15 November 2020

Not Ready for GOBblers Yet

The turkeys are getting very nervous. Especially the smaller ones, more vulnerable this year to being "guests" at COVID-aware gatherings than they usually are.

  • There looks like a fascinating piece on the linguistic and methodological battles over "originalism" at CHE. For what it's worth, I probably would criticize both sides for failing to recognize that they're making a false assumption: That it is not only possible, but indisputable, to use a single interpretive method for a text… and that anyone "of good will" who does so "correctly" will reach the same result, notwithstanding any cultural or ideological differences. I say this having been stuck in both interpretive mudpits; both "historical literary analysis" and "originalist legal analysis" rely upon what is most charitably called "cherrypicking" of source materials. Consider, for example what "bear arms" meant to the educated classes of London and Philadelphia in 1785 or so… and what it meant to the merchant classes in Liverpool and Savannah, let alone to the uneducated rural farming communities (which can be determined only by implication because they left virtually no verifiable written records, being largely illiterate and certainly not body-politic literate) in North Cumbria and the western Carolinas.

    But I'm guessing. I can't read the article; not because it's behind a paywall, but because this message overlays the screen:

    Ad Blocker Detected
    Please support our site by adding chronicle.com to your allowed list. We depend on advertising in order to provide you with essential independent journalism.

    My originalist interpretation of "ad" and "advertising" doesn't include tracking cookies, Canvas fingerprinting, or anything else that attempts to "personalize" or track readership. That's what "ad" means in the print edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is certainly the "original." But because default settings on my browsers block intrusive tracking (and I not only remember Judge Bork's video-store rental records, I used similar methods for… official purposes), that changes the original meaning of "ad"; things are rather reflexively stuck in noncommunication. I not-so-respectfully suggest that the "proprietors" and "editorial staff" at CHE engage in an originalist interpretation of "plonk" as it applies to their foolish rejection of context (not to mention "privacy," one of the other hard problems with originalism). I'm a member of the interpretive community that developed that term, and I seriously doubt they'll reach beyond denotation to the community's various connotations…

  • But it could be worse. We could be arguing about appropriation. Again.

    I'm getting really tired of microcommunities objecting to speculative-fiction reimaginations and inspirations that do not depend upon (or sometimes even reference) historical fact. It's one thing to object to a purported hyperrealistic, commercial-publishing-meme-approved YA "problem book" set in 1980s Boston that purports to invoke the travails of the Caribbean-immigrant community and never engages with school busing (not to mention sounds like it was written by a white trust-fund kid at a workshop in the cornfields of Iowa, and no this is not a hypothetical manuscript). It's another entirely to criticize an author who is a member of the same community — but perhaps not the same microcommunity, perhaps not lifelong — concerning a work that is archly not a naturalistic/hyperrealistic depiction of "the way things are."

    Too often, context matters in ways that just aren't being considered when someone screams "Appropriation!" And if it doesn't, I think I'm entitled to call every "military novel" that tries to deal with "command issues" that has been written by someone who has never held command authority — and, therefore, isn't a member of my microcommunity — a travesty that must be pulped, and demand the revocation of their literary licenses for drivelling under the influence. That too often from even a non-appropriation-sensitized/triggered perspective that's not far off the real "merits" of those works is beside the point.

  • Or you could just engage with a particularly myopic view of both history and contemporary affairs. The fundamental problem here is the reductionist "single sociohistorical causation" meme. That meme is refuted by the very fact that many of those who most need to think about this article can't read it because they don't read English… and any translation runs into Problems…