Today is the second anniversary of my return to Texas. A year ago I posted an entry "Reflections on the Past Year - #1" that told the story of my first year back in my hometown of Denton. I thought that I would try to make such a post an annual event, and so here you have the second entry "Reflections on the Past Year - #2".
As is the case with my online autobiographical writings, I'll mostly stick to topics that relate to my academic work in some fashion or other. My personal life typically enters into the story only insofar as it somehow impinges on my scholarly efforts. It's not that I'm shy about writing about my personal life, but I figure that the other people who would necessarily have to be mentioned might not want to turn up in the bits of autobiography that I post every once in a while. Hence my decision not to say very much about my personal life.
Last year's post mentioned that in the the previous year I had resolved to remain an independent scholar, and thus not to make any attempt to return to academia. The same is true of the past year. As I continued to settle into life as an independent scholar, I felt less and less of a desire to go back into the classroom. Ideally, I would like to return to teaching, but I don't see how I could possibly do so on terms that I would deem favorable. Consequently, I haven't set foot in the classroom since I finished teaching at Haverford College in the spring of 2003. I'm reconciled to the likelihood that I'll never teach again.
The work on my house has continued off and on during the past year, but on a much reduced scale. There wasn't much left to do once the extensive renovations of mid-2003 and early 2004 were completed. But in September 2004 the central air system was replaced with more efficient modern equipment. I immediately noticed a drop in my electricity bill, which was nice, especially given that I have to endure the Texas summer. That was easier for me to do twenty years ago, I might add.
I bought a new sofa and made arrangements for re-upholstering three chairs and a couch. (That takes more time than the previous sentence lets on. Picking out fabric is almost as agonizing as choosing paint colors or wallpaper patterns.) Everything was delivered by the beginning of November 2004. Decorating the walls became the next priority. I put up a lot of pictures, bought a tapestry for the den, and did the many other things that accompany re-decorating an entire house. Fortunately, none of these tasks was especially time-consuming, and so my scholarly work wasn't disturbed very much. Recently, I've been restoring some old pieces of furniture. It's time-consuming, but the results are worthwhile.
During the summer of 2004 I began writing a chapter on Fichte's Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre. (My Fichte entry for The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy will bring you up to speed on this particular book by Fichte.) I had to compress a complex and obscure work into a chapter of only 10,000 words. The writing went very slowly, partly because it's the nature of such a task to move at a glacial pace, partly because I injured a tendon in my right hand, probably from working in the yard. The injury made it difficult for me to sit in front of the computer and type for any length of time. Even today, as I write this post, my hand still bothers me. It's gotten much better, of course, but I'm surprised that a tendon takes so long to heal.
I finished the draft of the chapter by the middle of December 2004. It was sent out to readers for comments, and I also asked several friends to read it as well. I gathered up all of the comments and made the appropriate revisions by the end of March 2005. The chapter is now in production at the press, and it will soon appear in volume three of Central Works of Philosophy, edited by John Shand for Acumen Publishing.
While I was grappling with the Fichte chapter, Paul Guyer, Fred Rauscher and I finally completed our volume of the Cambridge Kant Edition. Ten years ago we began to translate a selection of Kant's posthumously published notes and fragments, which is why our book is entitled Notes and Fragments. I had translated my assigned portion of the material by the middle of 1999, but the project stalled for several years. Eventually, however, the translations were completed, and by the fall of 2004 the volume was in page proofs. We read the proofs, sent the corrections to the press, and the book was published about two months ago. It was quite a relief to bring that project to an end.
In early 2005 I spent a lot of time re-organizing my library. What I want to study and write about in the next few years has become clearer to me, and so I had to acquire quite a few books, which demanded in turn that I sell some of the old ones in order to make room on my shelves. Anyone interested in academic books can tell you that they're best acquired deliberately and slowly. There are so many secondary works that look good at first glance but turn out not to be especially helpful that one has to be cautious when shopping for them. Consequently, I did a lot of research into what I really needed to own before I ordered anything.
I'm already under contract (in collaboration with Yolanda Estes) for a volume of translations and commentary relating to Fichte and the atheism dispute of 1798-1800. My library was already adequate for that project. But since I've definitely decided to write a book on Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, I had to make the appropriate adjustments to my books. If you look at my academic autobiography, you'll see the ups and downs of this project, which has been on my mind for quite a while. Fortunately, I'm now in a position to devote myself to writing that book. I'm currently working on the proposal to send to an editor who has expressed an interest in the project.
I'm also toying with the idea of writing a book on horror film, but it will be a while before I have a more concrete plan. The theme of the book will certainly be that of an essay that I published about two years ago, an essay in which I discussed what I call the Heideggerian uncanny. For the moment, though, I'm simply watching horror films in an effort to choose the right ones to discuss in the book that I hope to write. At least that's what I tell myself while I'm watching movies instead of working on philosophy. It's good to be able to rationalize one's less than exalted inclinations, isn't it?
I'll close this post on a more personal note. I've been back in Texas for two years, but not, as many readers already know, because it was where I most wanted to live. After my parents died the necessary details can be found in my academic autobiography I didn't really have much choice but to leave Philadelphia and return to my hometown. Nonetheless, I've often thought that I made a mistake by coming back. For many months I wasn't sure that I could stay here and do the work that I would like to do. But I've learned that I can in fact stay here and work as an independent scholar. After all, I've managed to complete or begin several projects. Consequently, as long as I stick to my resolution not to return to academia, I suspect that I'll remain in Texas.