Prof Spotlight: Joyce offers intertextual take on life, learning

Courtesy of Carolyn Guyer

This week we’re happy to be in conversation with Professor Michael Joyce from the English Department through email. Beyond his passion for education, Joyce is also an author and critic of hypertext fiction.

The Miscellany News: How long have you been at Vassar and what do you love most about the College?

Michael Joyce: I have taught here for 27 years and, first and foremost, loved the resistant intelligence of my students and their willingness to risk, but also their enduring and fundamental gentleness and caring in the Heideggerian sense. The latter makes even what can sometime seem a paradoxical rote adherence to transgressive rubrics or an occasional mouthing of progressive orthodoxies reveal an underlying courage, shared vulnerability and a longing to make and inhabit communities that respect and foster difference.

The Misc: What drew you to this career? Have you always wanted to become a professor of English?

Joyce: I have always wanted a profession in which becoming is itself what it consists of. Thus I write and teach and aspire to become what the poet Charles Olson called “an archaeologist of morning” whose quotidian concerns are “how to use oneself/and on what.”

The Misc: What are some of your biggest academic interests and passions?

Joyce: Lately they have been exploring writing as a healing art; translation (or what the poet Leonard Schwartz calls transcreation); and the hybrid and multiple forms of contemporary poetry in which word and image are irrevocably entangled in what the feminist philosopher and quantum physicist Karen Barad calls the “lively dance of mattering.”

The Misc: Could you tell us a bit about the classes you’re offering next semester?

Joyce: Besides offering one section of creative writing focused on poetry and another on the idea of translation, I’m going to revive and rethink a first-year writing seminar called “W(h)ither the Body?” that I last offered four years ago. The seminar considers a century and more in which the body has become a site of commercial, political, sexual, medial, artistic, computational and philosophical contestation as our notions of embodiment have grown increasingly fluid.

The Misc: Are there any changes or potential improvements in the English Department that you’d like to see?

Joyce: The changes I’d like to see are the ones we are as a department in the midst of undertaking, first and foremost refreshing and renewing our curriculum and reversing the depletion of our faculty that are the lingering results of the impact of the decade-ago financial crisis as well as the diminution of all the humanities in both higher education and the culture at large.

The Misc: What was the last book you read?

Joyce: Laynie Browne’s novel, “Periodic Companions,” a deeply poetic and yet extraordinarily congenial account of human possibility, whose characters are based on the periodic table of elements and whose musical prose evokes for me the mothers of my writing, from Gertrude Stein to Hélène Cixous to Nicole Brossard to Fanny Howe.

The Misc: As an author of many acclaimed books, what has been your proudest work?

Joyce: Ah, the “which child is your favorite?” question! The first, the last and the one in-between too often forgotten. (But were you to ask which of these do I most think about these days, it’s the one on the way next October, my fourteenth published book, tentatively titled “Media: a picaresque.” Spanning the years 1987-2001, from just before the rise of the internet to just before 9/11, the novel is a mirror of–not to say sequel to–my decade ago “novel of internet,” “Was: Annales Nomadique”).

The Misc: A word of wisdom for the students?

Joyce: Beware of those who purport to have wisdom to share, we recognize each other and prosper in our doubts.

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