Over the course of the next few months the CRDM blog will periodically feature a Q + A with one of our outstanding faculty members. We take classes with them and work with them on scholarly projects, but now we’d like to learn more about what else they’re doing. We’ve talked with David Rieder, Jessica Jameson, Chris Anson, Matt May, David Berube, Susan Katz, Maria Pramaggiore, Susan Miller-Cochran, Robert Schrag, Brad Mehlenbacher, R. Michael Young, Jason Swarts, Adriana de Souza e Silva, Elizabeth Craig, Andrew Binder, and Victoria Gallagher, and we recently caught up with Dr. Carolyn R. Miller, SAS Institute Distinguished Professor in the English Department:
What are you reading?
This year, it seems that all I read are dissertation chapters; I’m also directing and assisting with quite a few master’s projects this spring, so I’m spending a fair amount of time reading drafts of those, as well. I try to keep up with various journals (at least the tables of contents!), such as QJS, P&R, RSQ, and a few others. I still read a paper newspaper every morning (the N&O) and try to catch up with top news and opinion (Paul Krugman is a favorite) in the online NY Times in the evening. In my spare moments, I read the New Yorker (for ex, a harrowing article about the orphans of Argentina’s “dirty war”) andThe New Republic. I find it hard to keep a book going during the semester, but over winter break I read Steven Greenblatt’s The Swerve (about the 16th-c rediscovery of the prescient existentialist Roman author Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura). I’m eager to get to The Golden Mean by Canadian Annabel Lyon (a novel about the relationship between the young Alexander the Great and his teacher, Aristotle) and Garry Wills’s Rome and Rhetoric. When I travel, I love to read books about the places I’m visiting, such as, last summer, Donna Leon’s mysteries set in Venice.
What are you writing about?
I’m trying to write about emerging genres, both by looking at the process of emergence that’s going on all around us (student work helps me a lot with this!) and by looking at historical examples. In particular, I’m interested in how genres emerge into the consciousness of those for whom they are genres (if genres are social agreements, how do we reach those agreements?). One goal is to understand the appeal of the model of biological evolution, which was applied to genres not long after Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859.
What are you listening to?
I’m not good at parallel processing, so I don’t listen while I’m reading or writing. And I gave up on pop music long ago, so I mostly listen to classical and jazz and some “world” including African, Latin, and Brazilian. Would the NC Symphony count as a “favorite band”? Anyway, they gave a compelling performance of Brahms’ First Symphony last Friday. At home I prefer chamber music and small jazz groups and soloists like Brad Mehldau, Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and local artists Steve Hobbs and Elmer Gibson. I recently stumbled on a group called Montana Skies, guitar and cello, jazz fusion. I’m an NPR junkie in the car and in the kitchen. Podcasts when I don’t catch the shows live: On the Media, This American Life, The Writer’s Almanac.
What are you watching?
Birds, in my backyard. We don’t have TV to speak of (digital rabbit ears, while we wait for fiber optic to come down our street). Thus, I remain blissfully oblivious to a lot of contemporary culture. Over winter break while visiting my brother, I watched all 7 of last year’s Downton Abbey episodes in 3 days, and I’m eager to catch up with the current season (maybe next December?). My Netflix queue includes recent films like The Social Networkand classics like Butterfield 8. I belong to the Raleigh film club Cinema, Inc., which shows both recent and classic films at the Rialto once a month; one recent film was Hitchcock’s 1936 Sabotage, one of his darkest.