Andrew Goldstone

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I study and teach twentieth-century literature in English. My research interests include modernism and non-modernism in English and French, the sociology of literature, literary theory, the history of genre fiction, South Asian literature in English, and the digital humanities, especially computational text analysis. I also have a long-standing interest in digital systems for document preparation and typesetting, especially LaTeX.

My book, Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man (2013), is published by Oxford University Press. For information about the book and ordering links, see my webpage for the book.

Terry Pratchett: “Not having battles, and doing without kings”

I don’t think any writer did more to form me than Terry Pratchett. That might be a bit of a dangerous thing for a professional literary scholar to say. It would be easier to recount how much Ulysses, say, meant to a budding adolescent highbrow. In fact, though, I suspect that as a teenager, and not only as a teenager, I had a Pratchettian reading of the novel: Joyce’s Dublin as Ankh-Morpork, puns and pastiche as the engine driving the narrative language forward, the library of culture as an interdimensional transit zone, and no icon left unsmashed. In any case, I’m certain I would be a very different person if my elementary-school librarian hadn’t read Truckers to us and started me on a Pratchett kick that never stopped.

At Harvard This Week

I’ll be in Cambridge (in the Dave Barry sense of the word) on Wednesday, March 4, to give a talk to the British Studies Colloquium of the Harvard English department. Here’s my abstract:

The Modernist Period Concept: Threat or Menace?

The early twentieth century is the modernist period. Or so we say. Does this idea, codified in the institutions of modernist studies, limit our understanding of literary history? In this talk, I use a study of thousands of MLA Bibliography entries to argue that the modernist period concept is regulated, in practice, by an all-too-familiar canon of authors (Joyce, Eliot, Woolf, Pound), in spite of efforts to expand modernism culturally, geographically, and historically. These names stand for the equation of formal-aesthetic innovation, as it was practiced in Euro-American avant-garde scenes, with the literary culture of modernity. The menace of the modernist period concept is that this equation is tenacious but wrong. It conflates the whole of the literary field with its most consecrated part, precluding the study of the structural transformation of literary production and reception in the first half of the century. That transformation gives rise, not to a legible Zeitgeist, but to a system of hierarchically organized genres with non-synchronous histories. By way of speculative conclusion, I briefly compare histories of several popular fiction genres and suggest that the study of literary classification systems is a necessary complement to the study of that single high-literary genre we call “modernism.”

The talk is at 5:15 p.m. in Barker 114.

It has come to my attention that while I am quantifying literary studies in Boston, Franco Moretti will be giving the Goldstone lecture at NYU. If you are racing to my talk and tell your phone, “Take me to the Goldstone lecture, double-quick!” check that you are not being directed to New York City.

For Daniel Albright

Over the winter break came the terribly sad news of the sudden death of Daniel Albright. His own web site has a notice and a brief biography of this remarkable scholar and teacher; the Harvard Crimson also published an obituary. (If I find other notices and memorials I’ll edit this post.) I’m thinking of him and of all the people close to him.

He was my teacher for one semester in my last year as an undergraduate, when I took his seminar on Beckett and Auden (“Early Postmodernism”). I’m sorry to say I didn’t keep in touch after I graduated, but in thinking about Daniel Albright these last few weeks I’ve realized he made a big mark on me, which I wanted to briefly trace here by way of tribute.

Easy Lecture Slides Made Difficult with Pandoc and Beamer

Markdown for slides is a great idea. Don’t painfully lay out each slide, click by click: just write down an outline and let a program generate the slides for you. The almighty Pandoc does this very well. You write plain text, and a single pandoc command produces slides in one of a number of nice HTML formats (like reveal.js or slidy), ready to be uploaded, or in PDF.

I switched over to this way of doing things last year. It was a relief to stop fighting with Keynote,1 which is nice as presentation programs go but still exhausting: it constantly makes wrong guesses about formatting; putting text where you want is a struggle, and inevitably imprecise. And, worst of all, adding notes for myself to slides is pretty hopeless. I always ended up having to create two parallel versions of each class: the slides, and my own notes. That involved a lot of redundant work. By contrast, once I started writing my slides and notes together, I got my materials for class together quite a bit faster. Whether the temptation to further procrastination/tinkering was really healthy is a separate issue.

Anyway, markdown for slides with pandoc is pretty simple and easy-to-use, but because I wanted some features that the HTML formats do not easily support, I was tempted into going with pandoc’s capacity to generate LaTeX slides using the beamer package. Getting what I want out of that setup is what makes easy slides difficult. (If you want easy slides made easy, consider Ben Schmidt’s suggestions.) Here’s what I do these days. All the bits and pieces for doing this can be found in my repository of TeX stuff on github, in the lecture-slides directory. For a sample of the kind of results I get, see the slides from my Early Twentieth-Century Fiction course this semester, for example a lecture on Djuna Barnes.