Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wright, Barbara. "Revising and Defending the Foreign Language Major." INSIDE HIGHER ED December 29, 2008.

An increasing number of foreign language programs are undergoing serious reviews of their offerings, requirements and missions — and the process is producing considerable excitement and innovation. At the same time, many foreign language professors are worried that administrators do not understand the value of their programs, which could be vulnerable to elimination the way the University of Southern California killed off German. This paradox was center stage at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association Sunday as leading thinkers about foreign language education discussed some of the reforms that have been undertaken and some of the questions departments are asking. The hope of many was that these efforts could bolster programs both educationally and politically — so that faculty lines and majors can be protected. While there was widespread support for the educational changes taking place at some institutions, there was less certainty about whether they could be carried out at institutions that don’t have deep pockets. . . . Read the rest here:

Bures, Frank. "Plato Was a Backpacker." WORLD HUM December 15, 2008.

Not far into Will Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy, I came across a startling fact. In his chapter on the Greek thinker Plato, after discussing the politics, history and geography of ancient Athens, he mentions that, due to political unrest, the philosopher was forced to leave the city-state in 399 B.C. “Where he went, we cannot for certain say,” Durant writes. “Twelve years he wandered, imbibing wisdom from every source, sitting at every shrine, tasting every creed. Some would have it that he went to Judea and was moulded there for a while by the tradition of the almost socialistic prophets; and even that he found his way to the banks of the Ganges and learned the mystic meditation of the Hindus. We do not know.” I had no idea Plato spent so much time on the road. Like most students, I was assigned to read The Republic in college—several times. As I recall, it seemed like an interesting set of mental exercises, a decent bunch of questions, with maybe even some worthwhile ideas about how society should be run. (Don’t all college students think they’re philosopher-king material?) But Plato the traveler? . . . Read the rest here:

APA Eastern 2008: Exciting Tidbits.

Visit the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division 2008 Conference homepage here: See: Romano, Carlin. "Philosophers at Work, and Hoping for It." Philadelphia Inquirer December 30, 2008:
In recent years, the APA has helped by displaying greater openness to diverse philosophical traditions. This year's program offered sessions sponsored by the Association of Chinese Philosophers in America, Concerned Philosophers for Peace, the Ayn Rand Society, and many more. The smorgasbord drew even distant non-job seekers to APA. Joshua Weinstein, 41, a native Philadelphian whose serves as director of studies at Jerusalem's Shalem Center - an Israeli think tank currently launching a new liberal arts institution, Shalem College - decided to make his first visit to APA. A Princeton grad with a doctorate in classical political philosophy from Hebrew University, Weinstein thinks "philosophy is becoming much more exciting as long-established presumptions are falling away. . . . There are just a lot of things going on that I did not expect would be going on, and, I suspect, were not going 10 years ago." To be sure, the panel on "Philosophical Perspectives on Female Sexuality" was not your grandpa's APA. Indiana University's Elizabeth Lloyd, in her paper on "Analyzing Bias in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Orgasm," crisply outlined how male assumptions ludicrously distort "Darwinian" explanations of this explosive adaptation. And the University of South Florida's Rebecca Kukla - a professor of obstetrics and gynecology as well as philosophy - offered a brilliant analytic comparison, in her "Depression, Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction: The Invisibility of Female Sexuality in Medicine," of male-directed ads for Viagra and ads aimed at female sexual dysfunction, demonstrating the ongoing belief that female sexuality, unlike male, cannot be located in a specific body part. At the same time, as at all APAs, major philosophers jousted and expounded. Following a memorial session for Richard Rorty, an American philosopher who broke free of the field into wider public recognition, Princeton's Cornel West, the noted African American thinker who has done the same, asked how others might do so. . . . (read the rest here:

Fulford, Robert. "Showing Off the Life of the Mind." NATIONAL POST December 30, 2008.

Dutton, Dennis. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution. London: Bloomsbury, 2008. Dutton's interest in cultural evolution began in the 1960s when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in India. As a student he had absorbed (and partially accepted) the academic belief that cultures are so sealed off from each other that cross-cultural understanding is all but impossible; art is "socially constructed," the product of a certain time and place, nothing else. That suggests to many scholars that attempting to see connections between cultures amounts to a form of colonialism. But in rural India, Dutton changed his mind. He discovered that the hopes, fears and vices of the Indians were altogether intelligible to a twentysomething graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. And much of the cultural life of India was equally graspable. In Hyderabad he learned the sitar from a student of Ravi Shankar and found Indian music no more remote from Western music than 17th-century Italian madrigals are from the harmonies of Duke Ellington: "The lure of rhythmic drive, harmonic anticipation, lucid structure and divinely sweet melody cuts across cultures with ease." How could this be? Were these cultures somehow connected at their roots? . . . Get the answer here:

Kellman, Steven G. "Education for Education's Sake." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION September 5, 2008.

Fish, Stanley. Save the World on Your Own Time. Oxford: OUP, 2008. To counter the old Platonic charge that poetry is mendacity, that conjuring worlds up out of words is lying, Sir Philip Sidney devised a clever strategy. The poet "nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth," contended Sidney, relieving literature of responsibility for veracity. At the beginning of his poem "Anecdote of the Jar," Wallace Stevens declares: "I placed a jar in Tennessee," but it would be ludicrous to demand eyewitness corroboration or photographic evidence. Stevens scholars do not waste their time excavating berms near Knoxville in search of shards of jars. While the poet appears to be making a statement, it is really a pseudostatement, subject to neither verification nor nullification. Although it liberated poetry, Sidney's gambit also trivialized it. If modern poetry, asserting its autonomy, says nothing, it says it to an evaporating pool of readers. To counter widespread accusations that college instruction is mendacity, inaccuracy, indoctrination, or treason, Stanley Fish adopts a strategy similar to Sidney's. Declaring that "poetry is the liberal arts activity par excellence," he pushes back against pressures from trustees, legislators, corporations, students, parents, alumni, and other taxpayers who would deny the autonomy of higher education. Insisting that, like poetry, liberal-arts education "makes no claim to efficacy beyond the confines of its performance," Fish is in effect proclaiming that college teachers are pseudoprofessors; they profess nothing. . . . Read the rest here:

MLA 2008: Exciting Tidbits.

Visit the Modern Language Association 2008 Convention homepage here: Jaschik, Scott. "David Horowitz Does the MLA." Inside Higher Ed December 30, 2008:
It’s not standard practice at meetings of the Modern Language Association to have visible security or a roped-off divide between the dais for speakers and the audience. But it’s not every MLA meeting that features David Horowitz, who has spent years attacking the group. . . . (read the rest here:
Howard, Jennifer. "MLA 2008: a Buyer's Market?" Chronicle of Higher Education December 30, 2008:
So Harvard’s not hiring this year, and it’s not alone. A lot of language-and-literature departments, though, are proceeding with searches — for now. How much do the job jitters extend to the employers’ side of the interviewing table? The Chronicle talked to professors on several search committees to find out. . . . (read the rest here:
McMillen, Liz. "Politics in the Classroom, Stanley Fish Style." Chronicle of Higher Education December 29, 2008:
MLA attendees packed into an overflowing room yesterday to hear Patricia Lynn Bizzell, Judith Butler, and Jonathan Culler, along with Mr. Fish himself, dissect Mr. Fish’s latest book, Save the World on Your Own Time (Oxford University Press). Although the discussion here was civil and even good-natured, Mr. Fish annoys people on both the left and the right by maintaining that politics has no role in the classroom and that inculcating values such as social justice and citizenship in students amounts to hubris. . . . (read the rest here:

Gottlieb, Anthony. "Review of Ingrid Rowland's GIORDANO BRUNO: PHILOSOPHER / HERETIC." NEW YORK TIMES December 21, 2008.

Rowland, Ingrid. Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008. It has become an overused word, but Giordano Bruno may justly be described as a maverick. Burned at the stake in Rome on Ash Wednesday in 1600, he seems to have been an unclassifiable mixture of foul-mouthed Neapolitan mountebank, loquacious poet, religious reformer, scholastic philosopher and slightly wacky astronomer. His version of Christianity is impossible to label. Educated by the Dominicans — the guardians of Catholic orthodoxy in those days — he revered certain scriptures and the writings of St. Augustine, always doubted the divinity of Jesus and flirted with dangerous new ideas of Protestantism, and yet hoped that the pope himself would clear him of heresy. Bruno was a martyr to something, but four centuries after his immolation it is still not clear what. It doesn’t help that the full records of his 16 interrogations in the prisons of the Roman Inquisition have been lost or destroyed. The enigma of Bruno runs deeper than that, as Ingrid Rowland, a scholar of the Renaissance who teaches in Rome, makes clear in her rich new biography, “Giordano Bruno.” Was he some sort of scientific pioneer, to be compared with Galileo, whose milder encounter with the Roman Inquisition — indeed, with the same inquisitor, Cardinal Bellarmine — followed not long afterward? Like Galileo, Bruno rejected the earth-centered cosmology and Aristotelian physics endorsed by the church. In the 19th century, historians of science saw him as an early proponent of atomic theory and the infinite universe. Or was Bruno an occultist dreamer, more magician than mathematician, as the renowned historian Frances Yates influentially argued in the 1960s? Either way, Bruno suffered for speaking his mind, though he also had a lot of bad luck, some of which he brought upon himself. . . . Read the rest here:

"Machiavelli: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and History," Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, October 17–18, 2008.

[This conference is past but it might be of interest to some.] This conference provides a venue for a broad interdisciplinary exploration of Machiavelli as a political philosopher, historian, and literary figure in his own time and beyond. Sessions explore Machiavelli's thought as it related to the ancient world, to the historical imagination and history writing, and to public opinion in his own day and earlier epochs, as well as consider the critical study and evaluation of Machiavelli in the twentieth century. The conference homepage is here:

Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008).

Jamieson, Alastair. "Nobel Laureate Playwright Harold Pinter Dies." Daily Telegraph December 26, 2008:
The writer and poet penned more than 30 plays, including The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. His style of dialogue, with its long pauses and disconnected conversation, was so distinctive that the word "Pinteresque" entered the Oxford English Dictionary. His wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said: “He was a great, and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years.” The east London-born playwright had been due to pick up an honorary degree earlier this month from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London but was forced to withdraw due to illness. After an early struggle for recognition he became widely accepted as one of the world's greatest playwrights after winning acclaim for works including The Birthday Party and Betrayal. Pinter was well-known for his left-wing political views and was a vociferous critic of US and UK foreign policy, voicing opposition on a number of issues including the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. (Read the rest here:
Kamm, Oliver. "Harold Pinter: an Impassioned Artist who Lost Direction on the Political Stage." Times December 26, 2008:
Pinter’s dramatic work has an inescapably political dimension in its portrayal of domestic lives that are pervaded by fear of external and often unperceived threat. In The Birthday Party, two strangers threaten and eventually apprehend the main character. In The Caretaker, Aston is in terror of the electroconvulsive therapy intended to ward off insanity. In The Dumb Waiter, a person unseen sends messages on the dumbwaiter. He valiantly campaigned against torture and – through the writers’ association, PEN – for freedom of artistic expression. But when Pinter attempted to identify threats in his explicitly political writings, his work descended to crude caricature. Pinter turned to political writing at a time when other leading left-wing dramatists perceived the limits of radical theatre. In an interview in 1996, he said: “Political theatre now is even more important than it ever was, if by political theatre you mean plays that deal with the real world, not with a manufactured or fantasy world.” Yet the political world that Pinter conjured up was an extravagant fantasy. In it, the Western democracies exemplified not imperfection or even moral failings, but venality and bloodlust. . . . . (read the rest here:

Solum, Lawrence B. "Legal Theory Lexicon: Pragmatism." LEGAL THEORY BLOG December 28, 2008.

There was a time when those in the know, the cognoscenti of the legal academy, subscribed to what was widely know as the "theory of the month club." But something became quite clear as the years became decades: there were no winners in the debates between and among the advocates of big normative theories. Skirmishes and battles were won and lost, but there were no declarations of victory, surrenders, or peace treaties in the theory wars. So it was probably inevitable that there should be some sort of reaction--an antitheoretical counterrevolution. And there was--or rather, there were several reactions. One move was away from the normative altogether and towards positive law and economics and empirical legal studies. Another move was away from abstract theories and towards contextual approaches to feminist legal theory and critical race theory. And yet another move was to pragmatism--a term that resonates with both the heritage of American philosophical pragmatism (Pierce, James, and Dewey) and the appeal of common sense in its particularly lawyerly form--the preoccupation with the practical. This entry in the Legal Theory Lexicon provides an introduction to "legal pragmatism" for law students, especially first-year law students, with an interest in legal theory. As always, the Lexicon provides a "quick and dirty" introduction to a topic on which whole articles and books can and have been written. Legal pragmatism is related to (but distinct from) philosophical pragmatism. . . . Read the rest here:

Mootz, Francis J. "Perelman in Legal Education: Recalling the Rhetorical Tradition of Isocrates and Vico."

Abstract: This paper was presented on October 14, 2008 as part of a panel addressing "The Influence of Perelman in Legal Philosophy" at a conference hosted by the Perelman Center for the Philosophy of Law, Free University of Brussels. I argue that Perelman's philosophy is connected with legal practice, but that he never made the connections between his philosophy and legal education explicit. I refer to the work of Isocrates and Vico, and conclude that Perelman's philosophy can teach us much about contemporary legal education as we strive to address the questions raised by the Carnegie Report. Download the paper here:

White, James Boyd. "Law, Economics and Torture."

Law and Democracy in the Empire of Force. Ed. White and and H. J. Powell. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2009. Abstract: This paper addresses three sets of questions, among which it wishes to draw connections: (1) Why has there been so little resistance to the recent massive transfer of national wealth to the rich and super-rich? It is the majority who are injured, and they presumably hold the power in a democracy: why have they not exercised it? (2) Why are law schools so dominated by questions of policy, with rather little interest in the intellectual and linguistic activities of the practicing lawyer and judge? Why indeed do judicial opinions themselves seem so often to be written in a dead and mechanical way? (3) Why has there been so little outrage and outcry at the present administration's efforts to make the torture of suspects and captives a normal and legalized part of the government's business? This paper was given at a conference in Ann Arbor, in April 2007, entitled "Law and Democracy in the Empire of Force," at which a dozen scholars addressed their respective understandings of the state of American legal and democratic culture. The publication of the essay in SSRN is with the permission of the University of Michigan Press. The phrase, "empire of force," is taken from Simone Weil's famous essay on the Iliad, where she uses it to refer not only to physical or military force, but to all the ways in which a culture teaches its members to erase the humanity of others. Download the paper here:

Mootz, Francis. "Faithful Hermeneutics." Annual Meeting, Association of American Law Schools, January 9, 2009.


This article was presented as part of a panel on "Scriptural and Constitutional Hermeneutics," co-sponsored by the Law and Religion Section, Section on Jewish Law, and Section on Islamic Law, and the papers will be published by the Michigan State Law Review.

My article compares legal and religious hermeneutics by exploring the dual nature of what I term "faithful hermeneutics." The ambiguity evoked by this phrase is intentional. On one hand, it suggests an investigation of the relationship between legal and religious interpretation by comparing hermeneutical activities undertaken by faithful adherents to these two different textual traditions. In this first sense, it is to compare how these practices are the hermeneutics of the faithful. On the other hand, the phrase suggests an analysis of how interpreters in these two traditions remain faithful to the nature of their practice. In this second sense, it is to compare how hermeneutics can be faithfully accomplished. My thesis is that these two senses of "faithful hermeneutics" are connected. The fact that it is faithful adherents who engage in the interpretive practice in large part defines how they can, and should, remain faithful to the interpretive enterprise. I anchor my argument in Hans-Georg Gadamer's critique of historicism, in which he references the practices of legal and religious hermeneutics. Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics explains how faith is a prerequisite of understanding, even as understanding revitalizes and reshapes the faith one brings to a textual tradition. I then unfold the critical dimensions of faithful hermeneutics by comparing the work of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and Gianni Vattimo on the Catholic tradition. I argue that these two thinkers display both the broad range and the non-methodological character of the critical insights of faithful hermeneutics. I conclude by suggesting that the parallels between religious and legal hermeneutics are instructive, but that we remember that it would be a mistake to conflate these two instances of faithful hermeneutics in our secular age.

Download the paper here:

Cfp: "Then and Now," Second Annual U.S. Intellectual History Conference, Center for the Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center, November 12-13, 2009.

The Conference is being organized by the editors of the U.S. Intellectual History (USIH) weblog in coordination with CUNY's Center for the Humanities (The Graduate Center). The theme for 2009 is "Then And Now." The "Now" aspect of the theme invites papers tracing the outlines and intellectual roots of contemporary ideas, institutions, and significant thinkers. "Then" invites both works in U.S. intellectual history broadly conceived and historiographic analyses of U.S. intellectual history—a timely topic with 2009 marking the 30-year anniversary of John Higham and Paul K. Conkin's landmark edited collection of essays, New Directions in American Intellectual History. We seek fresh, interdisciplinary scholarship exploring either new subjects or innovative methodologies in relation to U.S. intellectual life. The potential for inter-disciplinary work honors the mission of this year's host, The Center for the Humanities. Finally, while "Then and Now" constitutes our vision for 2009, feel free to inquire about departures. The first USIH Conference held October 2008 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, attracted 32 paper presenters from 33 different institutions across the United States. Examples of topics covered in the 11 resultant panels include: Cold War liberalism, the politics of publishing and mass media, political conversions, friendship and masculinity, historiography, Progressive Era reform, multiculturalism, higher education, pragmatism, and anti-intellectualism. For the 2009 Conference, please submit digital abstracts for papers, panels, or both by Monday, June 15, 2009. Proposals should be approximately 200 words and include a concise curriculum vitae for each participant. Be sure to include your postal and e-mail addresses, as well as a phone number. Those interested in chairing a session or commenting should send a CV indicating areas of expertise and interests. Papers must take no longer than 30 minutes in a 2-paper session or 20 minutes in a 3-paper session. Sessions will last 120 minutes. Conference headquarters will be The Center for the Humanities in CUNY's Graduate Center. Suggestions for nearby hotel accommodations will be available at a continuously updated USIH link after the new year. Please address all inquiries and abstracts to: Paul Murphy ( or Tim Lacy ( Further information may be found here:

Cfp: "Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship," Annual Conference, ANZCA, Queensland University of Technology, July 8-10, 2009.

Communication exists as an everyday social practice, as a skill or art applied in a range of contexts (business, politics, entertainment, etc.), as an application of media technologies to reach audiences and communities, and as an interdisciplinary field for teaching, research and scholarship, and community engagement. As creativity is increasingly sought as a socio-cultural practice whose application extends beyond the arts to all aspects of economic and social life, new challenges are being presented for the application of communication in a range of contexts. Digital media technologies enable new modes of social networking and participation that challenge the sender-receiver, producer-consumer orthodoxies of 20th century mass media and mass communication. Meanwhile, the challenges of globalisation and multicultural societies are presenting both the need and the opportunity for new forms of citizenship that cross national boundaries. These challenges raise questions of global citizenship and public communication spaces that require new attention to be given to questions of global media ethics and intercultural communicative capacities. The 2009 meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association welcomes papers from across a range of academic disciplines, including-but not exclusive to-advertising; business and marketing communication; communication studies; digital media and Internet studies; cultural studies; film, media, radio, and television studies; journalism; organisational and interpersonal communication; public relations; and the creative, visual, and performing arts. We particularly welcome the contribution of creative and professional practitioners, as well as those involved in leading-edge research in relevant academic fields. The ANZCA09 Conference is particularly seeking papers and panels that: Engage international and comparative research perspectives; Address questions of intercultural communications media and professional practice, including teaching and pedagogical practice; Challenge and work across disciplinary boundaries and established methodologies; Critically address the role of communication in creative problem-solving; Consider the implications of social networking media and participatory media cultures in challenging the dominance of the 20th century mass communications Streams will include: Advertising and integrated marketing communication Communication and pedagogy Communication ethics Digital and social media Disability and communication Entertainment Global media and communication Intercultural communication Interpersonal and small group communication Journalism and news media Media and citizenship Mobile communication Organisational communication Political communication Public relations Radio-Audio-Sound - research and practice Science and environmntal communication Speech Communication and Rhetoric Visual Communication Stream co-coordinators will send out calls for papers identifying central themes shortly, but we encourage you to prepare and submit abstracts at the earliest opportunity. Those proposing panel sessions for ANZCA09 should contact the Conference organisers directly at the earliest opportunity. Full papers and abstracts to be submitted by Friday February 6, 2009. The contact for all conference enquiries is: Professor Terry Flew Media and Communication Creative Industries Faculty Queensland University of Technology E-mail: Phone: 61 7 3138 8188 Further information is available here:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Opening Up the In-Between: Interdisciplinary Reflections on Science, Technology and Social Change," University of Ghent, January 19, 2009.

Keynote speaker: Don Ihde (State University of New York) Circling around the work of Don Ihde, this one-day workshop will dwell on "in-between" aspects of science, technology and social change from a multiplicity of perspectives: (post-)phenomenology, media studies, architecture, sustainability. . . . In the work of Don Ihde, the relation between human beings and their world takes centre stage and are viewed as mutually constituting each other: human beings are what they are thanks to the ways in which they are situated in their world. In our contemporary society, this relation increasingly happens ‘through’ technological artefacts: on the one hand, artefacts mediate how human beings are present in their world, by shaping their actions and existence; and on the other, they mediate how the world is present to human beings, by shaping human experiences and interpretations of reality. Thinking in terms of the mutual constitution of human and non-human clears the way to dwell on the in-between of these human/non-human poles, rather than always already falling back to either of both sides, be it subject/object, knowledge/power, fact/value or social/technical. Further contributions by Filip Kolen, Helena De Preester, Wim Christiaens, Robrecht Vanderbeeken, Søren Riis and Erik Paredis. Visit the workshop webpage here:

Cfp: "Hermeneutics: an Exhausted Paradigm? Text, Language, World," Biblioteca Nacional, Buenos Aires, May 6-8, 2009.

Professors Gianni Vattimo (Torino), Teresa Oñate (UNED) and Jacinto Rivera Rosales (UNED) will take part in the Conference this year. The thematic axes of the Conference are: 1. Hermeneutics and Philosophy 2. Hermeneutics and the Social Sciences 3. Hermeneutics and Politics 4. Hermeneutics and Psychoanalysis 5. Hermeneutics and Religion 6. Hermeneutics and Aesthetics 7. Hermeneutics and Semiotics 8. Hermeneutics and Marxism The deadline for the presentation of abstracts will be 3 April 2009. Abstracts must be sent to They must have a maximum of 500 words, in Times New Roman typeface, size 12. Abstracts must include: Paper title, Author’s full name, Postal address, email address and phone number, the thematic axis in which the paper is included, and Institutional affiliation. Authors must also complete the application form available at the Conference’s web page (see URLs below). Publication of the papers will be arranged. For more information, visit: or, or email (in Spanish).

Green, Daniel. "Life on the Page." OPEN LETTERS MONTHLY (August 2008).

Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

The limitations of James Wood’s How Fiction Works become evident in just its first few pages. In his Introduction, Wood tells us that although he admires the critics Victor Shklovsky and Roland Barthes, among their deficiencies was their failure to write as if they expected “to be read and comprehended by any kind of common reader,” a mistake that Wood himself presumably will not make. (“Mindful of the common reader,” he writes a little later, “I have tried to reduce what Joyce calls ‘the true scholastic stink’ to bearable levels.”) But exactly who, or what, is the “common reader”? Is it the reader who keeps up on all the latest mystery novels? Who these days prefers memoir to fiction? Who might be led to read literary fiction if it could be made rather less literary? More to the point, does any kind of common reader turn to highbrow French or Russian literary critics for help with their reading strategies in the first place? Even if we were to concede the existence of large numbers of enthusiastic readers just waiting for the right literary critic to come along and illuminate the deeper mysteries of fiction for them, Wood’s book surely would not perform this task. How Fiction Works is no more free of a constricted perspective and of “specialized” discourse than A Theory of Prose or S/Z. . . .

Read the whole review here:

"Darwinian Answers to Social Questions: Why We Are, As We Are." THE ECONOMIST December 18, 2008.

Traditionally, the answers to [many] questions . . . about modern life, have been sought in philosophy, sociology, even religion. But the answers that have come back are generally unsatisfying. They describe, rather than explain. They do not get to the nitty-gritty of what it truly is to be human. Policy based on them does not work. This is because they ignore the forces that made people what they are: the forces of evolution. The reasons for that ignorance are complex. Philosophers have preached that there exists between man and beast an unbridgeable distinction. Sociologists have been seduced by Marxist ideas about the perfectibility of mankind. Theologians have feared that the very thought of evolution threatens divine explanations of the world. Even fully paid-up members of the Enlightenment, people who would not for a moment deny humanity’s simian ancestry, are often sceptical. They seem to believe, as Anne Campbell, a psychologist at Durham University, in England, elegantly puts it, that evolution stops at the neck: that human anatomy evolved, but human behaviour is culturally determined. . . . Read the rest here:

Bennet, Drake. "Paradigm Lost." BOSTON GLOBE December 21, 2008.

The deepening economic downturn has been hard on a lot of people, but it has been hard in a particular way for economists. For most of us, pain and apprehension have been mixed with a sense of grim amazement at the complexity of what has unfolded: the dense, invisible lattice connecting house prices to insurance companies to job losses to car sales, the inscrutability of the financial instruments that helped to spread the poison, the sense that the ratings agencies and regulatory bodies were overmatched by events, the wild gyrations of the stock market in the past few months. It's hard enough to understand what's happening, and it seems absurd to think we could have seen it coming beforehand. The vast majority of us, after all, are not experts. But academic economists are. And with very few exceptions, they did not predict the crisis, either. Some warned of a housing bubble, but almost none foresaw the resulting cataclysm. An entire field of experts dedicated to studying the behavior of markets failed to anticipate what may prove to be the biggest economic collapse of our lifetime. And, now that we're in the middle of it, many frankly admit that they're not sure how to prevent things from getting worse. As a result, there's a sense among some economists that, as they try to figure out how to fix the economy, they are also trying to fix their own profession. . . . Read the rest here:

McCloskey, Deirdre. "Sliding into PoMo-ism from Samuelsonianism." RETHINKING MARXISM (2008).

In an essay in Cullenberg, Amariglio, and Ruccio, eds. (2001) I went about as far as you can go in arguing that postmodernism wells up within modernism. I argued that the recent postmodernism we all celebrate was a response to a European modernism that arose about 1910---"modernism" being the conviction that We Have All the Answers Now, Because We Are Modern. You could see modernism around 1910 in The Rite of Spring, on the one hand, and the Hilbert Program of mathematics on the other. You could see it around 1980 in the physics and the architecture and the evening performances of string quartets at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. You can see it persisting into the 21st century in a Samuelsonianism that goes on and on asserting that there "must" be micro-foundations for macroeconomics, without telling us exactly why. My main points in the 2001 essay were that (1.) there have been many modernisms, all of them bossy and elitist and wanna-be-aristocratic, starting with Plato; and that therefore (2.) there have also been many postmodernisms, such as the sophists (that is, the defenders of democracy) attacked by Plato. Augustine vs. Irish heresies. Bacon vs. Montaigne. French vs. Scottish Enlightenment. The pomo is rhetorical, casuistic, virtue-ethical, narrative, anti-elitist, and pragmatic. It challenges stable values in the sense of the values of convention, normal science, rich people, the given. . . . Read the rest here:

Human Rights Watch. "This Alien Legacy: the Origins of Sodomy Laws in British Colonialism." December 17, 2008.

This 66-page report describes how laws in over three dozen countries, from India to Uganda and from Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860. This year, the High Court in Delhi ended hearings in a years-long case seeking to decriminalize homosexual conduct there. A ruling in the landmark case is expected soon. Download the report here:

Kugelmass, Joseph. "Stop Using Rhetoric to Teach Writing." INSIDE HIGHER ED December 23, 2008.

After almost five years teaching writing, English, ESL, and humanities courses to high school students and undergraduates, I have come to the conclusion that it is a serious mistake to ground undergraduate instruction in writing in the basics of Aristotelian rhetoric. I believe doing so is increasingly common, and that it is increasingly normal for universities to reframe composition jobs as being in “rhetoric and composition.” This is a discussion somewhat rooted in the practicalities of teaching first-year undergraduates to write, but it has much broader implications. It is part of a larger conversation about what, exactly, the humanities are supposed to mean at a historical moment when college-level reading and writing skills are quite valuable, yet also when the political and economic conditions put “anti-ideological” pressure on institutions of higher learning. In other words, universities increasingly see themselves as preparing students to write fluently on any topic, from any perspective. . . . Read the rest here:

Jaschik, Scott. "Coherence, Literature, Languages." INSIDE HIGHER ED December 23, 2008.

When literature and language professors gather in San Francisco this weekend for the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, one topic on the agenda is the state of the undergraduate major in English and foreign languages. A report prepared jointly by the MLA and the Teagle Foundation outlines a series of goals for these undergraduate programs — at least one of which the report calls “radical.” That stance is that all English majors should have the language skills to study literature in another language — and that foreign language majors be able to study literature in English. Other key emphases of the report — which focuses on themes, not specific course assignments — are not likely to find much opposition among the MLA rank and file. For example, the report stresses the importance of literature and of coherence as students in the major move from course to course. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: 30th Anniversary Edition of Rorty's PHILOSOPHY AND THE MIRROR OF NATURE (2009).

Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979. For more information, visit:

Reznik, Vladislava. "Re-Socialising Saussure: Romm's Unpublished Review of MARXISM AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE." CAHIERS DE L'ILSL 24 (2008).

Abstract: As one of the most original and intellectually daring linguistic works of its epoch, Valentin Vološinov's Marxism and the Philosophy of Language provoked controversial reactions, reflected in the published reviews of the book. However, it is perhaps the unpublished review by Aleksandr Romm that presents a particular interest, as an autonomous attempt to re-conceptualise both Vološinov's and Saussure's linguistic thought. A member of the Moscow Linguistic Circle and the first translator of Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale into Russian, Romm had been an enthusiastic follower of Saussure's work and opposed the general anti-Saussurean movement in Soviet linguistic and literary studies of the late 1920s. In his review of MPL, Romm offers an original resolution of Vološinov's antinomy between the so-called ‘abstract objectivism’ and ‘individualist subjectivism’ or, in other words, between the two opposite approaches to language as a specific object of scientific inquiry. In contrast to Vološinov, he does not refute langue, but seeks to combine the Saussurean and Humboldtian frameworks to produce a dialectical view of both langue and parole as simultaneously social product and linguistic activity. This is achieved by introducing a third concept, the word (slovo), which Romm interprets in a phenomenological sense, demonstrating a strong influence of Gustav Spet's ideas and the ‘Špetian’ progress of the scholar's views on Saussure. Although unfinished and unpublished, Romm's review remains an extremely interesting document, which does not only serve as an example of the evolution of Saussureanism, but also as a testimony to the shift of paradigms in Soviet linguistics of the late 1920s. Read the whole essay here:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cfp: "Rethinking the Mangrove," 2nd Symposium Critical Practices in Caribbean Cultural Studies, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Oct. 15-17, 2009.

'Rethinking the Mangrove' is an invitation to reconceptualize Caribbeanness beyond the limitations of nation, language and culture, focusing on the crosscurrents that traverse the multiple and overlapping spaces and subjectivities of the Caribbean. The roots of the mangrove, which hang above the water, evoke a Caribbean alternative to an ethno-linguistically monolithic ideal of identity symbolized by the terrestrial root. This conference solicits papers and panels in English, Spanish and French from across humanistic and scientific disciplines that explore notions of "Caribbeanness," "Antillanismo" or "Antillanité" or any of its many aspects. We invite paper and panel proposals in the following areas: Cultural theory of the Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanophone Caribbean Caribbean anthropologies, histories and/or literatures Gender, sexuality and Caribbean cultural studies Caribbean diasporas and migrations Caribbean popular culture Ecologies of the Caribbean archipelago (Post)foundational voices of Caribbean cultural studies (Counter)national discourses of the Caribbean Colonialism, neocolonialism andpostcolonialism in the Caribbean Caribbean integration initiatives (political, economic, cultural) Atlantic studies and the Caribbean Discourses of race in the Caribbean Historical legacies of slavery in the Caribbean Afrodiasporic cultures and identities in the Caribbean Transcaribbean cultural expression Latin American/Latino cultures and the Caribbean Visual arts in the Caribbean Visit the conference hompage here:

Herrnstein Smith, Barbara. "A Cognitive Revolution? Naturalism, Otherwise." THE IMMANENT FRAME June 23, 2008.

The past fifteen years or so have been a period of extraordinary activity in pursuit of what are called “cognitive” and/or “evolutionary” explanations of religion. These include, in addition to Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (the focus of my previous post), a number of other self-consciously innovative books with titles like How Religion Works: Towards a New Cognitive Science of Religion, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. What unites these works and distinguishes them from the broader naturalistic tradition in religious studies is, first, the centrality for their approach of methods and theories drawn from evolutionary psychology and the rather sprawling field of “cognitive science” and, second, the more or less strenuous identification of their efforts with “science,” itself rather monolithically and sometimes triumphalistically conceived. In these two respects, these and related works constitute what could be called the New Naturalism in religious studies. The New Naturalist program requires, in my view, careful review and discriminating assessment. The intellectual interest of the general program and the promise of its cognitive-evolutionary approaches for affording better understandings of important features of human behavior and culture should, I think, be recognized. But I also think that critical attention should be given to the intellectual confinements represented by some of the program’s characteristic theoretical assumptions and methodological commitments, especially when viewed in relation to existing methods in the naturalistic study of religion and alternative theories of human behavior, culture, and cognition. Indeed, in spite of the disdain New Naturalists commonly exhibit for prior achievements and alternative methods (as illustrated by Boyer’s wholesale brush-offs), their characteristic cognitive-evolutionary accounts of religion are likely to become more substantial, persuasive, and illuminating when joined to studies by researchers and scholars working with other naturalistic approaches to religion, both social-scientific and humanistic. . . . Read the rest here:

Mallon, Ron. "Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY November 10, 2008.

Social “construction,” “constructionism” and “constructivism” are terms in wide use in the humanities and social sciences, and are applied to a diverse range of objects including the emotions, gender, race, sex, homo- and hetero-sexuality, mental illness, technology, quarks, facts, reality, and truth. This sort of terminology plays a number of different roles in different discourses, only some of which are philosophically interesting, and fewer of which admit of a “naturalistic” approach—an approach that treats science as a central and successful (if sometimes fallible) source of knowledge about the world. If there is any core idea of social constructionism, it is that some object or objects are caused or controlled by social or cultural factors rather than natural factors, and if there is any core motivation of such research, it is the aim of showing that such objects are or were under our control: they could be, or might have been, otherwise. Determination of our representations of the world (including our ideas, concepts, beliefs, and theories of the world) by factors other than the world or our sensory experience may undermine our faith that any independent phenomena are represented or tracked, undermining the idea that there is a fact of the matter about which way of representing is correct. And determination of the non-representational facts of the world by our theories seems to reverse the “direction of fit” between representation and reality presupposed by our idea of successful epistemic activity. For both of these reasons, proponents and opponents of constructionist thought have held it to embody a challenge to the naturalism endemic in contemporary philosophy. But social constructionist themes can be and have been picked up by naturalists who accommodate and appropriate the interesting and important cultural phenomena documented by constructionist authors while attempting to avoid more radical anti-scientific and anti-realist theses widely associated with social constructionism. I begin by discussing social constructionism, and I then discuss some threads of contemporary naturalism. I go on to consider two different sorts of objects of social construction—representations and human traits—and discuss naturalistic, constructionist approaches to them. . . . Read the whole article here:

Schwartz, Adi. "Between Place and No-Place." HAARETZ November 24, 2008.

Established after World War II, Les Temps Modernes has published works by the world's leading authors and philosophers, including Simone de Beauvoir, Raymond Aron, Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus and Alberto Moravia. Now, at only 40, Zagury-Orly has had the honor of editing a special edition of the journal devoted to German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and thus of being the only Israeli member of the prestigious journal's editorial team. "Two young philosophers, Joseph Cohen and Rafael Zagury-Orly," Lanzmann wrote in the introduction, "proposed to the editorial board that Les Temps Modernes devote an entire issue to Heidegger. We agreed, due to the high quality of the proposal as well as to its clear theoretical standing. And for this we thank Cohen and Zagury-Orly." The special issue, which appeared last month, features 20 essays, including two by the editors themselves. Zagury-Orly and Cohen decided to publish an article by Heidegger himself as well, "Remarques sur art-sculpture-espace" ("Remarks on Art-Sculpture-Space"), which had never before appeared in French, as well as articles by philosophers Karl Lowith and Alphonse de Waelhens that were published in Les Temps Modernes in the late 1940s. Lowith and de Waelhens knew Heidegger personally and began to address the complexities of his thinking and work immediately after the war. The issue also includes new essays by France's leading contemporary phenomenologists: Didier Franck, Jean-Francois Mattei and Rudolf Bernet. In his essay "Insomniaque a Ephese," noted German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk tries to analyze Heidegger through a perspective other than that of Nazism. Historian Jeffrey Andrew Barash, meanwhile, argues that a reading of texts Heidegger wrote between 1933 and 1945, and especially during his year as rector of the University of Freiburg, shows that he completely embraced racial theory. So why Heidegger? And why now? Get the answer here:

Mootz, Francis. "Gadamer's Rhetorical Conception of Hermeneutics as the Key to Developing a Critical Hermeneutics."

Abstract: The rhetorical dimensions of Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics have not been fully developed by his commentators, resulting in an overly conservative rendering of his philosophy. Drawing out the rhetorical features of his work, we find that Gadamer regards textual interpretation as a rhetorical accomplishment. This characterization leads to a rich conception of critical hermeneutics. The article develops Gadamer's rhetorical hermeneutics by contrasting his approach with Paul Ricoeur's famous intervention in the Gadamer-Habermas debate, and looks to Gadamer's account of legal practice as a manifestation of critical hermeneutics in action. Download the whole paper here:

Taylor, D. J. "Review of HOW FICTION WORKS, by James Wood." THE INDEPENDENT February 3, 2008.

Whatever one may think about James Wood's constant ejaculations, his ceremonious name-dropping ("W G Sebald once said to me...") and his lecture-hall mannerisms – more of these in a moment – he really is an A-grade exponent of what university syllabi used to call "practical criticism". Some of the best bits of this brief but luminous primer – and they are very good indeed – come when Wood strips the engine of some fabled fictional juggernaut down to its component parts with the aim of establishing just how a piece of prose works to bring off its effects, the way in which, as he puts it, a novel "teaches us how to read its narrator". . . . Read the rest here:

"Mind-Narrative-Ethics," European Narratology Network, University of Hamburg, January 23-24, 2009.

Program: Friday, January 23rd, 2009 (Section I: Narrative & Mind) 02.00 – 03.00 p.m. Alan Palmer (London): ‘Expanding the Mind’; discussant: N.N. 03.00 – 04.00 p.m. Monika Fludernik (Freiburg): ‘Blending Theory and the Question of the Cognitive Extension of Narrative Situations’; discussant: Roy Sommer (Wuppertal) 04.00 – 04.30 p.m. Coffee break 04.30 – 05.30 p.m. Jean-Marie Schaeffer (Paris): ‘Plato’s Nightmare: Cognitive interactions between fictional representations and factual beliefs’; discussant: Frank Zipfel (Mainz) 05.30 – 06.30 p.m. Per Krogh Hansen (Kolding): ‘Unreliable Narration in Cinema: Facing the Cognitive Challenge Raised in Literary Studies’; discussant: Tom Kindt (Göttingen) 07.00 p.m. Buffet dinner (University Guest House) Saturday, January 24th, 2009 (Section II: Narrative & Ethics) 09.00 – 10.00 a.m. E. J. (Liesbeth) Korthals Altes (Groningen): ‘(Literary) Narrative Fiction as Negotiation of Values’; discussant: Roland Weidle (Hamburg) 10.00 – 11.00 a.m. Jakob Lothe (Oslo): ‘Narrative and Ethics: Conrad, Kafka, Sebald (Heart of Darkness, “In der Strafkolonie” and “Austerlitz”)’; discussant: Astrid Erll (Wuppertal) 11.00 – 11.30 a.m. Coffee break 11.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. Wolfgang Müller (Jena): ‘From Homer’s Odyssey to Joyce’s Ulysses: Theory and Practice of an Ethical Narratology’; discussant: Fotis Jannidis (Darmstadt) 12.30 – 01.30 p.m. Henrik Skov Nielsen (Aarhus): ‘New Ethics, New Formalism?’; discussant: Jan Alber (Freiburg) 02.00 p.m. Business Lunch for ENN members Further information may be found here:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Graham, Lorie, and Stephen McJohn. "Cognition, Law, Stories." MINNESOTA JOURNAL OF LAW, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (2009).

Abstract: This essay reviews Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought (Penguin 2007), which offers insights from cognitive science just where it overlaps the most with law - how we use basic cognitive categories like intent, space, time, events and causation. The Stuff of Thought might offer insights into a broad range of issues in legal theory. Legal theory could make more use of such cognitive science concepts as chunking, recursion, and the primary qualities of an object. Other topics likewise resonate in thinking about the law: The book suggests that metaphor is an important cognitive tool, but less constraining than might be thought. Linguistic analysis of verb classes and polysemy suggests that words have surprisingly determinate meaning. Our apparent innate sense of causation (drawn from an analysis of language) sheds light on the legal treatment of causation. Lastly, The Stuff of Thought describes the role of indirect speech, whereby people convey information without revealing their state of mind - which often allows social interaction to proceed smoothly. Default rules in the law, we suggest, often play an analogous role. The essay then explores the cognitive aspects of stories (following literary theorists like Mark Turner who have linked cognitive science with narrative theory), suggesting a recursive definition of story, and another angle to the trolley problem. Looking at the cognitive role of stories permits a fuller view of legal reasoning, learning, and remembering. This fits well with recent scholarship, such as work on origin stories, and law and genre theory. Download the paper here:

McHugh, Paul R. "Hysteria in Four Acts." COMMENTARY (December 2008).

In 1973, the journalist Flora Rhea Schreiber collaborated with Cornelia Wilbur, a Manhattan psychiatrist, in writing Sybil, the story of a young woman who, while under Wilbur’s care, developed sixteen “personalities.” In each distinct “alter”— alternative personality—she behaved in a different way, at one time or another “depicting” aggressive males, defenseless children, and intellectual women. In their book, which was an enormous bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and inspired a hugely popular four-hour movie for television, the collaborating authors proposed that the “disintegration” of Sybil’s mind into several personalities was the result of her having repressed the memory of sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her mother in childhood. Although the abuse itself was never confirmed, the book and the television movie ignited a craze. Schreiber heard from numerous women who credited her with opening their eyes to their own multiple personalities. Other biographies soon appeared. (Only one, The Minds of Billy Milligan [1981], remains in print.) Like Sybil, they all linked multiple-personality disorder (MPD) to childhood abuse—a practice that, at the time, was being reported with distressing frequency by pediatricians. What went unmentioned in Sybil was a serious difference of opinion between Wilbur and Herbert Spiegel, a fellow psychiatrist whom she had consulted. In a May 1995 interview, Spiegel told of having come to know Sybil well, examining her many times and arriving at the conclusion that she was not a multiple personality at all. Instead, Spiegel characterized Sybil as “a wonderful hysterical patient with role confusion, which is typical of high hysterics. It was hysteria.” But Schreiber, he related, rejected his interpretation summarily and insisted that they stick to the original diagnosis—because “if we don’t call [her] a multiple personality, we don’t have a book!” Looking back in 1995, Spiegel was impressed with how the publication of Sybil had started “a whole new cult, a whole new wave of hysteria . . . a hysterical response to hysteria.” In his view, therapists specializing in MPD were “taking highly malleable, suggestible persons and molding them into acting out a thesis that they [were] putting upon them.” But what did Spiegel mean by hysteria? And what clinical and historical background was he drawing on to confirm his diagnosis? Get the answer here:

Hobson, Theo. "John Milton's Vision." OPEN DEMOCRACY December 9, 2008.

There are, according to the received wisdom of our day, two sides to the greatness of John Milton, who was born in London on 9 December 1608. First and foremost he was a great poet (despite being religious). Also, he was a champion of liberty; a key architect of the English-British tradition of liberalism (despite being religious). It is principally the latter assumption that I want to discuss, though I will come back to his literary reputation. The idea is that he helped to put his country on the path to an enlightened constitution, in which such things as freedom of the press are firmly enshrined. Liberty is "the greatest gift that Britain gave the world", in the words of prime minister Gordon Brown; and John Milton was a founding father of this noble tradition (Brown mentioned Milton in his 25 October 2007 speech about liberty). This subtly misrepresents what Milton was about. It's a variant of the Whiggish fallacy, that the history of ideas is essentially about how freedom unfolded into its present-day fullness. To call Milton a key figure in British liberalism is like calling Karl Marx a key figure in British political history. True, his thought was influential, but it is far more important to note that the entirety of his vision was shunned, rejected, reacted against. The nation defined itself in opposition to Milton's vision, considered as a whole - and still does. Unless this is acknowledged, he is treated with condescension: he is patted on the back for contributing something really useful to national identity, while his actual thought is ignored. If we are to honour Milton on his 400th birthday we must clearly recognise the persistence of his otherness - the fact that he cannot be claimed as a noble exemplar of the national soul. The nation chose against him, and still does. . . . Read the rest here:

Meilaender, Peter C. Review of Christopher Rowe's PLATO AND THE ART OF PHILOSOPHICAL WRITING. BMCR (December 2008).

Rowe, Christopher. Plato and the Art of Philosophical Writing. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. Plato is the great philosophical flirt. He is the philosophical critic of poetry and the most poetic of philosophers, the defender of justice whose apparent model of the good man shuns political participation, the critic of writing who writes--never, however, in his own voice, but typically through that of a man known for his irony. Plato is always tempting the reader with apparent morsels of knowledge, then skittering gingerly away from quite endorsing them, all the while compelling the reader somehow to hunt for Plato's own views through the thickets of the philosophical conversations he reports. The question of what Plato wishes to teach us cannot be answered apart from the question of how we ought to read him in the first place. Christopher Rowe's new book is a challenging, insightful, and provocative discussion of this relationship between what Plato believed and the literary form in which he chose to present it. . . . Read the rest here:

Paparella, Emanuel L. "Martin Heidegger's Conception of Art as Truth." OVI MAGAZINE December 9, 2008.

Heidegger (1889-1976) remains one of the most influential of continental philosophers, despite his tarnished reputation due to a brief flirting with the Nazi party. He begins his analysis of art with this question: What is the origin of the work of art? What is being asked becomes clear once one understands Heidegger’s answer: “art is the origin of the work of art.” To understand this puzzling answer which sounds like a mere tautology one has to keep in mind that Heidegger has a holistic view of art. That is to say, every aspect of that complex phenomenon known as art is equally crucial to the understanding of what art is. Those aspects are fourfold: 1) the art object itself, 2) the artist (or in Heidegger’s terminology the “creator”), 3) the audience or viewer (or “preserver”), and 4) the work (in the sense of effect) of art. Heidegger never mentions any specific theory of art, nevertheless he is implicitly critical of any theoretical account that privileges one or the other of art’s four components as the essential one. So, for Heidegger the work of art, itself an ambiguous term which refers both the art object and to its effects, can be understood with reference to its role in that complex phenomenon. Once this holism of Heidegger is grasped, it becomes easier to analyze his more specific claims. The most important of those claims is the assertion that art reveals the truth of Being. From time immemorial philosophers have linked art and truth, but Heidegger’s unique conception of truth as the disclosure of Being is essential for understanding his view of art. . . . Read the rest here:

Mootz, Francis. "Ricoeur's Critical Hermeneutics and the Psychotherapeutic Model of Critical Theory." After Ricoeur Conference, October 2006.

Abstract: One of Paul Ricoeur’s enduring legacies is his sophisticated mediation of the famous debate between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas regarding the potential for, and scope of, social critique. In this paper, I first recount the Gadamer-Habermas debate, focusing on their competing accounts of the theoretical significance of Freudian psychoanalysis. Next, I sketch Ricoeur’s mediation of the debate in concert with his distinctive reading of Freud. Finally, I extend his approach by looking to psychotherapeutic model of critique. I describe the broad contours of an emerging postmodern account of psychotherapeutic practice that serves as a model of the critical hermeneutics championed by Ricoeur. . . . Download the whole paper here:

Anderson, Sam. "How James Wood's HOW FICTION WORKS Works." NEW YORK MAGAZINE August 3, 2008.

Literary critics are, above all, literary characters: verbal constructs that posture as human beings in order to sell some more or less persuasive story. You might say, in fact—if you’re in an old-fashioned, paradoxical mood—that critics are the very apotheosis of literary character, since they are characters formed entirely out of characterizations of other characters. Over the past two decades, James Wood has established himself as one of the strangest, most vivid critical characters on the scene. He’s been, by now, pretty much universally acknowledged—grudgingly, fawningly, eagerly, nervously, warningly, or mockingly, depending on which journals you subscribe to—as the best book critic currently classing up the back end of America’s magazines. (After writing for The New Republic for twelve years, he moved last summer to The New Yorker.) His strengths leave very little room to dispute this supremacy. In fact, one of the many ironies that flock around Wood is that it would probably take Wood himself—a world-class praiser who is rarely wrong about authors he loves—to adequately catalogue the many pleasures of reading James Wood. He reads widely, deeply, fully, and closely; he extracts gallons of meaning from tiny dewdrops of text; his sentences (especially his metaphors) regularly outperform the book he’s reviewing; and he transmits his enthusiasms so stirringly it’s practically a form of intellectual erotica. But, like many public figures who are so reliably excellent they risk monotony, Wood is saved from his abilities by his fascinating limitations. . . . Read the rest here:

Cfp: "Music and Modernism," Courtauld Institute of Art, May 16, 2009.

Exploring Kandinsky's contention that the "various arts are drawing together, finding in music the best teacher," Music and Modernism will re-evaluate the significant connections between the disciplines of music and fine art in the period covering the emergence and flowering of Modernism, c. 1849-1950. During this time both music and fine art were concerned with issues of equality, equivalence, relativity and subjectivity themes that have since been taken as key to the definition of Modernism. Composers and artists repeatedly borrowed from one another, yet their motives have seldom been explored. Did such quotation amount to a conscious statement of their modernity, or was this merely a symptom of shared interests? This study day will question not only what it was music gave to fine art, or fine art music, but will ask whether we can in fact think in terms of two opposing directions of influence in this period at all. Contemporary criticism adopted an overtly musical language for modernism that had been defined in the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Bergson. This was however a reflexive process in which the use of a shared terminology in turn expanded the range of musical vocabulary. Filtered into popular texts, the precision which distinguished analogous intent from synonymous intent rapidly vanished, leaving scholars with an ill-defined discourse that is too readily accepted. Critically appraising the outcome of this richly suggestive inter-textuality, Music and Modernism will question the value, relevance, and usage of this terminology. The linguistic convergence of art and music in this period was itself couched in the broader developments of psychology. Noting our innate "susceptibility" to music, William James was one amongst many to instigate and chart a shift in emphasis from description to emotional directness. Re-thinking the reception of artworks in terms of the representational or the abstract, philosophers, psychologists, and critics gave voice to an aesthetic appreciation that was increasingly questioning of its cultural situation. This cross-culturalism encouraged a shift from the traditional division of the arts that had held sway since Lessing's Laokoon (1766) to embrace a melding of media and reference in the act or event of creation. Keynote Speaker: Peter Vergo (University of Essex), "Music and the Visual Arts: Some Unanswered Questions" Twenty minute papers are invited from scholars, artists, and musicians. Topics may include, but are not restricted to: - Questions of language - Representation: writing, notation, visualisation of music, music publishing - Creativity - Disciplinarity - Collaborative projects - Synaesthesia - Reception: association, subjectivity, polemic - Performance: issues of staging, artwork as event - The Gesamtkunstwerk Send proposals (max 300 words) to by January 31, 2009.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cfp: International Conference on Narrative, International Society for the Study of Narrative, University of Birmingham, June 4-6, 2009.

The 2009 Narrative Conference offers a multi- and interdisciplinary forum for addressing all dimensions of narrative and representation. We welcome proposals for papers and panels on all aspects of narrative in any genre, period, medium and nationality. We are particularly keen to encourage participation form a range of disciplines, including, but not limited to: history, art history, literary studies, linguistics, philosophy, classical studies, modern languages, women's studies, film studies and sociology.

Plenary Speakers:

  • David Lodge
  • Frank Ankersmit
  • Frances Smith Foster

Paper Proposals:

Please send a maximum 300 word abstract and brief curriculum vitae (250-300 words) for 20 minute papers. Proposals must include the title of the paper, presenter’s name and institutional affiliations; email address, mailing address and telephone.

Panel Proposals:

Please send a maximum 700 word abstract—summarizing the panel’s rationale and describing each paper—and a brief curriculum vitae for each speaker 50-300 words). Proposals must include titles of papers (and panel if appropriate); presenter’s (and panel organizer’s) name(s) and institutional affiliations(s); e-mail addresses, mailing address and telephone. Please send proposals to Anna Burrells: including ‘Narrative Conference Proposal’ in the subject line of your email by no later than 0.00 GMT on 31st October 2008. All submissions will be peer reviewed. All participants must join the Society for the Study of NarrativeLiterature. For more information on SSNL, visit:; or visit the conference homepage here:

Cfp: "Humanities and Sustainability: Ecology in the Information Age," Florida Gulf Coast University, May 8-9, 2009.

Hosted by the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, and the Departments of Language & Literature and Communication & Philosophy. Our goal is to encourage interdisciplinary conversations about the role of the humanities in both "the ecological era" and "the information age." The meaning of "Humanities and Sustainability" for this conference is twofold. First, it refers to the potential for humanities disciplines to address ecological issues, raise awareness and deepen knowledge about these issues, and take action in an age of environmental crisis--in short, to participate deeply in the ecological era. As the religion and ecology scholars Mary Evelyn Tucker and John A. Grim have noted, "The reality of the ecological crisis assaults us from many directions." We see this reality in rapid population growth and land development, in shifting climate patterns and species extinction, and in lifestyles of consumption resulting in a general "nature deficit," as Richard Louv deems it. Given the varied nature of this assault, environmental crisis and issues of sustainability can and must be discussed across the boundaries of fields traditionally associated with the ecological; and indeed, as a group of disciplines that examines language, philosophy, history, religion, and more, the humanities possesses some of the most important critical tools for the ecological era. Second, the conference title refers to the sustainability of humanities disciplines themselves in the information age, as they have largely been eclipsed by science, technology, economics, and business-related fields. Since the end of World War II, cultural theorists have decried the same forces propelling the development boom and the culture of consumption for causing the deterioration of our cultural environment. Now the Western world faces the extremity of this deterioration. Western culture has largely been given over to what Jean Baudrillard calls the hyperreal. Communications technologies have become the medium and measure of reality. The televisual image has all but erased our relation to real events. Fort Myers, for example, owes its current popularity as a destination city to its total hyperrealization. Strip malls, superstores, super-malls, chain restaurants, chain stores, gated communities--there is nothing that is not simulacral, that is not a copy of a copy. While Western thought has long granted the human a central position in the chain of being and the right to shape the world in its image, the centrality of the human in the information age is no longer a given. In fact, the works of theorists like Donna Haraway open the possibility that we who still call ourselves human are no longer such. Our technologies have advanced far beyond the rational animal and its dominant logics. So while the information age comes with its own forms of domination, it also comes with new possibilities for defining and shaping our relation to the world in a more ethical manner. The humanities is the natural domain for explorations into these possibilities. FGCU's Humanities and Sustainability conference will feature speakers who address either of these motivating issues, and who also find interesting ways to connect them.

For more information, contact:

Visit the conference webpage here:

Moland, Lydia. Review of Sara MacDonald's FINDING FREEDOM. NDPR (December 2008).

MacDonald, Sara. Finding Freedom: Hegel's Philosophy and the Emancipation of Women. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2008.

Four paragraphs before concluding the lecture series known as Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art (which, in its English translation, numbers 1237 pages), Hegel claims that "the modern world has developed a type of comedy which is truly comical and truly poetic." He adds: "As a brilliant example of this sort of thing I will name Shakespeare once again, in conclusion, but without going into detail" (1236). Three paragraphs later, the entire lecture series concludes. Meticulous readers might be forgiven for feeling aggrieved; they will at this point have waded patiently through any number of much less intriguing discussions. In earlier passages, Hegel for instance gives careful attention to Doric and Ionic columns; he considers the spiritual value of precious stones in sculpture; he contemplates in some detail the aesthetic value of Zoroastrianism. Hegel was a voracious reader and often refers to literary texts. Surely he could have expanded on Shakespeare and modern comedy, and surely it would have been fascinating. It is the great virtue of Sara MacDonald's new book, entitled Finding Freedom: Hegel's Philosophy and the Emancipation of Women, that it breathes life into Hegel's tantalizingly elliptical tribute to Shakespeare. In taking Hegel's praise seriously, MacDonald contributes not only to our understanding of Hegel's aesthetics, but to its place in his political philosophy and particularly the place of women in that political philosophy. . . .

Read the rest here:

Fleming, Bruce. "Leaving Literature Behind." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION December 19, 2008.

The major victory of professors of literature in the last half-century — the Great March from the New Criticism through structuralism, deconstruction, Foucauldianism, and multiculturalism — has been the invention and codification of a professionalized study of literature. We've made ourselves into a priestly caste: To understand literature, we tell students, you have to come to us. Yet professionalization is a pyrrhic victory: We've won the battle but lost the war. We've turned revelation into drudgery, shut ourselves in airless rooms, and covered over the windows. The good news is that we've created a discipline: literary studies. The bad news is that we've made ourselves rulers of a realm that has separated itself almost completely from the rest of the world. In the process, we've lost many of the students — I'd say, many of them men — and even some of the professors. And yet still we teach literature as if to future versions of ourselves — not that there will be many jobs for them. The vast majority of students don't even want to be professors: They'd like to get something from a book they can use in their lives outside the classroom. What right have we to forget them? Students get something out of a book by reading it. Love of reading was, after all, what got most of us into this business to begin with. We are killing that experience with the discipline of literary studies, with its network of relations in which an individual work almost becomes incidental. But it's the individual work that changes lives. . . . Read the rest here:

Gotschall, Jonathan. "Hidden Histories." BOSTON GLOBE September 28, 2008.

Reconstructing a prehistoric world from literary sources is rife with complications. But there are aspects of life in the Homeric era upon which most scholars agree. Homer paints a coherent picture of Greek attitudes, ideology, customs, manners, and mores that is consistent with the 8th century archeological record, and holds together based on anthropological knowledge about societies at similar levels of cultural development. For instance, we can trust that the Greeks' political organization was loose but not chaotic - probably organized at the level of chiefdoms, not kingdoms or city-states. In the epics we can see the workings of an agrarian economy; we can see what animals they raised and what crops, how they mixed their wine, worshipped their gods, and treated their slaves and women. We can tell that theirs was a warlike world, with high rates of conflict within and between communities. This violence, in fact, opens an important window onto that world. Patterns of violence in Homer are intriguingly consistent with societies on the anthropological record known to have suffered from acute shortages of women. While Homeric men did not take multiple wives, they hoarded and guarded slave women who they treated as their sexual property. These women were mainly captured in raids of neighboring towns, and they appear frequently in Homer. In the poems, Odysseus is mentioned as having 50 slave women, and it is slave women who bear most of King Priam's 62 children. For every slave woman working a rich man's loom and sharing his bed, some less fortunate or formidable man lacks a wife. In pre-state societies around the world - from the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin to the tribes of highland New Guinea to the Inuit of the Arctic - a scarcity of women almost invariably triggers pitched competition among men, not only directly over women, but also over the wealth and social status needed to win them. This is exactly what we find in Homer. Homeric men fight over many different things, but virtually all of the major disputes center on rights to women - not only the famous conflict over Helen, but also over the slave girls Briseis and Chryseis, Odysseus's wife Penelope, and all the nameless women of common Trojan men. As the old counselor Nestor shouts to the Greek hosts, "Don't anyone hurry to return homeward until after he has lain down alongside a wife of some Trojan!" . . .

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Peterson, Britt. "Darwin to the Rescue." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION August 1, 2008

In the face of any looming apocalypse, imagined or not, prophets abound. For the literary academy, which has been imagining its own demise for almost as long as it has been around, prophets seem always to look to science, with its soothing specificity and concreteness. As the modern discipline of literary criticism was forming in the early 20th century, scholars concentrated their efforts on philology, a study that was thought to be more systematic than pure literary analysis. When the New Critics made their debut in the 1920s and 30s, their goal was to give a quasi-scientific rigor to literary theory: to lay out in detail the formal attributes of a "good poem" and provide guidance as to how exactly one discovered them. Later the Canadian critic Northrop Frye, in his 1957 Anatomy of Criticism, famously queried: "What if criticism is a science as well as an art?" And some of the poststructuralist thought that began to filter into America from France in the 1960s took as its bedrock linguistic and psychoanalytic theory. But very few pro-science activists suggested that literary scholars should actually work the way scientists do, using such methods as accumulating data and forming and testing hypotheses. Even Frye argued that, while the critic should understand the natural sciences, "he need waste no time in emulating their methods. I understand there is a Ph.D. thesis somewhere which displays a list of Hardy's novels in the order of the percentages of gloom they contain, but one does not feel that that sort of procedure should be encouraged." Over the last decade or so, however, a cadre of literary scholars has begun to encourage exactly that sort of procedure, and recently they have become very loud about it. The most prominent (at least in the nonacademic media) are the Literary Darwinists, whose work emphasizes the discovery of the evolutionary patterns of behavior within literary texts — the Iliad in terms of dominance and aggression, or Jane Austen in terms of mating rituals — and sets itself firmly against 30 years of what they see as anti-scientific literary theories like poststructuralism and Marxism. In the past few years, such critics have had the honor of a long, if quizzical, New York Times Magazine profile and, in May, a place on the Boston Globe's Ideas page, where Jonathan A. Gottschall, a leading proponent of Literary Darwinism and an adjunct English professor at Washington and Jefferson College, explained why the approach is for him, as he says, "the way and the light." . . . Read the rest here:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wood, James. "Wounder and Wounded." NEW YORKER December 1, 2008.

French, Patrick. The World is What It is: the Authorized Biography Of V. S. Naipaul. London: Picador, 2008. The Indian social theorist Ashis Nandy writes of the two voices in Kipling, which have been called the saxophone and the oboe. The first is the hard, militaristic, imperialist writer, and the second is the Kipling infused with Indianness, with admiration for the subcontinent’s cultures. Naipaul has a saxophone and an oboe, too, a hard sound and a softer one. These two sides could be called the Wounder and the Wounded. The Wounder is by now well known—the source of fascinated hatred in the literary world and postcolonial academic studies. He disdains the country he came from: “I was born there, yes. I thought it was a mistake.” When he won the Nobel Prize, in 2001, he said it was “a great tribute to both England, my home, and India, the home of my ancestors.” Asked why he had omitted Trinidad, he said that he feared it would “encumber the tribute.” He has written of the “barbarism” and “primitivism” of African societies, and has fixated, when writing about India, on public defecation. (“They defecate on the hills; they defecate on the riverbanks; they defecate on the streets.”) When asked for his favorite writers, he replies, “My father.” He is socially successful but deliberately friendless, an empire of one: “At school I had only admirers; I had no friends.” The Wounder, we learn from Patrick French’s extraordinary biography of Naipaul, The World Is What It Is (Knopf; $30), used and used up his first wife, Patricia Hale, sometimes depending on her, at other times ignoring her, often berating and humiliating her. And French’s biography, published earlier this year in Britain, is already notorious for a revelation that can only enrich our luxury of loathing: in 1972, Naipaul began a long, tortured, sadomasochistic affair with an Anglo-Argentine woman, Margaret Gooding. It was an intensely sexual relationship, which enacted, on Naipaul’s side, fantasies of cruelty and domination. On one occasion, jealous because Margaret was with another man, he said that he was “very violent with her for two days with my hand. . . . Her face was bad. She couldn’t really appear in public.” The Wounded Naipaul is the writer who returns obsessively to the struggle, shame, and impoverished fragility of his early life in Trinidad; to the unlikely journey he made from the colonial rim of the British Empire to its metropolitan center; and to the precariousness, as he sees it, of his long life in England—“a stranger here, with the nerves of the stranger,” as he puts it in The Enigma of Arrival (1987). Again and again, his sense of aggrieved encirclement expands to encompass others, and he manages, with neither vanity nor condescension, to blend his woundedness with theirs: the empire of one is colonized by his characters. They range from the major to the minor, from the educated to the almost illiterate, from the real to the fictional, but they are united by their homelessness. . . . Read the whole review here:

Cfp: ArgMAS 2009: Sixth International Workshop on Argumentation in Multi-Agent Systems, Budapest, May 11 or 12, 2009.

Argumentation can be abstractly defined as the interaction of different arguments for and against some conclusion. Over the last few years, argumentation has been gaining increasing importance in multi-agent systems, mainly as a vehicle for facilitating "rational interaction" (i.e., interaction which involves the giving and receiving of reasons). This is because argumentation provides tools for designing, implementing and analysing sophisticated forms of interaction among rational agents. Argumentation has made solid contributions to the practice of multi-agent dialogues. Application domains include: legal disputes, business negotiation, labor disputes, team formation, scientific inquiry, deliberative democracy, ontology reconciliation, risk analysis, scheduling, and logistics. A single agent may also use argumentation techniques to perform its individual reasoning because it needs to make decisions under complex preferences policies, in a highly dynamic environment. The workshop will be concerned with the use of the concepts, theories, methodologies, and computational models of argumentation in building autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. The workshop will solicit papers looking at both theory and practice. In particular, the workshop aims at bridging the gap between the vast amount of work on argumentation theory and the practical needs of multi-agent systems research. Topics: We solicit papers dealing with, but not limited to, the following areas: Computational models for argumentation Argumentation-based decision making Argumentation-based joint deliberation Argumentation-based persuasion Argumentation-based inquiry Argumentation-based negotiation and conflict resolution Argumentation and risk assessment Argumentation for legal reasoning Argumentation for electronic democracy Argumentation for coordination, cooperation and team formation Argumentation and game theory in multi-agent systems Human-agent argumentation Argumentation and preferences modelling Strategic behaviour in argument-based dialogues Deception, trust, reputation in argument-based interaction Computational complexity of argumentation dialogues Properties of argumentation dialogues (termination, success, etc.) Hybrid argumentation-based models Implemented argumentation-based multi-agent systems New application areas For more information, visit:

Pub: "History in Theory / Theory in History." CRITICAL STUDIES IN HISTORY 1 (2008).


  • Brian G. Brereton, "Addressing Enduring Ethnocentricities through a Critical Investigation of the Historiography of Chinese Hell" / 2-26 [PDF]
  • Haines Brown, "The Succubus of Theory and Process Realism" / 27-49 [PDF]
  • Howard H. Chiang, "Empire of Desires: History and Queer Theory in an Age of Global Affect" / 50-71 [PDF]
  • Gregory Jones-Katz, "The Paul de Man Affair: The Presence of the Past" / 72-90 [PDF]
  • Paul Mazzocchi, "Foucault, Benjamin, and the Burden of History" / 91-109 [PDF]

Direct all questions, comments, or suggestions to: Howard Chiang, Founding Editor, or visit the journal homepage here:

Cfp: Annual Meeting, Society for Existentialist and Phenomenological Theory and Culture, Carleton University, May 26-29, 2009.

The society for the study of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture (EPTC) invites papers discussing any aspects of existential or phenomenological theory or culture. For example, papers or panel proposals dealing with theoretical or cultural issues in relation to authors such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoeyevsky, Kafka, Beckett, Husserl, Heidegger, Jaspers, Levinas, Malraux, Marcel, Buber, Frankl, Sartre, Camus, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, Irigaray, or Laing are all welcome. Submissions from all disciplines are welcome. EPTC will meet at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, from May 26 to May 29, 2009, in conjunction with the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities of Canada. The Congress will bring together some 100 learned associations and more than 9000 scholars from Canada and the international community for approximately 10 days of interdisciplinary symposia, cultural events, and public discussions. (For more information on Congress, see: I. Interested authors should submit the following electronically in Rich Text Format: 1. A copy of your paper, not more than 4500 words, and prepared for anonymous review (identifiable by paper title only). 2. A separate abstract, not more than 100 words, also listing the paper’s title, author’s name, complete mailing address, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address. II. If you are interested in either presenting a commentary (of not more than 1000 words) on a paper, or chairing a session, please submit a brief e-mail note indicating as much, including your name, complete mailing address, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, and relevant areas of interest. EPTC is able to waive Congress fees for a few delegates each year. Such awards will be made according to criteria of financial need and quality of paper at the discretion of the conference program coordinator. Non-tenure-stream delegates interested in this award should append a note indicating as much to their submission materials. The submission deadline for the above materials is Monday, February 2, 2009. Submissions should be sent to: More information is available here:

Mills, Catherine. Review of Annika Thiem's UNBECOMING SUBJECTS. NDPR (December 2008).

Thiem, Annika. Unbecoming Subjects: Judith Butler, Moral Philosophy, and Critical Responsibility. New York: Fordham UP, 2008. Annika Thiem's exploration of Judith Butler's work in the context of moral philosophy provides an insightful interpretation along with a provocative argument for a rapprochement of sorts between post-structuralism and normative philosophy on the question of ethics. Rather than repeating their supposed opposition because of moral philosophy's emphasis on problems of normativity, and post-structuralism's oft-claimed failure to address such questions, Thiem wishes to maintain a focus on normative claims while taking on the revision of subjectivity offered by Butler. She argues that Butler's recent work presents a number of productive challenges to moral philosophy, challenges which Thiem extends and fleshes out through the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean Laplanche, both of whom Butler also draws upon. The key claim that she makes throughout this discussion is that ethical responsibility cannot simply be thought of as a matter of response to another, but must also entail the question of responding well. Thus, questions of value are inherent to ethics but, at the same time, ethics must be predicated on a primary demand for response. Ethics, then, emerges in the tensions between living and living well. She further argues that ethics necessarily entails critique, since the future-oriented question of how to live well requires attention to the productive constraints of subject formation, along with contestation of the presuppositions entailed in ideas of the good life and justice. The book is divided into three parts, the first dedicated to developing an interpretation of Butler's work on subject formation, the second extending her reflections on responsibility and the third articulating the role of a particular conception of critique in ethics. The engagement with Butler's work is sympathetic, perhaps overly so. The book is largely dedicated to drawing out the ways that Butler has attempted to re-theorise subjectivity and related concepts of agency, desire and will through highlighting the constitutive operations of social norms and the implications of this for ethics. While referencing much of Butler's work, Thiem engages most thoroughly with Butler's recent book, Giving an Account of Oneself, which is her most explicit theorisation of ethical responsibility to date. In this text, Butler mobilizes the work of Levinas and Laplanche (among others) to theorise responsibility as stemming from the recognition of a fundamental vulnerability in the condition of being a subject. Thiem also traces Butler's engagement with figures such as Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault and Lacan among others. . . . Read the rest here:

Zuidervaart, Lambert. Review of Deborah Cook, ed. THEODOR ADORNO: KEY CONCEPTS. NDPR (December 2008).

Cook, Deborah, ed. Theodor Adorno: Key Concepts. Cheshire: Acumen, 2008. Theodor Adorno: Key Concepts could be called a brief "guide for the perplexed." The perplexed include scholars in many disciplines who encounter Adorno's ideas. They also include a larger public that confronts the issues he addressed: cultural segmentation, ecological destruction, democratic deficits, and paradoxes of globalization. Reading Adorno raises questions about the prospects for a world in which economic exploitation and political violence threaten to make life impossible. Adorno experienced these threats in a visceral way. Driven from Germany during the Nazi regime and writing his first mature books in American exile, he returned to become a leading philosopher and social critic in post-war Germany. From there the influence of his ideas has spread to diverse fields around the world. Yet the center of his work lies in philosophy, and it is in philosophy that his most important contributions must be assessed. The book under review reflects these patterns. It begins with surveys of Adorno's thought and its genealogy written by the editor, Canadian philosopher Deborah Cook. The next four chapters, by British and Norwegian philosophers, are on Adorno's reflections concerning logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and moral philosophy -- arguably the canonical core of modern philosophy. The last five chapters, written by American, British, and Irish scholars in sociology, German studies, English literature, and philosophy, address Adorno's social philosophy, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of culture, and philosophy of history. . . . Read the whole review here:

Reviews of Carter's THE POLITICS OF GREEK TRAGEDY and of Rabinowitz's GREEK TRAGEDY. BMCR December 7 and 9, 2008.

Carter, D. M. The Politics of Greek Tragedy. Exeter: Bristol Phoenix Press, 2007.

The Politics of Greek Tragedy is a well-written contribution to the discussion on the nature of this much-studied genre, directed at students and the general reader as well as specialists. The title of the book lends itself to a number of interpretations, a fact its author, D. M. Carter, is well aware of and exploits in his discussion. The first part addresses primarily the student while the main chapters engage a scholarly audience as well. After a preface presenting the organization of the volume, the introduction outlines some methodology and guides the general reader through the history of the Athenian polis as well as the development of the theater. The subsequent chapters develop the author's main argument starting with a number of influential theories on the nature of the tragic genre. In the third and, I think, most important chapter the weight is on the author's theory of the political function of Greek tragedy, while the fourth offering his methodology for analyzing specific dramas, includes four concrete interpretations. A final chapter, apparently disconnected, traces the impact of political tragedy in modern European performances. Partly presented as a contrast to the original performances these modern versions aim at bringing the central thesis into focus. This may be summed up as following: fifth century tragedy was an expression of the establishment, fundamentally different from modern theater; it did not voice political dissent but invited the audience to political reflection. . . . (More here: Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin. Greek Tragedy. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz's engaging introduction to Greek tragedy is the latest volume in Blackwell's new series of "Introductions to the Classical World." Written by "the most distinguished scholars in the field" (the list page includes Barry Powell's Homer, Daniel Hooley's Roman Satire, and Thomas Habinek's Ancient Rhetoric and Oratory; ten more volumes are in preparation), the series aims to "provide concise introductions to classical culture in the broadest sense."1 Rather than choosing to follow a traditional author-by-author, play-by-play arrangement, Rabinowitz has organized Greek Tragedy thematically, with an emphasis on two main ideas: (1) in order to understand the plays, one must first learn about their ancient performance, political, and ritual contexts; and (2) these plays raised certain troubling questions for Athenians and they allow us to ask similar questions about our own life and times. Greek Tragedy is written in an informal, appealing style--this must be the only book on the subject of tragedy that uses the word "fun" in its final sentence2--with frequent allusions (some more explicit than others) to contemporary events (e.g., the war in Iraq at 42, 47, 90, 93, 107, 138, 140, 146, and 187) and a number of questions posed directly to the reader designed to encourage comparisons between ancient and contemporary problems (e.g., at 122, discussion of Euripides' Elektra concludes with the question, "What pressures shape today's youth into martyrs?"). Greek Tragedy can be recommended to students who have no previous knowledge of the subject, although those wanting more systematic coverage in a more traditional format may prefer another recent Wiley-Blackwell book, A Guide to Ancient Greek Drama (Ian Storey and Arlene Allen, 2005). As its Preface and Introduction suggest, Greek Tragedy is especially well-suited to those students who are skeptical about the relevance of Greek tragedy to their own lives and to those who may wonder whether an interest in tragedy (or Classics in general, 2-3) is compatible with their commitments to feminism, multiculturalism, or other progressive beliefs. . . .

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