Monday, October 29, 2007


Job apps are finished. Sent out York, Columbia, and Hunter today. Goodbye letters, hello econo-sized bottle of red!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Job apps suck. For so many reasons. You have to write tailored letters to each institution, design special courses for them, try to make it sound like you're just blown the fuck away by how awesome they are, and then there's a 90% chance that they'll never even send you a postcard-sized rejection. Some places don't even let you know that they threw out your just have to assume after you don't hear from them for 3 months. If you're lucky, you become one of 10 contestants to get a 20 minute interview at a mega-conference where everyone is either crying against an arabesque pillar, scanning the book room feverishly for their own publications, or double-fisting their coffee and "water" bottles (i.e., vodka).

Then, if you're REALLY lucky, you get a trip to Strange American Town, where you have precisely 48 hrs to absorb every piece of cultural information you can and transform it into a shiny anecdote during your day-long walking interview from hell. And that's the good part.

Plus, how am I ever going to get my framed copy of The National Post on the plane with me?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Response to NP Article

Here is my response to the Post article, published on their website:

Here is a pasted copy:

Full Comment

Jes Battis responds to Robert Fulford's article, "Lex Luthor hearts Superman: Your tax dollars at work"

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your highly entertaining article, Lex Luthor hearts Superman: Your tax dollars at work. Its vast evidentiary gaps, undertones of homophobia and blustering contempt for cultural studies and the arts in Canada make it a singularly interesting piece. You've also managed to make my scholarship sound luridly fascinating, and to give international attention to my work on at-risk gay and lesbian youth and the history of LGBT teenlit. For this, I thank you.

If you had contacted me before writing this piece, we could have had a great conversation about phobias around popular culture in the academic community, as well as the current government's desire to streamline the arts into an executive branch of the Canadian military while cutting funding to gay and lesbian youth centers, women's centers, safe injection sites and other social programming across Canada.

I wanted to thank you as well for visiting my blog and reporting on it. Blogs, you might realize, are a venue for "chattering endlessly" about one's life. They are also an incredible resource for oppressed communities to circumvent and defy political censorship. Blogs save lives. So thank you for reminding us of that.

And thanks as well for drawing more attention to my teaching, which currently focuses on gender and sexuality within television cultures. Since far more youth watch Leave It To Beaver rather than reading the National Post, their global engagement with television is one of the most crucial areas of media scholarship today. Incidentally, what are you watching on TV at the moment? I love The Wire. It's about media surveillance, racism and homophobia. You should check it out.



Oh, job applications. Why must they always take forever? Why does the letterhead always get stuck in the printer, or print upside down? And why do people always send detailed .pdf documents from JStor that take forever to print just as you're about to press CTRL+P?

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I never thought this article would generate so much controversy. People from McMaster are writing letters to The Post, and SSHRC is preparing an official response. Honestly, I just hope it dies down soon and we can talk about something else. This isn't "fifteen minutes of fame," it's really just odd, disturbing, and hopefully temporary.

But if it generates discussion around freedom within the arts, I'm all for it. I listen to The Indigo Girls, too! And I read Patricia Cornwell Novels, and watch Ugly Betty sometimes, and I even own a Siouxie and the Banshees tape from the early 90s.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Does the word 'intellectual' apply to Dr. Jes Battis?

I want this on a t-shirt

"Does the word 'intellectual' apply in the case of Dr. Jes Battis? That's a matter of judgment. So far he's been judged with great generosity. He's made his way upward from grant to grant. In graduate school, he received$24,000 in Simon Fraser University fellowships and $40,000, plus small travel grants, from the SSHRC. His postdoctoral grant last February, the one partly used for piercing and tattoo, was $82,000."

Lex Luthor Hearts Superman

Read this scintillating article from The National Post about my research, and about SSHRC. Since Robert Fulford is reading my blog, I'd like to say hello to him, and wish him all the best!

Here is a pasted copy:


Lex Luthor hearts Superman: Your tax dollars at work

Robert Fulford, National Post

Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007

If you were a cash-starved scholar and you received the initial payment on your grant from the federal government, what would you do first? Buy some books? Acquire a new computer? Not Dr. Jes Battis. Last month, three days after the cheque came through, he reported on his blog that he had acquired a tattoo and a nose piercing.

That may not be entirely outlandish. Battis has made his career by writing about popular culture. He writes about everything from hidden gay themes in TV to comedies like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A tattoo and a piercing will no doubt help him see deeper meaning in his subject. His grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) pays for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship that allows him to work as an adjunct instructor at City University of New York. There, he lectures on I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver while working on his research project, "Queer future: LGBT narratives." (LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.)

Battis is a 28-year-old Canadian Phd in English literature and the author of Blood Relations: Chosen Families in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, published in 2005. He sometimes uses Queer Theory, an academic discipline that prides itself on finding gay subtexts in apparently heterosexual stories.

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Last year a journal called Jump Cut published The Kryptonite Closet, Battis's article on the TV series Smallville, which is set in the Kansas town where Superman arrived from outer space as a baby. Smallville revolves around a big secret, Clark's alien identity, but Battis sees beyond that. Clark is friendly with Lex Luthor, Super-man's arch enemy in the years ahead. So Battis studies "the erotic potential emerging from this relationship."

That suggests the current level of research in the humanities. Battis, who chronicles his life through a blog, comes across as gormless, in the sense of foolish, lacking sense and discernment. He chatters endlessly about difficulty negotiating the New York subway and fills us in on his liking for chocolate soy milk and cornbread muffins: "I need nothing else to survive."

He's an example of the chronic irrelevance that afflicts much recent academic work. Last February, when he was given the fellowship for his LGBT narratives, other scholars received grants for, among other things, "The culture and aesthetics of amateur movie-making, 1954-2006" and "Tracing cattle exchanges in the early Iron Age of Southern Africa." Scholars pursuing cultural studies believe, like historians, that there's nothing too trivial to study.

Outsiders don't always take SSHRC (always pronounced "shirk") as seriously as SSHRC would like. While it often supports worthy research, it can look like a $319-million-a-year joke. This attitude angers the council. Chad Gaffield, a historian who has been president since last September, insists that the humanities deserve respect (that's true, of course) and so, by association, does SSHRC.

Gaffield tries hard to convey what he considers the importance of SSHRC to the public. Recently he told a Globe and Mail interviewer that the council doesn't deserve a penny from Parliament if it can't compellingly articulate the value of what it does: "We are asking the public to support us. I think they have every right to know what public money is being spent and why."

Actually, that doesn't quite describe SSHRC policy. If you ask for details of a fellowship, as put forth by the scholar in a proposal, the council answers that research proposals are "protected," meaning secret. James Turk, executive director of the Canadian

Association of University Teachers, doesn't like it when SSHRC's detractors criticize it by quoting titles. He rightly argues that you can't judge a research project from the title. But what if the council declares everything except the title confidential? Is Turk's criticism fair?

He told a Globe reporter, "The anti-intellectual argument is always the easy one to make." Does the word "intellectual" apply in the case of Dr. Jes Battis? That's a matter of judgment. So far he's been judged with great generosity. He's made his way upward from grant to grant. In graduate school, he received$24,000 in Simon Fraser University fellowships and $40,000, plus small travel grants, from the SSHRC. His postdoctoral grant last February, the one partly used for piercing and tattoo, was $82,000.

For $147,000 or so, have the taxpayers furthered the career of a brilliant scholar? Well, he's already achieved some international recognition. In 2004, at the Slayage International Conference in Nashville, he won the prize for Best Essay on Buffy Studies.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My First Editorial Lunch

Had a GREAT meeting with my editor today. Got a tour of Ace-Penguin (Amazing! Penguin has 5 floors!) and then we had sushi at a cool little place off Hudson St. She had very nice things to say about the series, and assuaged a lot of my fears about its longevity. Still crossing my fingers, and nothing of course is "official," but I think that Tess Corday will have many adventures. Several. At least 3-4. Adventures. I think. And maybe more.

I saw the tentative cover art. Very swank! I kind of had a mini heart-attack when she showed it to me, since I wasn't expecting to see it so early. And, really, how are you supposed to react when you suddenly see the cover of your first novel in front of you. I'll admit it. I peed in my pants a little.

There are still some technical things I'm hoping to work out with the image. Mostly, I think the character looks too skinny, but they're sending it back to the art dept and very nicely taking my suggestions (i.e., authorial fussiness) into account.

I can't wait to get the "flat" version of the cover, which is basically the wrap-around outside of the book with image, synopsis, and blurb. Who will blurb it, you ask? Well, I don't know yet for sure, but a name did come up during lunch. A name that would make me very, very happy.

Matt is meeting with Eve Sedgwick for the first time. Then we're having late dinner. If I'm a very good boy, I'll mark some essays tonight. But, really, wouldn't it be more fun to...just not?

More info to come!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And it's off

Just emailed the revised manuscript of NIGHT CHILD to my editor. Hope it's good enough. Dear God. Time to go home for a beer!

My new favorite picture

(C) Matthew Rohweder, Sept 2007

Also, I am starting to put together a project-proposal for my Queer Grads volume. (The editor at Chicago UP, after passing on it, said it was "bold." This gives me hope). Does anyone have any suggestions for queer-positive and feminist alternative presses? I've tried Between The Lines and Polity. but I want to try others as well.