Vassar prides itself on the faculty’s commitment to teaching, as part of their claim to fame as a small, rigorous liberal arts school–despite the “science bridge,” we’re not a large research university, in case you haven’t noticed. But this emphasis on teaching doesn’t mean that faculty don’t write and publish. In fact, they do so constantly and with significant volume. Vassar professors are constantly publishing academic articles, studies, and books, as well as novels, other articles, and personal essays. You may have spotted Professor Hua Hsu in the New Yorker last semester writing on “Civility Wars”. I’ve recently spoken to a two English professors who will soon be publishing about their work, and I present to you Faculty Books Coming Soon, English Department Edition. (Because I’m an English major and other departments frighten me).
1) Michael Joyce, Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden
Professor Joyce’s soon-to-come book, which he has been working on since 2010, is an epistolary novel about prolific philosopher Michel Foucault. The novel is set in the winter of 1956, and records Foucault’s time spent in Sweden lecturing and researching, which is historically based. The account deviates fictionally from what little we know about Foucault’s life with the invention of a young female character, Gabrielle. To give a hint to the scope of the book, Joyce writes in the Preface that “Gabrielle..forc[es] him to understand something unique about how madness expresses our humanity and especially our sexuality.” Joyce takes an unusual tack in this novel by writing the fictional letters in a mix of English, French, and some Swedish. In this book, Joyce endeavors to put a “human face” to a little-known time in the life of a prolific but private philosopher. In a review featured on the publisher’s website, Paul Russell, author of The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, wrote that the novel is “original and affecting. Foucault’s superbly imagined voice sings of love and madness…The liminal, polylingual prose is a tour-de-force, the erudition dazzles, the final snowlight at nightfall will haunt you.”
Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden is available now on Amazon and through Starcherone Books (its publisher), but it will be officially published on March 10th. It’s about 200 pages long.
2) Amitava Kumar, Lunch With a Bigot
Professor Kumar’s collection of essays has been in the works since 2000, and includes many previously-published essays. They include titles such as “10 Rules of Writing,” previously published in The Indian Quarterly, and “Pyre,” which is about Kumar’s mother’s death, and was published in the most recent GRANTA Magazine. The essay “10 Rules of Writing” is perhaps what I was looking for in my previous blog on the topic of writing instruction–a clear, helpful, approachable essay about Kumar’s process as a writer, career, and recommendations. Other essays focus on personal topics that make up his life story thus far, blending with his travels and experiences as man working in both India and the U.S.–the “bigot” mentioned in the title (and title essay) is a conservative Hindu man who condemns Kumar’s marriage. In a recent interview with Pen America, Kumar said about writing: “Our responsibility is only to be honest, even if it means being base or wrong. I fear it is fashionable for many writers to think that they have to be right. I want to be wrong but true. Our task is to be human.”
For more from Kumar on life, writing, academia, and identity, Lunch With a Bigot will be published on May 15th of this year by Duke University press, and is currently available on Amazon. It’s 240 pages long. This will be Kumar’s eighth published book.