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The meaning of meaning: Fish v. Scalia

Stanley Fish, discussing John Paul Stevens' reasoning about the value of anonymous speech ("Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet", NYT 1/3/2011): … it is not true that a text’s meaning is the same whether or not its source is known. Suppose I receive an anonymous note asserting that I have been betrayed by […]

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Après Fish le déluge II

"What, then, can be done?" So asks Stanley Fish in "The Crisis of the Humanities Officially Arrives", NYT 10/11/2010, responding to SUNY Albany's decision to close programs in French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater.

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Pure Fish

For a couple of days before the inaugural, the most emailed article on the NYT website was Stanley Fish's column "The Last Professor" (1/18/2009), which returns to a favorite theme of his: In previous columns and in a recent book I have argued that higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a […]

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Rushdie 1, Fish 0

Random House recently cancelled publication of Sherry Jones' novel The Jewel of Medina, about Muhammad's child bride Aisha, for fear of violent reaction by Muslims like that engendered by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. In a whine entitled Crying Censor in the New York Times, Stanley Fish takes Rushdie to task for describing this as […]

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"The Museum of the Passive Voice"

Marjorie Taylor Greene: "I was allowed to believe things that weren't true." This sentence deserves a place in the Museum of the Passive Voice. I'm honestly in awe of how MTG thought she could avoid any personal responsibility whatsoever *even for the thoughts in her head.* — Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) February 6, 2021

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Theorists of post-modern politics

I was surprised to learn that Scottie Nell Hughes has a broadcast communications/political science degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin, rather than a degree in literary theory from Florida International University. This makes her ideas about the relationship of texts to states of affairs all the more remarkable, since she has apparently developed […]

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Digital scholarship and cultural ideology

Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette and David Golumbia, "Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities", Los Angeles Review of Books 5/1/2016: Advocates position Digital Humanities as a corrective to the “traditional” and outmoded approaches to literary study that supposedly plague English departments. Like much of the rhetoric surrounding Silicon Valley today, this discourse sees […]

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Presidential pronouns: This time it's Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier, "Is Obama More Interested in Progress or Politics?", National Journal, 1/20/2015: Count how many times Obama uses the words "I," "me," and "my." Compare that number to how often he says, "You," "we," "our." If the first number is greater than the second, Obama has failed. This leads naturally to a different question: "Is Ron […]

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Buzzfeed linguistics, presidential pronouns, and narcissism revisited

John Templon, "No, Obama’s Pronouns Don’t Make Him A Narcissist", BuzzFeed News 10/19/2014: Conservative commentators are fond of pointing to Barack Obama’s excessive use of the word “I” as evidence of the president’s narcissism. (“For God’s sake, he talks like the emperor Napoleon,” Charles Krauthammer complained recently.) But there’s one tiny problem with this line […]

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Philology and Sinology

I was going to post this as a comment to Mark Liberman's "What would a 'return to philology' be a return to?", but it got to be too long, so I'm putting it up as a separate piece. To begin with, when people ask me what my profession is, I've always replied that I am […]

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The evolution of SOTU pronouns

Following up on Sunday's "SOTU evolution" post, here's a quick glance at changes over time in the relative frequency of some classes of pronouns in State of the Union messages. Over the course of the 20th century, there's been a clear upward trend in the frequency of first and second person pronouns:

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Two Disciplines in Search of Love

This is a guest post by Bill Benzon, in response to earlier posts by Hannah Alpert-Abrams and Dan Garrette ("Computational linguistics and literary scholarship", 9/12/2013) and David Bamman ("On Interdisciplinary Collaboration and "Latent Personas"", 9/17/2013).

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Pseudo-science and pre-existing distaste

Tim Marchman & Reuben Fischer-Baum, "Who Is The Most Pompous Sports Pundit? A Scientific Investigation", Deadspin 9/25/2013: Of all the stupid rhetorical plays columnists use—issuing thundering imperatives, positioning their banal opinions as the exact midpoints between varieties of unyielding madness, championing their cronies' worthless businesses as examples of the disciplinary power of markets, etc. etc.—the funniest […]

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