In his 1969 book, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault questioned the classical distinctions between the major types of academic discourse: science, literature, religion, history, etc. He proposed to get rid of certain tired notions (such as tradition, influence, development and 'spirit') and certain tired unities (such as the author, the book and the oeuvre) that continue to organize the institutionalized study of literature today. Once these unities are suspended, though, a new field of study opens up beyond the horizon of continuity. He conceived of it as a field of dispersion. This is not a bad way of explaining what I do in the classroom. I assemble fields of dispersion. These fields lie outside the conventional organization of literary studies. Shockingly, I do not heed the worn-out distinctions between literature and science or history or religion or anthropology or economics, and so on. I have taught courses on commodity language, on ethnocentrism and law, on the rhetoric of history, on the non-economic use of economic concepts, on national projects in the settler colonial state, and on Canadian literature from Marx to Lévi-Strauss. Some undergraduates warn that these courses include “serious intellectual content.” Take them only if you intend to learn.*
*Please note that I no longer accept email correspondence from undergraduates. (This policy is based on the email correspondence that I have previously received from undergraduates.) If you wish to confer with me, you have only one choice: you have to attend class.