The Melloniad 2021

The Mellon School! But how? No Farkas Hall,
no luxury dorms, in fact no space at all.
Performatizing in our virtual room,
our virtual field was brought to us by Zoom
as Noe sent us critically back to college
while Elizabeth hosted De/Colonial knowledge.
Taking stock of the Humanities,
Martin launched us with pagan histories,
radical distance, hodgepodge self-reliance,
and the rallying cry “at least we’re not a science.”
Enough with hermeneutics of suspicion!
It’s time to de-provincialize tradition,
boost our street cred, befriend post-critique,
and hope that crunching data makes us chic.
Derek informed us, much to our surprise,
that all performance is technologized.
Since data are not ontological,
Big Theatre now can rise above it all
and deftly bring to light (O brave new prism!)
histories of performance capitalism.
Just when our faith in books began receding,
Namwali came to give us notes on reading.
Good news! No need to man the barricade—
Rrreading will save the field by throwing shade.
When hegemonic sciences hold sway,
affective ambivalence will save the day,
and deconstructionists can still be zealous
love-hating Empson or Bret Easton Ellis.
Rita offered lessons to the leery
about the joys of Actor Network Theory—
instead of shade and DH catalogues,
we now became attuned to Chekhov’s dogs.
Suddenly we were going with the flow,
Bourdieu explaining Barry Manilow,
and though affective ties seem private ritual,
we learned at last to cry at Joni Mitchell.
Carrie gave us our next marching orders,
inviting us to map performative borders,
eschewing fictions of geography
for Trump’s aestheticized scenography.
We woke from theory’s optimistic slumber
to find that porous borders sell us lumber,
and though erasing walls is not removal,
at least we don’t need IRB approval.
Problematizing monocultural Eden,
Monica transported us to Sweden,
where children’s lit gets special emphasis,
and rhizome dallies with parenthesis.
But how address its racial squeamishness
when art proclaims its Afroswedishness?
Aesthetic citizenship must show the way—
and we’ll get to Africa through Beyoncé.
With radical embodiment and deep breathing,
Shamell taught us collective freedom dreaming.
We learned that everything’s an iteration,
and visions come with sound bowl meditation.
Having shifted, not dismantled, our critiques,
we leave grateful for these precious Mellon weeks.

See also: Andrew Sofer