnologĂ­a de la subjetividad” (http://atheneadigital.net/article/view/1169-Gomez).

Now, here’s my problem. The article ends with a bland declaration that, I translate, “Therefore, we cannot renounce the possibility of collectively producing new rules, new constituent praxis”. Check, if your wish, my own post of 18 April 2015 commenting on “The Academic Manifesto: From an Occupied to a Public University” published by Dutch professors Willem Halffman and Hans Radder (Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning and Policy, 3 April 2015, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11024-015-9270-9/fulltext.html). I should say that this manifesto is much closer to what we need here in Spain in terms of including a programme of anti-liberal activities. Perhaps, as usual, even as regards the complaints against the liberal university we are lagging behind our European peers


I do not want to go into the list of grievances and the list of proposals which our Dutch colleagues offer, for one year later I feel quite tired of going in circles and advancing nothing. A few days ago, for instance, I found myself helping the Head of my Department to prepare the meeting she is to have with our Vice-Rector of Personnel. Here’s the impossible situation: like everyone else, we have got no new full-time permanent positions for about eight years, not even to replace the many full-time positions we have lost to retirement and even early death. How you can run a Department of fast ageing teachers, with too many seniors past 60 and with associates past 40 who might have to wait 10 years for tenure
, is beyond anyone’s understanding. The secret masterplan of neo-liberal policies is, clearly, the complete elimination of the public university.

What bothers me about the Indocentia interview is this: by throwing the idea of excellence away as the trademark of the liberal university we’re throwing away the baby with the bathwater. I do aim at being an excellent researcher and teacher, hopefully a much better one than some of the personnel I had the misfortune to come across as a student in the 1980s Spanish university. I do not want this aim denied or criticized just because the instruments to measure it are downright wrong. I am entitled to being acknowledged as a researcher because I am doing my best–like many other of my peers. Also as a teacher.

I think we are missing one significant part of the History of the Spanish university–the time when my own generation (I was born in 1966) understood that we had to pull ourselves by our boot strings and do much better than our predecessors. ‘Sexenios’ were introduced back in 1983 and, please, remember, they were initially an incentive to pull out of their lethargy the many university teachers who simply published nothing–including full professors. Even with the ‘sexenios’ as an incentive many university teachers have managed to generate no publications at all, which means zero knowledge transfer (whether to open or closed circuits). The supposition that this is because they are devoted 100% to good teaching is simply a lie. I am also very tired of the assumption that a committed researcher can only succeed at the cost of being a poor teacher. Actually, among my colleagues the best researchers are also the best teachers. This does not mean that I know of no excellent teachers uninterested in research but, then, perhaps what we need in the university, and nobody is considering, are separate categories for teachers who wish to do no research and for teachers/researchers.

I can only agree with Indocentia’s diagnosis of all the faults of the monstrously demanding system used to measure our activity and bemoan, like them, its consequences, for I suffer them first hand. What worries me is whether the resistance to being accountable for our task by the current dubious methods might conceal a certain backlash to the time when university teachers were not accountable at all. I remember that time very clearly, for I suffered it as a student–the arbitrary teaching methods, the unavailability of always absent teachers who did not keep office hours, the nepotism, the appalling textbooks forced on us, the provincial lack of international connections, the general backwardness


I’ll end, then, by repeating my warning: no matter how much you hate the methods to measure it, do not reject excellence itself–just fight to take it away from the hands of our liberal oppressors back into our hands. We had the chance to construct a functional version of ‘excellence’ briefly there, perhaps for a few years in the 1990s, before we lost it. Consider also who is complicit with that loss, and name them. I have a suspicion that many of them are the people we proudly sent abroad to be trained in American universities and improve the state of our own university. Generally naming ‘the liberal university’ as the arch-villain does not seem to be helping us…

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NAVIGATING LITERATURE: A FEW POINTERS

The students in my new elective on SF have turned out to be mainly absolute beginners in this genre. I am, therefore, using the first weeks in the course to examine how we become familiarised with authors’ names, titles, periods and even whole canons. Here are a few ideas that have come up for discussion and which extend beyond the particularities of SF to any other genre and, certainly, to (English) Literature.

Nothing seems to have changed much from the year I graduated (1991) to last year when a student attending the course as an auditor graduated, as we both agreed that the task of making sense of authors and titles begins after graduation. As I studied for my ‘Licenciatura’, I read the then very popular The New Pelican Guide to English Literature (1982-1991) by Boris Ford–yes, the whole nine paperback volumes, still to be seen on my office shelves. I certainly was not the only student to go through so many study hours under Prof. Ford’s tutelage, though I just cannot see current undergrads reading the bulky collection. I used Ford’s elegant books to get a better hold on a History of English Literature which I was not being taught in chronological fashion (in my Department we start with the more accessible 20th century English and reach the Middle Ages in the third year). Even so, I recall reading quite a few introductions to English Literature in the year when I started teaching, right after graduation, for I needed a less detailed, more schematic, reliable mapping of the whole field of (canonical) English Literature. And making lists


I started keeping a list of what I read and a list of what I should read around age 14. I still keep with strict discipline a record of all I read, a consequence of being unable to recall having read certain books
 memory cannot be trusted. I have no idea what good this can be but the list seems to work well as an aid to fix names and titles in my scattered brain. I abandoned, however, long ago the list of what I should read (to fill in the endless gaps, you know
) because it made me feel terribly anxious that I was not reading enough. Self-defeating is the word.

Nevertheless, I know for certain that list-making is an indispensable tool in the process of learning Literature, whether the list in question is based on the general canon, or whether it explores the canon of a particular genre. Yes, the first thing I taught my students is that whereas a degree in English tends to focus on a certain literary canon, there are all types of canons in all genres, and sub-genres–some surprisingly specific. For instance: I was going with my students through the long list of SF sub-genres in the website BestScienceFiction.com and one of them was amazed that there is something called ‘Christian SF’. Thinking we might find weird Christian fundamentalist stuff in it, we took a peek and soon saw this was a quite solid sub-sub-canon, with names such as C.S. Lewis at the forefront. This is always my point: you may think that by reading, for example, ‘feminist utopian fiction’ you are shattering the old-fashioned canon focused on dead, white, male, Western authors but you are actually participating in the formation of a sub-canon with Pamela Sargent and company as unavoidable top names.

To recap my argument here: there is no way around to making lists of names and authors to help you memorize and, yes, memorizing, old-fashioned as this may seem, is indispensable in Literary/Cultural Studies. Actually, in most disciplines (think Medicine). You may have noticed, by the way, that I refer to ‘making’ lists, not to ‘reading’ lists; my own experience suggests that while you may borrow someone else’s list this will only work for you if a) you make the effort of copying or editing it, b) you modify in your own way.

Of course, my students and I agreed that the best way to learn a national Literature, canon, sub-canon or sub-sub-canon is
 reading. This is why we teachers focus courses on a selection of books supposed to be significant, introductory works, whether they are five plays by Shakespeare or five South-African novels. Time, alas, is always too short and not even keen readers can manage the feat of reading all they see named as worth reading. This is why, here we go again, you need some kind of list–if only to abandon it. I do this all the time: I start lists to teach myself a particular canon and then once I have read a few titles, I file them away. I need, so to speak, the lists as mental scaffolding for reading in a particular genre. Guides, like the one right now on my table, Miquel Barceló’s Ciencia ficción: Nueva guía de lectura, are no doubt useful–mostly as instruments to expand my lists.

As I explained to my students, there is no way, at any rate, you can fix a canon, no matter how marginal to that of general English Literature, precisely because all genres evolve. In the case of general English Literature what evolves, of course, is the perception of what merits being included in the canon–Aphra Behn’s plays, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the case of a genre like SF, the problem is not so much the disputes that affect the erosion of the white, male, dead, Western A-list (though there is also some of that) but the proliferation of interesting texts. I have just gone through the canon/chronology of SF that Sawyer and Wright offer in their volume Teaching Science Fiction and you can quickly see how biased our choices are towards the more immediate decades. This causes works that were regarded as the ‘best’ in the 1930s, 40s or 50s (even 80s) to sink without a trace. One can always joyfully ‘rediscover’ them and wonder why on Earth they are not better known
 (I’m thinking of all the post-apocalyptic 1940s and 1950s dystopias I read last summer). To recap my argument here: lists, guides and canons are always a testimonial documenting a particular stage in the history of Literature in any of its sub-genres. Always transient, never final.

Finally, a third problem I have considered with my students is how much is enough. I gave them a list of 100 SF films (95% in English), concocted using different sources, and a list of 50 great SF novels in English (borrowed from Forbidden Planet’s website). I started with the films, as I assumed my students would be familiar with many of them since SF is currently one of the most popular Hollywood genres. Not at all!! Two of my students had seen only 4 of the 100 films and the ones who scored highest had seen at most around 40, if I recall correctly. This may have to do with other factors unaccounted for, such as a) my students’ young age, b) the decreasing popularity of cinema among them (they prefer TV series), c) their habit of not seeing films other than the ones currently released (students tend not to watch films on TV, either).

Whatever the case, I spent the whole 90 minutes going through the list, to extrapolate from it the main topics in SF. I ended making a much shorter 15-film selection for them to give themselves the most basic education in film SF. The 50 novels were simply totally unknown for most of them
 What a challenge for me! As I joked, I can give them whatever version I want to sell them of SF–just as, well, I was given the version of English Literature which my own teachers preferred (one strongly biased in favour of Modernism
).

The basic question I am asking here boils down simply to: how do we acquire an education in Literature? The obvious answer is that by reading but, as we know, it just cannot work that way. With just 7 semestral core courses, and a maximum of 6 more electives in the third/fourth years, the numbers of texts a UAB graduate student interested in Literature is asked to read amounts to about 65 volumes (and I am assuming quite optimistically an average of 5 volumes per course). Compare this to the hundreds, even thousands, which Harold Bloom has listed in his Western Canon and you begin to see the problem. If for each of these 65 (ideal) volumes a student learned in addition, say, 5 titles, this would give us a nice figure of 365 authors who should ring a bell at the end of four years. Maybe we should ask them to take a graduation quiz
 Just kidding!

I’m beginning to realize that for an elective course, a teacher should be extremely happy if, in addition to the 5 set books, students can name 25 other authors. 50 best novels? 100 best films?… I wonder.

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AN INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR: CELEBRATING MARIANO MARTIN RODRIGUEZ

A couple of weeks ago I met a truly accomplished independent scholar: Mariano Martín Rodríguez. What is an independent scholar, you may ask? Wikipedia explains that “An independent scholar is anyone who conducts scholarly research outside universities and traditional academia”. I find that this not 100% accurate, as an independent scholar, while not employed by a university, must accept the rules of ‘traditional academia’ or risk remaining unpublished. I’ll rephrase, then, the definition: an independent scholar is a person who, though not working for a university, chooses to pursue an academic career based on doing research but excluding teaching.

I believe that there are two kinds of independent scholars: those who wish they could have a university job and those who do not care for one. By the way, the reason why they are (euphemistically) called ‘independent’ is that universities do not allow scholars to present themselves as affiliated researchers unless they are a) employees, b) students up to doctoral level. This, excuse me, is idiotic and counterproductive–I really fail to see the reason why a person with a doctoral degree from an institution cannot be affiliated for life, particularly when this person produces valid research that can even benefit the prestige of his or her alma mater.

I have met Mariano in relation to my current involvement in the organization of Barcelona’s 2016 Eurocon though I had previously contacted him concerning an article I sent to HĂ©lice. This is a quality online periodical publication (neither academic journal nor magazine), devoted to speculative fiction (their preferred label) and the fantastic, which Mariano edits together with Mikel Peregrina. As the section ‘Nosotros’ (see http://www.revistahelice.com/) announces HĂ©lice intends to offer “serious, rigorous criticism” which, I’ll add, bridges the gap between the scholar and the common reader–now that many of us with university degrees have the training to produce informed essays on the popular genres we love. Mariano asked me to publicize HĂ©lice, by the way, hence this paragraph
 If you wish to send a piece, please do so (in Spanish or English).

If you recall, my post on Rosi Braidotti’s The Posthuman included some comments on her concern that the Humanities might be negatively seen by our scientist colleagues as a ‘hobby’ (to which I replied that just as recently as the 19th century science was in the hands of gentlemen scientists). Mariano actually proves that the Humanities can be both a hobby–no matter how embarrassed Braidotti and other humanists may feel–and a serious pursuit. Indeed, whereas independent scholars make little sense for the sciences (unless they can afford building their own labs!!), the Humanities still offer some room for independent research. Here’s the recipe, as embodied by Mariano: first, find a reasonably well paid bureaucratic job which does not occupy your mental energies beyond the end of your working day; second, be willing to invest a good deal of your monthly wages in your research, as access to university-funded resources will be either limited or impossible; third, use your free time productively. Mariano is a translator at the European Commission, a job, as he explained to me, which fulfils the conditions named here. He is by the way, single, but I see no reason why a person with family obligations cannot be an independent scholar–it’s a matter of time limits not of personal will.

I can imagine many of you, dear readers, raising your sceptical eyebrows
 Does this work? Oh, yes, it does: you may check Mariano’s CV at Academia.edu (https://ubbcluj.academia.edu/MarianoMartinRodriguez) and marvel at the long list of solid publications to his name
 I am positive that many tenured teachers in many countries all over the world are by no means this accomplished
 Seeing this impressive list, I need to scream: ‘Shame on you, tenured teachers who waste your time and produce nothing!’ And, please, do not give me the excuse that you have to teach and he does not, blah, blah, blah. These publications have been produced during busy evenings and weekends for, remember, Mariano has a full-time job. He is certainly much closer to our own overworked associates than to a tenured teacher. (By the way, I forgot: if he does not appear as an independent scholar at Academia.edu this is because the Rumanian university where he has done part of his research has kindly allowed him to become an associate member of one of its institutes
 an example to follow).

I must say that Mariano has totally shocked me out of my assumption that independent scholars only put up with the many difficulties of maintaining an academic career for a few post-doctoral years until they give up in frustration. He has been active now for about 20 years and shows no signs of relenting… Actually he strikes me as the happiest scholar I have ever met, hence this post: to celebrate his career as an example that many others could follow.

A funny point in our long conversation–for Mariano is truly enthusiastic and a great talker–came when I asked Mariano whether he wished he was employed by a university. ‘Not at all’ was his reply. I think it’s the first time in my life that I meet someone with a doctoral degree who does not care for the university. Mariano elaborated: he is not interested in teaching (but, then, how many university teachers really like teaching?); above all, he will not waste his time with bureaucratic matters. Yes, the bane of our academic lives
 I also found Mariano gleefully free from the obsession to calculate each step of his academic career with an eye on official research assessment, promotion, etc. If you think about it, his career is a singular example of total and absolute motivational purity, which is an elegant way of saying that he simply does as he wishes–an attitude hard to maintain within the university. I wish my career had the coherence that Mariano’s own has.

This does not mean, mind you, that I would gladly abandon my current post for a routine job in combination with being an independent scholar on the side. Not at all, and much less so considering how hard getting tenure has been. The point I am trying to make is that Mariano’s case proves that a successful academic career need not be tied to the university. Since I am a vocational teacher, I find it hard to separate research from teaching but I understand that not all scholars feel the need to deal with students. Also, there must be different kinds of academic careers, so why not choose one focused on research and publishing (with total freedom)? My celebration of Mariano’s career is not intended to suggest, either, that since good research in the Humanities can be carried out outside the university, there is no reason for this institution to offer new jobs in this area. Not at all
 Remember that he has made a choice. It would be unfair to force the same choice on others, though at the rate we are going our associates are in an even worse situation, for they have all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of working in a university.

The only downside, as this is something I am guessing, not something that Mariano has shown in any way to me, must be the personal insecurity. Very often I find myself emailing people I need to pester for one reason or another and, well, I know that the name of my university below my signature guarantees at least some form of attention. In contrast, I can very well imagine the patronizing sneers that independent scholars surely receive from our most snobbish colleagues. I wonder whether Mariano has ever been called an ‘amateur’ (in any of the six languages he speaks correctly
) or whether he has ever been treated without the respect he deserves. Personally, I prefer disrespecting the privileged tenured teachers who misuse their time and who fail to be both good researchers and good teachers.

Mariano: this one is for you–may the project we are now sharing becomes the first of many collaborations in the future. Please, receive all my admiration and respect.

Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. You may download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See my publications and activities on my personal web http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

THE ROAD TO LEGITIMATION (II): TEACHING SF WITHIN ENGLISH STUDIES IN SPAIN

As part of the work I’m doing to write my current work-in-progress, the article “Science Fiction in the Spanish University: The Boundaries that Need to be Broken”, I have sent a message to the very active e-mail list of AEDEAN (the AsociaciĂłn Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos, www.aedean.org). In this message I have asked my colleagues in the field of English Studies in Spain who has taught SF and who has published on this genre.

I think that building a consistent bibliography is something I will have to postpone to another moment but, in the meantime, I’ll comment here on the answers received regarding the teaching of SF in the English Departments of Spain. I have also asked a number of Spanish colleagues working in Departments of Spanish, Literary Theory and Humanities about their activities concerning SF, with the added problem that there is not a comprehensive list similar to the one that we, AEDEAN members, use (and enjoy!).

AEDEAN is quite a big association, with more than 1,000 members. Yet, I have received messages only from 9 (there are at least a dozen other members, as I know, who have produced doctoral dissertations and publications on SF but they have not contacted me, surely for lack of time). Of these 9 specialists, only 6 offer details of their teaching. I’m summarising these details here, as these colleagues have also emailed me syllabi which I have decided not to attach to this post for the sake of brevity.

Juanjo Bermudez de Castro, a part-time associate teacher at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Department of English) and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Linguistics), teaches at UPM an SF course addressed to students of Engineering (Electronics, Chemistry, Electricity, Mechanics, Industrial Design). If I understand Juanjo correctly, he actually teaches English language but uses the course as an excuse to teach SF which, he tells me, students love. He uses El Hombre Ilustrado by Ray Bradbury, the films Moon, Blade Runner, and I Robot, the TV series Black Mirror, etc.

Pere Gallardo, now of Universitat Rovira i Virgili, formerly of the Universitat de Lleida is, no doubt the most experienced teacher of SF within English Studies in Spain. He taught ‘Narrativa UtĂČpica’ within ‘Filologia Anglesa’ between 1995-1996 and 2000-1, and is now teaching ‘Literatura i Societat’ (since 2013-14) within the new degree in ‘English’. Pere has also taught a long list of seminars and tutored a long list of TFGs. However, he no longer teaches SF at MA level nor does he supervise any doctoral dissertations because the programmes at URV within which he used to do so have been suppressed. I had the chance to share with him back in 2009-2010 the course “Science Fiction and the Concept of Change” within the MA ‘Cultural Studies in English: Texts and Contexts’, for which I am infinitely grateful. Pere names no particular authors or texts because, as he tells me, the list is too extensive


Alberto Lázaro, of the Universidad de Alcalá, tells me that he has used texts by the SF author he knows best as a researcher, H.G. Wells, in the third year survey course ‘British Fiction’. The module on the Victorian novel includes segments from The Time Machine. The syllabus also includes in the contemporary fiction module a section called ‘Trends towards fantasy: science fiction, the heroic fantasy and the horror story’.

Ángel Mateos Aparicio, of the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real, is currently teaching a fourth-year elective, ‘Literatura Anglonorteamericana y Canon’. The course is divided in two parts: detective fiction and SF. Ángel tells me that this is so in case students don’t like SF or have no experience of the genre, as it is common. His reading list includes: Isaac Asimov’s On Science Fiction (extracts), Brian Aldiss’s “Out of the Gothic” from Trillion Year Spree, John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”, Byron Haskin’s film The War of the Worlds, Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian”, Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” and “Adjustment Team”, William Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum” and “Red Star, Winter Orbit” and, finally, Andy and Larry Wachowsky’s Matrix.

Bill Phillips of the Universitat de Barcelona tells me that his course ‘Literatura i Conflicte’ (2011-14) included Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. He claims that (I translate) “Considering the interest the students showed and the debates inspired by the novel, this is the most productive text I have ever taught”. Apparently, students were also interested in Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country (taught 2012-13) but found Ursula K. Leguin’s The Dispossessed (taught 2014) boring
 Bill mentions that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein used to be part of the syllabus for ‘Literatures en anglĂšs del ss XVIII i XIX’. Bill’s colleague Prof. Jackie Hurtley seems to have taught perhaps as early as the 1980s a course on utopia.

Juan Antonio Prieto of the Universidad de Sevilla has emailed me the syllabus corresponding to the courses he used to teach, in English: “HĂ©roes y monstruos en la literatura y en el cine de ciencia-ficciĂłn norteamericanos” (doctoral course 2007-8, 2008-9, with a second renewed edition in 2009-10), and “Narrativas apocalĂ­pticas en la ciencia-ficciĂłn norteamericana” (MA course, 2012-13). Regrettably a recent reform has eliminated this course.

Juan Antonio Suárez, of the Universidad de Murcia, pioneered the introduction of cyberpunk with the doctoral course “Postmodern Aesthetics and Society: Cyberpunk Fiction” (1996-7). His ‘Licenciatura‘ survey course on contemporary American Literature included William Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemmonic”. He tells me that after years of not including SF in his teaching he has re-introduced the genre in his syllabus as a “symptom of the progression of the digital” (my translation). He uses one week to lecture on literature and computers: computer-generated literature, computer-mediated literature and literature about the digital environment.

Finally, myself. My ‘Licenciatura’ elective on short fiction, ‘Narrativa Curta’ 2005-6, was divided between Gothic and SF–I included in it Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” and tales from I, Robot, also Dick’s “Minority Report”. In the same academic year I taught the doctoral seminar “Enemy Alien, Alien Enemy: Wars in Science Fiction and Film” which included Wells’s War of the Worlds, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s Forever War. I’m now teaching (2015-16) a third/fourth year elective, ‘Prosa Anglesa: Considering SF as a Genre’ with an ambitious reading list composed of Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Octavia Butler’s Dawn and Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon. Perhaps for the first and the last time, depending how the transformation of the four-year BAs into three-year BAs progresses.

What conclusions can we draw? Obviously, the position of SF is extremely fragile within English Studies in Spain despite the enormous importance of this genre for anglophone culture. If my information is correct and complete, I can safely say that only Pere Gallardo seems in a position to teach SF regularly, albeit limited to BA courses and not even using a label that clearly announces the contents of his course. This is typical. Ángel Mateos Aparicio’s decision to split his course into detective fiction and SF, and my own decision to split ‘Narrativa curta’ between Gothic and SF is also symptomatic of a peculiar situation: our students, as I have found out first hand, are not SF readers. This is a classic paradox of the English Departments in Spain: what is very popular among Anglophone individuals is often totally unknown for teachers and students. The name ‘Terry Pratchett’ for instance rings hardly any bells.

I believe that we will eventually find an audience though perhaps this will require using still for a long time to come other labels under which to teach SF. This will never be a case of students demanding to be taught SF (as they ask me to be taught Harry Potter). Perhaps, paradoxically, the teacher best positioned to reach a wide readership interested in SF is Juanjo BermĂșdez, the colleague who teaches the future Engineers at UPM.

I hope this post is not read as a lament for what is not happening but as a call to do more for SF in English Studies within Spain
 Why? Very simple: because this is a genre that matters enormously in the culture we teach and do research on. And because no other literary genre is as well-equipped to understand not just our future, but, mainly, our present.

Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. You may download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See my publications and activities on my personal web http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

THE ROAD TO LEGITIMATION: SF PhD DISSERTATIONS IN SPAIN (1979-2015)

I’m using my blog here to publish material that I need to add as an appendix to an article I’m working on. This is a piece on SF in the Spanish university, dealing with our difficulties to overcome what Brian Baker has called SF’s ‘crisis of legitimation’. Starting with Ángel Merelo’s 2009 overview, “Ciencia ficción en la Universidad” (http://librodenotas.com/cuadernosdecienciaficcion/15675/ciencia-ficcion-en-la-universidad), I have added to his list of 17 dissertations others which I have found using the databases TESEO and TDX and the keyword ‘ciencia ficción’. The list amounts to 45 dissertations and it is my intention to update it yearly.

Even if you’re not interested in SF, the list is worth considering for what it says about the Spanish university. To begin with, the number of dissertations per decade indicates an opening up of the research fields in the Humanities, in particular in language and Literature departments. Even so, you can see that English Studies (with 12 dissertations, 5 of them is English) is leading the way ahead of Spanish Literature and Literary Theory (6 dissertations). Actually, texts originally in English are the object of a high number of dissertations outside departments of English: I find particularly confusing the situation by which a department of ‘FilologĂ­a HispĂĄnica y ClĂĄsica’ generates a dissertation called La evoluciĂłn del supervillano en el “comic book” norteamericano. De Superman a Watchmen
 The biggest surprise, however, is not that one but the fact that 6 dissertations come from architecture departments. There are more surprises, which I invite you to find.

Please, do let me know if I have missed any PhD dissertation I should have mentioned.

1980s (5)

Realismo y ciencia-ficcion en la obra de John Wyndham, Ángel Luis Pujante Álvarez Castellanos, 1980. [Filosofía y Letras], Universidad de Salamanca. Supervisor: Javier Coy.

La actividad física y el deporte en la literatura de ciencia ficción. Abel Belenguer Garulo, 1981. Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte (INEF), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Supervisor: Santiago Coca. http://oa.upm.es/14313/

La arquitectura en la literatura de ciencia ficción. Margarita Luxan García de Diego 1986. Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Supervisor Javier Seguí de la Riva. http://oa.upm.es/20499/

El concepto ‘genero cinematogrĂĄfico’. Caracteres y evoluciĂłn del cine de ciencia ficciĂłn. Casilda de Miguel MartĂ­nez, 1987. Departamento de ComunicaciĂłn Audiovisual y Publicidad, Universidad del PaĂ­s Vasco Supervisor CĂ©sar HernĂĄndez Alonso.

La ciencia ficción como fenómeno de comunicación y cultura de masas en España. Carlos Saiz Cidoncha, 1987. Ciencias de la Comunicación, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: ?

1990s (5)

Realidad y fantasĂ­a en las novelas de Kurt Vonnegut. JesĂșs Lerate de Castro, 1992. Facultad de FilologĂ­a, Departamento de Literatura Inglesa y Norteamericana, Universidad de Sevilla. Supervisor: Pilar MarĂ­n Madrazo.

New Images, Old Concepts: Robots in Anglo-American Science Fiction Literature. Pere Gallardo Torrano, 1995. Departament de Filologia Anglesa, Universitat de Barcelona. Supervisor: Rosa GonzĂĄlez.

El cine de Ridley Scott. Alien (1979) y Blade runner (1982), aportaciones al genero. de la ciencia ficción. Enrique Carrasco Molina, 1995. Departamento de Ciencias de la Información, Universidad de La Laguna. Supervisor: Olga Álvarez de Armas.

‘More Human than Human’: Aspects of Monstrosity in the Films and Novels in English of the 1980s and 1990s. Sara MartĂ­n Alegre, 1996. Departament de Filologia Anglesa i de GermanĂ­stica, Universitat AutĂČnoma de Barcelona. Supervisor: Andrew Monnickendam. http://ddd.uab.cat/record/55045

La configuraciĂłn del espacio en la ciudad del futuro. Arquitectura y ciencia ficciĂłn, cine y cĂłmic a partir de los años 70. Spyridon Papadopoulos, 1998. Departamento de Proyectos ArquitectĂłnicos, Universidad PolitĂ©cnica de Madrid. Supervisor: MÂȘ Teresa Muñoz JimĂ©nez.

2000s (15)

La construccion social del futuro. Escenarios nucleares en el cine de ciencia ficciĂłn. Luis Pablo Francescutti PĂ©rez, 2000. Departamento de SociologĂ­a I, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: ? http://hdl.handle.net/10115/3107

El platonismo en la fantasĂ­a de Clive Staples Lewis. ConcepciĂłn HernĂĄndez Guerra, 2001. Departamento de FilologĂ­a Moderna, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Supervisor: Carmen MartĂ­n Santana. http://acceda.ulpgc.es/bitstream/10553/1947/1/1204.pdf

El mundo de H. R. Giger. Javier Arenas Orient, 2004. Departamento de Historia del Arte, Universidad de Valencia. Supervisor: Pilar Pedraza MartĂ­nez & Carlos Plasencia Climent. http://www.tdx.cat/bitstream/10803/9969/2/arenas.pdf

Elementos de ciencia-ficciĂłn en la narrativa norteamericana y britĂĄnica de posguerra: W. Golding, K. Vonnegut, R. Bradbury y J.G. Ballard. Ángel Mateos-Aparicio MartĂ­n-Albo, 2004. Departamento de FilologĂ­a Moderna, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Supervisor: JesĂșs Benito SĂĄnchez. http://hdl.handle.net/10578/943

El lector en el ciberespacio. Una etnografía literaria de la cibercultura. María Goicoechea de Jorge, 2004. Departamento de Filología Inglesa II, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Isabel Durån Giménez-Rico. http://eprints.ucm.es/32979/

InterpretaciĂłn y apertura de una obra española de ciencia ficciĂłn. La Nave de TomĂĄs Salvador. Óscar Casado DĂ­az, 2005. Departamento de LingĂŒĂ­stica, LĂłgica, e Historia y FilosofĂ­a de la Ciencia (programa en TeorĂ­a de la Literatura y CrĂ­tica Literaria), Universidad AutĂłnoma de Madrid. Supervisor: Francisco Javier RodrĂ­guez Pequeño.

La ciencia ficción en España (1950-2000). Fernando Ángel Moreno Serrano, 2005. Departamento de Lengua Española, Teoría de la Literatura y Literatura Comparada, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Juan Felipe Villar Dégano.

El dialecto de Frankenstein. Imaginarios sociales de la ciencia y literatura de ciencia ficciĂłn. Pablo Santero Domingo, 2005. Departamento de SociologĂ­a V (TeorĂ­a SociolĂłgica), Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Emilio Lamo de Espinosa.

La literatura checa de ciencia ficciĂłn durante el periodo de entreguerras. Daniel Saiz Lorca, 2005. Departamento de FilologĂ­a RomĂĄnica, FilologĂ­a Eslava y LingĂŒĂ­stica, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Alejandro Hermida de Blas. http://eprints.ucm.es/7377/

La narrativa de Angelica Gorodischer. Graciella Aletta de Sylvas, 2006. Departamento de Filología Española. Universidad de Valencia. Supervisor: Sonia Mattalia Alonso.

Espías y ciencia ficción. Represión y explotación de las construcciones de superpoderes en la arquitectura moderna. Angel Borrego Cubero, 2006. Escuela Técnica Superiot de Arquitectura, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Supervisor: Juan Herreros Guerra. http://oa.upm.es/661/

Literatura y cine de ciencia ficciĂłn. Perspectivas teĂłricas. NoemĂ­ Novell Monroy, 2008. Departament de Filologia Espanyola (programa TeorĂ­a de la literatura y literatura comparada), Universidad AutĂłnoma de Barcelona. Supervisor: Meri Torras. www.tdx.cat/bitstream/handle/10803/4892/nnm1de1.pdf

MorfologĂ­as hĂ­bridas. El organismo cibernĂ©tico en el cine de ciencia ficciĂłn contemporĂĄneo (1979-2004). Lydia GarcĂ­a-MerĂĄs FernĂĄndez, 2009. Departamento de LingĂŒĂ­stica, LĂłgica, e Historia y FilosofĂ­a de la Ciencia /TeorĂ­a de la Literatura, Universidad AutĂłnoma de Madrid. Supervisor: Valeria Camporesi. https://repositorio.uam.es/handle/10486/12989

Representaciones de la modernidad en el cine futurista. El caso de Blade Runner. Juan Fernando Vizcarra Schumm, 2009. Departamento de Psicología y Sociología, Universidad de Zaragoza, 2009. Supervisor: José Ángel Bergua Amores. https://zaguan.unizar.es/record/3381

Vivir conectados. El fin de la utopía liberal. Ivån Gómez García, 2009. Departamento de Filología Española/ Teoría de la literatura y literatura comparada. Supervisor: Antonio Penedo Picos.

2010-2015 (21)

Hombres de Steven Spielberg: Un anĂĄlisis de la representaciĂłn de masculinidades en los textos fĂ­lmicos “Duel”, “Jaws”, “Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” y “War of the Worlds”. JosĂ© DĂ­az-Cuesta GaliĂĄn, 2010. Departamento de FilologĂ­as Modernas, Universidad de La Rioja. Supervisor: MarĂ­a del Mar Asensio ArĂłstegui, Bernardo SĂĄnchez Salas & Jaime Carmelo Cunchillos. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/tesis?codigo=20851

Of Men and Cyborgs: The Construction of Masculinity in Contemporary U.S. Science Fiction Cinema. RocĂ­o Carrasco Carrasco, 2010. Departamento de FilologĂ­a Inglesa, Universidad de Huelva. Supervisor: Sonia Villegas. http://rabida.uhu.es/dspace/handle/10272/4129

La filosofía de la mente del cine de ciencia ficción norteamericano (1985-2010). Sergio Jiménez Cruz, 2010. Departamento de Filosofía, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. Supervisor: ??

The Evolution of Cyberpunk into Postcyberpunk: The Role of Cognitive Cyberpsaces, Wetware Networks and Nanotechnology in Science Fiction. Rafael Miranda Huereca, 2011. Departament de Filologia Anglesa i de GermanĂ­stica, Universidad AutĂłnoma de Barcelona. Supervisor: Sara MartĂ­n Alegre. http://www.patchworkman.com/uploads/Tesis_toda_final.pdf

H. P. Lovecraft y la ficciĂłn cientĂ­fica. GĂ©nero, poĂ©tica y sus relaciones con la literatura oral tradicional. Fernando DarĂ­o GonzĂĄlez Grueso, 2011. Departamento de LingĂŒĂ­stica, Lenguas Modernas, LĂłgica y FilosofĂ­a de la Ciencia, TeorĂ­a de la Literatura y Literatura Comparada, Universidad AutĂłnoma de Madrid. Supervisor: Francisco Javier RodrĂ­guez Pequeño. https://repositorio.uam.es/handle/10486/10329

PatologĂ­as de la realidad virtual en La invenciĂłn de Morel de Adolfo Bioy Casares. Teresa LĂłpez Pellisa, 2011. Departamento de Humanidades, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Supervisor: Antonio RodrĂ­guez de las Heras y Jenaro Talens.

Arquitectura, ciencia-ficción y comic-books. Vanguardias, evolución y lenguaje. Fernando Cristian Ayala Zapata, 2012. Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, Universidad Politécnica de Catalunya. Supervisor: Eduardo Bru Bistuer.

Fantasía y realidad en la literatura de ciencia ficción de Edgar Allan Poe. María Isabel Jiménez Gonzålez. Departamento de Filología moderna, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 2013. Supervisor: Ricardo Miguel Alfonso. https://ruidera.uclm.es/xmlui/handle/10578/3392

El viaje en el tiempo en la literatura de ciencia ficción española. Germån J. Hesles Sånchez, 2013. Departamento de Filología Española III (Lengua y Literatura), Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Pilar Vega Rodríguez. http://eprints.ucm.es/21401/

En los límites de la humanidad. Proyecciones del fin de una era a través de la narrativa de ciencia ficción. Jimena Escudero Pérez, 2013. Departamento de Filología Anglogermånica y Francesa, Universidad de Oviedo. Supervisor: Socorro Suårez Lafuente & Alejandra Moreno Álvarez. http://digibuo.uniovi.es/dspace/handle/10651/20276

La arquitectura en el cine de ciencia ficciĂłn. Juan Antonio Cabezas Garrido, 2014. Escuela TĂ©cnica Superior de Arquitectura, Departamento de Proyectos ArquitectĂłnicos, Universidad de Sevilla. Supervisor: Francisco Javier Montero FernĂĄndez. http://fundacion.arquia.es/files/public/download/04Zo7AM3un3fxTFnb1aK3CUv0w4/NTY1NDc/Mw/TESIS-JACABEZAS-ARQUIA-V2.pdf?profile=

Redefining Humanity in Science Fiction: The Alien from an Ecofeminist Perspective. Irene Sanz Alonso, 2014. Instituto Franklin, Universidad de AlcalĂĄ. Supervisor: Carmen Flys Junquera. http://dspace.uah.es/dspace/handle/10017/20962

El cine de ciencia ficción en la enseñanzas de las ciencias en secundaria. Maria Francisca Petit Pérez, 2014. Departament de Didàctica de les CiÚncies Experimentals i Socials, Universitat de ValÚncia. Supervisor: Jordi Solbes Matarredona. http://roderic.uv.es/handle/10550/37283

El cuento español de ciencia ficciĂłn (1968-1983). Los años de “Nueva DimensiĂłn”. Mikel Peregrina Castaños, 2014. Departamento de FilologĂ­a Española II (Literatura Española), Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Epicteto JosĂ© DĂ­az Navarro. http://eprints.ucm.es/29976/

Ciberpunk y arte de los nuevos medios. Performance y arte digital. Afroditi Psarra, 2014. Departamento de Dibujo II (Diseño e Imagen), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2014. Supervisor: Jaime Munårriz Ortiz. http://eprints.ucm.es/29364/

Arquitectura cinematogrĂĄficas en los espacios de la ciencia ficciĂłn. De la Luna a las Galaxias. 1902-2005. Sara PĂ©rez Barreiro, 2015. Departamento de TeorĂ­a de la Arquitectura y Proyectos arquitectĂłnicos, Universidad de Valladolid. Supervisor: RamĂłn RodrĂ­guez Llera. http://www.udllibros.com/libro-star_wars-U640070007

Estética, técnica y dialéctica. La representación de la ingeniería civil en el cómic europeo de ciencia ficción de los siglos XX y XXI: Aplicación a los sistemas de transporte en general y al ferrocarril en particular. Yves Manuel Díaz de Villegas Le Bouffant, 2015. Departamento de Transportes y Tecnología de Proyectos y Procesos, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos, Universidad de Cantabria. Supervisor: Luigi DellŽOlio & Jordi Ojeda Rodríguez
http://repositorio.unican.es/xmlui/handle/10902/6763?show=full

La ciencia ficción en Cådiz. Marco Antonio Marcos Fernåndez, 2015. Departamento de Filología Española, Universidad de Cådiz. Supervisor: Fernando Durån López & José Jurado Morales. http://www.edalya.com/index.php/tienda/product/24-la-ciencia-ficcion-en-cadiz

En el peor lugar posible. TeorĂ­a de lo distĂłpico y su presencia en la narrativa tardofranquista española (1965–1975). Gabriel Alejandro SaldĂ­as Rossel, 2015. Departament de Filologia Espanyola/ Teoria de la Literatura i Literatura Comparada, Universitat AutĂČnoma de Barcelona. Supervisor: David Roas & Ana Casas Janices. http://ddd.uab.cat/record/132858

La evoluciĂłn del supervillano en el “comic book” norteamericano. De Superman a Watchmen. Miguel Ángel MorĂĄn GonzĂĄlez, 2015. Departamento de FilologĂ­a HispĂĄnica y ClĂĄsica, Universidad de LeĂłn, 2015. Supervisor: JosĂ© Manuel Trabado Cabado. http://buleria.unileon.es/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10612/4615/2015moranlaevo.pdf?sequence=3

La tercera edad dorada de la televisión. Battlestar Galactica y las nuevas formas de pensar, hacer y consumir el drama televisivo norteamericano. Noor Yasmina Benchichah López, 2015. Departamento de Comunicación, Universidad Ramón Llull. Supervisor: Fernando de Felipe Allué & Ivån Gómez García. http://www.tdx.cat/handle/10803/285053

Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. You may download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See my publications and activities on my personal web http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

THE FUTURE OF THE HUMANITIES? I HOPE NOT: READING ROSI BRAIDOTTI’S THE POSTHUMAN (2013)

Readers: you’re in for a rough ride today, as I’ll be dealing with an essay on philosophy by Rosi Braidotti. No, I don’t usually read philosophy but I simply had to read her volume The Posthuman, given my own interest in how posthumanism functions in science fiction (see “Posthumanismo y diplomacia: La serie de John Scalzi La vieja guardia” (2015), http://www.revistahelice.com/revista/Helice_5_vol_II.pdf). Braidotti’s posthuman is not, nonetheless, my posthuman, so I’ll start by clarifying the differences.

In her words: “I see three major strands in contemporary posthuman thought: the first comes from moral philosophy and develops a reactive form of the posthuman; the second, from science and technology studies, enforces an analytic form of the posthuman; and the third, from my own tradition of anti-humanist philosophies of subjectivity, proposes a critical post-humanism” (38). Translated into plain English this means that, very confusingly, posthuman refers both to the current state of Humanism and of the human species. Braidotti is mainly interested in how to overcome traditional Humanism (currents 1 and 3), whereas I’m more interested in how and when science and technology will bring the human species into a post-human state (current 2). She never mentions science-fiction (a glaring oversight if you ask me) and holds the strange opinion that the data-mining that Facebook is carrying out is “banal” (61) in comparison to the “data banks of bio-genetic, neural and mediatic information about individuals” which “are the true capital today” (61). Yet, our interests intersect as regards the fate of Humanities. So here we go…

Yes, you read well: she calls herself a critical post-humanist (I’m not sure when and where the hyphen should be used), rooted in an anti-humanist tradition. I got truly dizzy trying to navigate all the different concepts in which the prefix post- appears in Braidotti’s volume but I think I have got it: sounding a bit hippy, Braidotti is calling for a post-anthropocentric future in which we, humans, very humbly see ourselves not as ‘Man the measure of all things’ (= traditional Humanism) but as one among a myriad animal many species linked by what she calls Zoe (=Life). Readers of SF are 100% familiar with this concept
 I have already discussed here the beautiful Memoirs of a Space Woman (1962) by Scots writer Naomi Mitchison, a masterpiece. You may also have come across this idea in the writings by Donna Haraway. She wanted initially everyone to become a cyborg in a constructive anti-patriarchal way but has now ended up praising the same Zoe-dominated view of interspecies relations. Can both views be combined? Um, no… the more cyborgian humans become, the less natural, therefore fewer chances for Zoe to dominate techno-science. As for animals, one thing is respecting their rights and another believing in a natural harmony which often sounds frankly patronizing and forgets how recent our, em, post-predator days are.

Back to the Humanities and to Braidotti’s posthumanism (dizzy yet?). Posthumanism, she explains “is the historical moment that marks the end of the opposition between Humanism and anti-humanism and traces a different discursive framework, looking more affirmatively towards new alternatives” (37). Nothing to do, then, with choosing to apply to your body “the four horsemen of the posthuman apocalypse: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science” (59), which is exactly what keeps us on our toes in Science Fiction Studies (we’re trying to see how this will destroy or enhance the human in us). Waxing hippy again, Braidotti enthuses that “Posthuman subjectivity expresses an embodied and embedded and hence partial form of accountability, based on a strong sense of collectivity, relationality and hence community building” (49). In contrast, old-fashioned Humanism is selfish, based on total individualism and subjectivity, and placed above all types of accountability. Also male/white/class-privileged in the worst possible sense.

Thinking of Braidotti’s impeccable feminist credentials and her insistence that her anti-humanism springs from her realization that for traditional Humanism women are not full human beings–for Man/man is the measure of everything–I must protest sternly against her not mentioning the obvious: Humanism has been so far the liberal intellectual branch of patriarchy. In this sense, we women and any anti-patriarchal man are right to call for a new post-humanism (with a hyphen) to replace traditional Humanism. However, I hate the labels chosen: I am a woman, I am a human being, therefore I can never be anti-humanist. I am willing to participate in the rebuilding of Humanism from a feminist position, as I think I have been doing for two decades and a half, but I refuse to call it posthumanism and myself posthumanist. If you want a label, then I’ll call myself neo-Humanist. There. We really need to get urgently rid of this post- nomenclature (or nonsense): post-structuralist, post-modern, post-patriarchal, post-gender, post-feminist, post-human, post-humanist, post-anthropocentric… it is simply ridiculous. Our inability to find labels is truly pathetic… Even neo-Humanist sounds silly, I know… (but, well, ‘neo’ at least reminds me of Keanu Reeves in Matrix, what can I do?).

Second point: the Humanities (fancy a whole area of research re-named Post-Humanities…). Braidotti narrates the frontal attack carried out against us by the scientists in the 1990s; they, basically, accused us of having no universally valid research method. Braidotti protests against this, for, obviously, we need to take into account the “multi-lingual structure of research and thinking in the Humanities” and how “research practice differs considerably in terms of not only geo-graphical but also temporal locations across Europe and beyond”. She asks, then, “Is it then fair to ask this rich and internally differentiated field to conform to a different research paradigm?” (157). The obvious answer is no: we are not and we’ll never be scientists in the sense of producing research following just one model (though the pressure of Anglo-American academia on us is almost succeeding in making us abandon any attempt to keep local traditions afloat). Braidotti worries, naturally, that “Considered more of a personal hobby than a professional research field, I believe that the Humanities are in serious danger of disappearing from the twenty-first-century European university curriculum” (10). And in other places–remember the Japanese Government’s attempt to do away with local Humanists? That would have made Japan the first truly posthuman/post-Humanist nation on Earth…

Now you’ll see why I am so annoyed with Braidotti, as it must be obvious by now. Here’s her solution to save our chosen field of research: “In a new outpour of intellectual creativity, posthuman Humanities in the global multiversity will include: Humanistic Informatics, or Digital Humanities; Cognitive or Neural humanities; Environmental or Sustainable Humanities; Bio-genetic and Global Humanities” (184). I am simply furious. To begin with, what kind of concept is ‘posthuman Humanities’?? No wonder the scientists despise us. Imagine them doing ‘postscience Sciences’.

If Braidotti means that we need to bring the Humanities closer to science and technology, I cannot agree more: this is why I am shouting to the four winds that we need to read SF. Now, closer does NOT mean subordinated. And I plainly refuse to abandon my post-Romantic (damn!) subjectivity. I don’t want, thank you very much, cognitive science telling me that when I read Pride and Prejudice Austen’s words activate my amygdala, if this is what they do. Yes, I want to wallow in my ignorance of that kind of applied science. This is no obstacle at all for telling everyone who can hear that if you’re not aware of the current state of research in robotics, then you have no idea about the kind of world you live in. Up to you.

Also, Prof. Braidotti, I’m willing to teach any of this crazy combined subjects only if my scientific peers reciprocate. I am currently writing an essay on SF in the Spanish university and I can tell you that this genre is widely used by scientists to illustrate their teachings–but just as that, as an illustration and usually with the purpose of criticising its mistakes. I’ll be very, very happy to teach Literature and Cultural Studies in a science school, which is not the same as abandoning the Humanities to make room for science. And, yes, by all means, let’s have the scientists come and visit. They might understand better that if what we do is a personal hobby then what they do is only became an institutional pursuit in the late 19th century–previously it used to be in the hands of idle gentlemen with odd hobbies. And, well literary and cultural criticism kills no one, at least directly, whereas not all science is about finding a cure for cancer. I dare any scientist working on building genetically modified foodstuff and weapons of mass destruction to tell me that the Humanities are useless. Wouldn’t it be convenient for them that we disappeared taking all our nagging cultural critique with us?…

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll suggest that we start a contest to find new labels for our time. Urgently. I have this feeling that if you start doubting what to call the Humanities, this is when we become not posthuman but posthumous


Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. You may download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See my publications and activities on my personal web http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/