After many years of working on this paper on and off, I'm thrilled to soon see it published in Mosaic, an interdisciplinary journal of literary and critical theory. Originally, it was part of a dissertation chapter focused on Descartes. I was later inspired to weave in a more contemporary critical analysis, this after the opportunity of working with an international group of artists and thinkers drawn to the theory and practice of emerging art creations. I realized that this was, in part, what I was getting at in this paper. But it took another several years, a sabbatical, and the very helpful reviewers' comments to tighten my thesis.

What do you think of when someone mentions the name "René Descartes"? You might know he's a 17th century French philosopher; you might even be able to quote his famous "I think, therefore I am"; and you might even know that the quote illustrates a very watered down version of his thought, the mind-body duality. For many, Descartes seems to reference just...

​Heteropolis, Adaptive Actions

I was asked to translate several pieces from this collection, three pieces, different authors, different voices, different translating puzzles to solve.

The shortest and most literary piece was a short parable illustrating how someone was being treated in the same way he had treated others. In French, it was titled L'Arroseur arrosé, which I decided to translate as "The Biter Bit." The context for the original French is the Cameroun region. One particular puzzle had to do with the word "waetizing," in French "waétiser," which, the author explains in a footnote, "is a common jargon word meaning “to speak like a white man.” The Cameroonian, of bilingual nationality, develops many anglicisms such as this one. Here, “speak like a white man” becomes, with an added French ending, “whi(te)-étiser.” 

​Quoi?! Tu veux ma photo ? Ou bien tu t'étonnes de t'être fait démasqué ! C'était facile, tu sais. Le Bamiléké est toujours mal habillé. On dirait un daltonien de...

Another fun piece in this collection of Heteropolis was a fascinating semiotic study by Patrice Loubier, "Se bricoler un signe et partir. Notes sur une série photographique de Martin Désilets." The author studies a then recent photographic series by Martin Désilets, who documented that peculiar habit we sometimes have of "reserving" street parking in front of our home with random objects from our house. I often think of this piece and Loubier's analysis: my uphill neighbors trade in junk, removing, reusing, reselling tons of junk, and they often load their trucks out front. A few years ago, while these luxury condos were being built, parking got tough, and the neighbors got cagey. I was annoyed, with the city especially, but with the neighbors mostly, and mostly daily. Whenever they set out objects out front to *reserve* their space, annoying me to no end, it reminded me of this piece, and elevated my neighbors, ever so slightly, in my mind. Little did they know they were semioticians,...

In this same collection, I really enjoyed translating an article by Elisabeth Mercier, "Étrangères dans la ville : femmes voilées et espaces urbains," on the perception of veiled women in Montreal. Given that I teach in a French and Francophone department, and France is currently going through growing pains with its shifting population -- no longer exclusively white, and Catholic or Jewish. I've used her remarks several times in contemporary France class. 

Ultimately, the woman wearing the veil at Costco, at the Nun's Island, or at the Jean-Talon market is automatically recognized as the foreign figure, the one not in its place, who transgressed a border and reifies it by that very fact. Her veil is the visible sign of this difference, of this non-belonging/refusal to belong to a territory, to a community. In the same way, by opposition to these foreign figures these territories are delineated and valorized as sites/spaces of belonging for members of the majority whose integ...

This article by Olivier Asselin, from the Université de Montreal, looked at the history of this colored logo and its political destiny in the Occupy movement that gripped Quebec during the spring of 2012.

​L’histoire officielle du carré rouge est courte. Il paraît pour la première fois publiquement au Québec le 5 octobre 2004  lors d’une présentation du Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté à la Commission des affaires sociales de l’Assemblée nationale au sujet d’un projet de réforme de l’aide sociale déposé par le gouvernement Charest (qui est alors durant son premier mandat): pour marquer leur opposition au projet de loi, les délégués du collectif portent alors un carré de ruban gommé (duct tape) rouge[i]. Dans leur déclaration à la Commission, les délégués révèlent le sens qu’ils donnent à ce petit symbole : « Nous vous demandons de refuser que les institutions politiques continuent de concevoir pour les citoyens et citoyennes les plus pauvres des escaliers roulants qui descendent a...

I loved the experience of writing short this piece: it was written as a reflection on the process of translating Emeric de Monteynard's poetry. Having just finished a revamped version of a class on translation, translation theory was fresh in my mind. I love reflecting on language, and our discursive choices. I like that realm: that fragile connection between ideas, words, and intentions. Reflecting on my own choices added to the piece. And as I reflected on the process, I remembered that his poems gave me the same feeling I had in front of that massive painting hanging at the National Gallery of Art, Robert Motherwell's Reconciliation Elegy. Then another visual connection, this time with images of the yearly desert trips he takes, each year a new desert somewhere in this lush world of ours. As he and I whittled through his desert pictures, another serendipitous connection. The article is available online, and rather short. I discuss the connection between Motherwell's piece and Emeric...

Vapors. You may have heard that women having vapors was a thing back in the nineteenth century. This piece looked at hysteria in its earlier incarnation: vapors. This was the first piece I published post-graduate school. Just like the title states, I wrote about the connection between work, machines, and vapors. How did the new scientific concept of "work" -- think 2nd law of thermodynamics, that the entropy of a system always increases -- shift the discourse on the burgeoning field of psychology.

Alongside this development in mechanics, physiological treatises continued the tradition of describing the mind in terms of work. Moreover, a number of treatises emerged that attempted to define an elusive ailment, subsequently known as hysteria. A close reading of one such treatise by the Montpellier-trained physician Beauchêne brings into focus how late eighteenth-century physiology reflected a period-specific anxiety, which the work of Carnot only made too obvious: the irreversible arrow...

This was the first and only and only collaboration I did with Simon Krysl. A piece by Alain Badiou, the French philosopher. We both came to the translation from very different areas of strength: Simon, a deep thorough knowledge of marxist philosphy; me, French language. I was living in Maine, my first year out of graduate school. He had moved back to Prague, so all our communications were online, and even more specifically, in our footnotes. Have you ever looked for a translation of a word you thought you knew the meaning, but find instead online forums where translators debate the finer points of the word "to draw," (for instance)? This was our footnotes: comments back and forth on the subtle meaning of many words. One of the more joyous translation experiences, perhaps because it was shared. Badiou's piece is a reaction to Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus, a monumental piece of contemporary philosophy. I include the wikipedia link here: our translation of this piece by B...

I first discovered the enigmatic "Antoine Volodine" while translating this essay by Lionel Ruffel on the function of interrogations in his various novels. It took me thirteen years, but I finally included his novel Le Nom des singes (Naming the Jungle) in my Science and Literature class, Winter 2016. My students are rock stars: they read this in French! If you like puzzling dystopian worlds that comment on our fucked up world, then read Volodine. Here is a good taste of the author's fiction.

Lionel Ruffel, Interrogation: A Post Exotic Device, Substance, 2003

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