My name is Benjamin D. Hagen, and I am an Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Dakota. Sketching a Present does not represent the views of USD’s faculty or its administration or the South Dakota Board of Regents. It is merely a self-indulgent—somewhat semi-professional—project of pain and pleasure that hopes (at most) to bump into the lives of others once in a while.
This site is a space for a few of my hobbyhorses—reading poetry aloud, working slowly through a difficult book—but it’s also a drawing board where I might sketch out ideas I hope to explore in my teaching and research.
In May 2012, I graduated with my Ph.D. in English from the University of Rhode Island after the defense of my dissertation, “Encounters with an Otherwise: On the Lookout with Woolf, Lawrence, Stevens, and Deleuze.” The project tried to give an alternative account of literary modernism’s preoccupation with The New. While most accounts of this preoccupation focus on formal or stylistic experimentation, I study the risks and rewards of introducing newness into daily life: thinking deformatively (Gilles Deleuze), learning to read in another way (Virginia Woolf), loving otherwise (D.H. Lawrence), and growing old differently (Wallace Stevens). Though Deleuze, Woolf, Lawrence, and Stevens certainly adopt an experimental ethos typical of modernists, they do not (always) adopt the heroic posture of Ezra Pound and other vanguardists. Rather, they strive to cultivate and sustain attitudes of readiness, randomness, and prudence. They “go on the lookout,” as Deleuze puts it, for something “that might touch [them], that might affect [them].” They “risk having an encounter with an idea,” a feeling, or a force they had not foreseen (Gilles Deleuze from A to Z).
For these writers, The New is the reward neither of genius nor of willfulness; rather, it is the vital, conceptual, and affective consequence of accidents. Newness, in other words, is neither an aspect of form nor an ideological illusion but, rather, the differential force of encounters with an otherwise.
In the years following the defense of my dissertation, I became unhappy with this project. For a while, I remained interested in thinking about The New (as one can see here and here and here) as well as accidentality (as one can see here and here and even here), but The New is no longer the lure that draws me to my favorite writers. Rather, I’ve come to be magnetized by activities of learning, thinking, loving, reading, and aging. I feel drawn to how these writers theorize and problematize these activities beyond matters of novelty, newness, or difference.
I have not abandoned my work on Deleuze, Woolf, Lawrence, or Stevens, but I am in the process of dividing and expanding my earlier work into three separate projects.
Project #1: The Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence (under contract with Clemson University Press).
Project #2: A series of articles on Wallace Stevens and Lateness
Project #3: Life and Work: Gilles Deleuze and the Objects of Literary Study (provisional title). [I’ll probably never write this book.]
In lieu of Project #3, I will be working on a short book titled, Finding Love in Literary Theory and Criticism—which I hope to begin in earnest late in 2020.
For those interested in looking up my peer-reviewed research, I do have a few publications floating out there:
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
“Feeling Shadows: Virginia Woolf’s Sensuous Pedagogy.” PMLA, vol. 132, no. 2, March 2017, pp. 266-80.
“A Future Not My Own: Thinking Aging in Two of Wallace Stevens’s Winter Lyrics.” Twentieth-Century Literature, vol. 59, no. 3, 2013, pp. 385-413.
“Radical Encounters: The Ghost and the Double in Mrs. Dalloway.” Virginia Woolf Miscellany, vol. 80, 2011, pp. 13-14.
“It Is Almost Impossible That I Should Be Here: Wordsworthian Nature and an Ethics of Self-Writing in Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Sketch of the Past.’” Virginia Woolf Miscellany, vol. 78, 2010, pp. 13-15.
“A Car, a Plane, and a Tower: Interrogating Public Images in Mrs. Dalloway.” Modernism/Modernity vol. 16, no. 3, Sept 2009, pp. 537-51.
“David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten: Ghosts, Doubles, and Writing.” The Explicator, vol. 67, no. 2, 2009, pp. 84-86.
“Bloomsbury and Philosophy.” Handbook to the Bloomsbury Group, edited by Derek Ryan and Stephen Ross. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018, pp. 135-50.
“Sir Thomas Browne and the Reading of Remains in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.” Sentencing Orlando: Virginia Woolf and the Morphology of the Modernist Sentence, edited by Elsa Högberg and Amy Bromley, Edinburgh UP, pp. 175-85.
“Furthering the Voyage: Reconsidering DeSalvo in Contemporary Woolf Studies.” Personal Effects: Essays on Culture, Teaching, and Memoir in the Work of Louise DeSalvo, edited by Nancy Caronia and Edvige Giunta, Fordham UP, 2014.
“Transgressive Simulation: Violence and Reality in Extreme Championship Wrestling.” Simulation in Media and Culture: Believing the Hype, edited Robin DeRosa, Rowman and Littlefield, 2011, pp. 141-50.