Dear Search Committee:

I am applying for the position of Assistant Professor in Philosophy. I am an advanced doctoral candidate in Philosophy (with minors in Urban Studies and English), and expect to defend my dissertation in May, 2015.

My dissertation, Both Sides Now applies a bilateral, hylomorphic analysis to the phenomenon that is described by the signifier “clouds.” Having been constituted in Western discourse both positively as “rows and flows of angel hair,” “ice cream castles in the air,” “feather canyons everywhere,” and negatively as objects that exist solely to obscure the sun, express rain and snow, and hinder the achievement of various goals, we can conclude that after the application of this bilateral, hylomorphic analysis that due to these contradictory “up” and “down” epistemologies of cloud tropes, the reality of clouds is somehow still understudied, having been ignored in favor of their Platonic form/sign, and that we really don’t “know” clouds at all.

My research then departs from this analysis of clouds to intervene in the long-standing paradigm in which Plato’s “ascent of love” is understood as always already guiding the subject towards transcendent forms. Love can direct one to what is good, beautiful, and true, as Plato claims – the moons and Junes and Ferris wheels of life. While love’s affect is often felt as a dizzy, dancing way of feeling, like a fairy tale come to life, I adopt a theoretical framework closer to Vlastos, rather than the standard readings of Plato’s work, and argue that the performative acts that come with love share qualities in common Bergson’s understanding of the comic, which, in his words “gives us, in a single combination, the illusion of life and the distinct impression of a mechanical arrangement” – in other words, there is laughter in the performance of love, but is there always caring? We cannot know, and making the Kierkegaardian “leap of faith,” to assume Plato is right, to say “I love you!” right out loud, with all of the tears, and fears, and feelings of pride that come with this can result in loss through alienation from others because of the gain of the relation of one’s self to one’s self that this necessitates. At the same time, these gains and losses are only felt in the realm of the quotidian; in reflecting, it is only life’s illusions we can recall. This approach brings Kierkegaard and Plato into dialogue with each other, providing two sides from which to approach the study of not merely clouds, but life and love also in this context.

My next project will examine the idea of travel in the specific context of the loneliness (exemplified in the literary trope of “the road”) that this experience can cause, and the general context of the feelings of love, hate, self-searching, and the desire for self-renewal that motivate the urge to travel. There are a large number of relationships in English literature that are predicated on these desires, which remaining unsatisfied as all desires do, leave the subject empty, “blue.” This study will seek to examine this literary trope and fill the lacuna on the topic.

I am prepared to teach core graduate and undergraduate courses on Plato, Existentialism, and Urban Development. I find that the use of case studies in my Urban Development class is particularly effective; one of central importance in my class is the study of the gentrification of the town of Paradise, in which the expansion of parking, due to the construction of three small buildings — a pink hotel, a boutique store, and an entertainment venue, resulted in a snowballing effect that resulted in deforestation in the region, the commodification of remaining forests as a tourist attraction, the proliferation of DDT in local crops, and a sharp increase in crime. (In the interest of personal transparency, I must admit that my interest in this particular case stems from the abduction of my father from this town by a group of bandits that used a large yellow taxi to conceal their intent from their victims.) My students have gone on to perform successfully in graduate programs throughout the US.

I envision collaborating with Carey on projects dealing with the construction of the departure act, drawing primarily on archives in Matala, but perhaps in Rome or Amsterdam as well. His cantankerous yet fatherly personality is well known in the academy, but I still find him agreeable.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the APA conference; I have an important previous engagement in California that I need to take care of.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.

Joni Mitchell