Monday, September 4, 2017

Fall 2017 update

a plane sighting in New Orleans

I'm back in New Orleans, and back in the classroom with my Loyola students. This semester I'm teaching an Environmental Theory seminar for juniors and seniors, and two first-year seminars on air travel. It's been something of a jolt, after having been away from campus for a year—but it's good work and I'm grateful to have such energetic students and dedicated colleagues. As I transition back into teaching, and as I think about the unique demands of advising and mentoring students in these strange times, I am trying to work this material into my next book The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth. Here are some recent writings, and a few of these pieces are wending their way into The Work of Literature:

On ticks, for The Philosophical Salon.

On morel mushrooms, at Guernica.

On finding and fighting words after last year's election, with Stewart Sinclair for Avidly.

On the difficulties scholars have writing for broad audiences, with Ian Bogost for Inside Higher Ed.

On humanities at the airport, for Inside Higher Ed.

On Sarah Manguso's 300 Arguments, for 3:AM Magazine.

On ecological disorientation in Don DeLillo's Zero K and in various airline ads, for ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment.

On the importance of sabbaticals, for Inside Higher Ed.

"Wait," a chapter for the book Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking.

"Air Force One: Popular (Non)Fiction in Flight," in the book Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings.

Finally, my new book Airportness releases this month! Here's one of the early cover designs for the book that we almost ended up using, but we couldn't track down the artist or gallery to acquire permission:

The image on that cover is part of an artwork from 2005 by Ho-Yeol Ryu, and which periodically goes viral online. I like this image a lot, but I also love the final version of my book's cover, as it better reflects the pensive mood and outward-looking subject positions that frame the book:

Order it today

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Advance praise for Airportness


Airportness is an insightful, witty guide to the ecologies of Earth's strange new habitat. A Thoreau not of Concord, but of the concourse, Schaberg writes with boundless curiosity for the many layers of meaning and contradiction within the physical and mental space of airports.” —David George Haskell, Professor of Biology, University of the South, USA, and author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen
“With deep insight and a singular brilliance, Christopher Schaberg takes the reader on a journey from curb to curb, chastising us for our indifference to cloudscapes, rekindling our wonder for liftoff, asking us to reckon with airport as metaphor for late-stage capitalism, for American identity, for the last vestiges of faith, even, ironically, for what we call home. Part razor-sharp critique, part advanced elegy for a doomed mode of transportation, Airportness is finally a declaration of love for a threatened land(sky)scape, an imperative to remain awake and alive.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
“An enchanting, meditative journey through the cultures and ecologies of contemporary flight. Airportness unsettles places and processes that are often taken for granted, drawing us out into the simultaneously fascinating and disturbing webs of earthly possibility that are tangled up in the world-forming creature we call an airport.” —Thom van Dooren, Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of New South Wales, Australia, and author of Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction
“I loved this book. Exemplifying the enduring value of flânerie, Schaberg's insightful fragments cohere into compelling arguments about supermodernity as we go on a 'trip' with him through the well-worn paths of the contemporary airport. This collage of passionate vignettes, quirky observations and analytical musings made serendipitous connections I hadn't noticed before. His enthusiasm is as infectious as his observations are sharp. It was refreshing for these jaded eyes to see the airport anew. Highly recommended.” —Gillian Fuller, author of Aviopolis: A Book About Airports

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Work of Literature In An Age of Post-Truth

Here's the cover of my next book:

This book is a series of reflections on teaching literature in a liberal arts context in the early years of the twenty-first century. What problems crop up, what opportunities arise, and what lessons I've learned doing this work over the past 16 years or so. I'm finishing up this book over the next six months, and it will be published in 2018.

Monday, February 6, 2017

That jet is next to go

a neat little piece of airportness nestled into my son's schoolwork...

Some of my recent writings could be summed up under the title "From Work to Trump." It would include, among other things, versions of these essays:

After the election, walking it off.

Further thoughts on Trump in relation to environmental consciousness, specifically around the concept of the anthropocene.

Then reflecting the Women's March on Washington, and on Trump's airplane armrest transgressions. (An earlier version of this essay ended up in Airportness.)

The travel ban happens, followed by airport protests.

This kind of writing—a medley of cultural criticism, political theory, ecological thought—all becomes part of the work of literature in an age of post-truth, even though it seems to find itself far from the Norton anthology or the English classroom. It's an interesting experiment, to be writing about things that keep coming up in new (sometimes frightening) ways as each week unravels, from "alternative facts" and the fascinating rhetorical reversals of "fake news," to new tensions within and around air travel, to ever more shocking displays of arrogance concerning ecology, or living on this planet. And then to chart how these things pick up on issues I might have touched on or seen in other contexts—especially in literary texts.

We'll see how this sort of writing continues to form, or if it dissipates. In the meantime, what will happen next? What jam is next to go?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Points of Detention

I'm writing about this image right now, a perhaps seemingly innocuous graphic that appeared above a Washington Post article last weekend:

Monday, January 23, 2017

This is the time

A Southwest 737 taking off from Reagan National the other day...a plane likely full of remarkable, strong women

What a time, what a world!

Fresh back from the Women’s March on Washington, I’m feeling inspired to write and energized to redesign my courses for the fall semester. I’ve been in a funk since the election in November, and I've also been hunkered down trying to channel whatever verve I could muster into my writing, since I had a book due this month. I just turned it in a week ago: it's called Airportness:The Nature of Flight, and it comes out in September. It’s the most carefully structured of my airport books, yet. (It's probably also the last one I'll write on this topic.) And I love how the cover came out:

Meanwhile, I signed a contract with Bloomsbury for a new book, called The Work of Literature In An Age of Post-Truth. I’m tackling some of the things in our current political moment, and thinking through a range of topics related to teaching, writing, and thinking about contemporary literature and it’s roles in the present epoch. One of the things I’ve been struggling with over the past few months is how to return to teaching once I return from sabbatical. All my old reading lists and course frameworks seem obsolete, what with the new political regime in place. I can’t imagine sitting around with my students close reading The Great Gatsby like it’s any other fall semester. (Not that’s how I really teach, but…you know what I mean.)

On the other hand, with Trump as our once unimaginable president, maybe The Great Gatsby is the perfect book to read: the worship of power, shady background dealings, toxic nostalgia, destructive secrecy…it’s all in Fitzgerald’s pages. But I feel like I need to reassess exactly what I’m teaching, and how I'm teaching it—especially my twentieth century American fiction course. In one of the chapters of my new book I’m going to work through some of my previous required readings for this course, and also explore some new stories and novels that I’ve read this year—thinking about how these American fictions I haven't yet taught speak to and speculate about the moment we’re now in, in the nonfiction world ("alternative facts" notwithstanding).

While driving back from DC I also sketched out a few new ideas in my head, which hopefully I can wrangle into essays and pitch them to places over the next couple months. So I've got a lot to do over the remaining months of my sabbatical. But I'm convinced that this is the time to do get to work, if we want things to change for the better. This is the time.