Comparative Literature PhD Ramsey McGlazer is the co-winner of the 2016 ACLA/Bernheimer Prize, awarded to the best dissertation (nationally) in Comparative Literature.
His thesis is titled “Old Schools: Modernisms, Pedagogy, and the Critique of Progress”:
We know the name of the wind that causes all the wreckage in Walter Benjamin’s picture of history. It is blowing from paradise, but it is what we call progress. Ramsay McGlazer’s learned, lucid dissertation explores certain modern resistances to this wind. They are surprising ones, and it takes all of McGlazer’s considerable wit and sense of intellectual balance to keep their paradoxes alive. How can he find ‘radical potential’ in seemingly retrograde gestures; show that ‘outmoded forms become key resources for a modernist aesthetic production that they might appear to rule out’?
He does not deny the conventional modernizing claim that ‘old- school’ practices and principles can be ‘deadening, mind-numbing’; but he does remind us the ‘ongoing… forward march’ can be ‘oddly dusty’. In the body of the dissertation he takes us carefully through a series of irresistible instances: the writings of Walter Pater, of Giovanni Pascoli, an impeccably pedantic episode of Joyce’s Ulysses, and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Salò. He has a coda that shifts continents and looks at Glauber Rocha’s film Claro. Metaphorically McGlazer calls these moves ‘returns to Rome’, implicitly inverting the adage. Not all roads lead there, but the ones that do alter the idea of the road.