[Humanist] 32.118 Fish'ing for fatal flaws

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Jul 1 08:56:12 CEST 2018


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 118.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                       (8)
        Subject: Re:  32.116 Fish'ing for fatal flaws

  [2]   From:    Patrick Durusau <patrick at durusau.net>                     (73)
        Subject: Re:  32.116 Fish'ing for fatal flaws


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2018 08:16:14 -0500
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  32.116 Fish'ing for fatal flaws
        In-Reply-To: <20180630075159.5A2221443 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>

Cute, but anti-intellectual. We could easily substitute different words. I think I’m with you on “hidden meaning,” though. 

Jim R

> Fifth. I think we should place a ten-year ban on the use of certain spatial metaphors. Let there be no more talk of “close reading” or “distant reading”, or “surface reading”, “depth”, or even “hidden meaning”. 
> 
> BB
> 
> Bill Benzon
> bbenzon at mindspring.com



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2018 15:24:54 -0400
        From: Patrick Durusau <patrick at durusau.net>
        Subject: Re:  32.116 Fish'ing for fatal flaws
        In-Reply-To: <20180630075159.5A2221443 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>



Bill,

> Patrick,
>
> [snip]
>
>> I disagree that Fish is bothered by:
>>
>> "...the use of math and statistics to gain insight into meaning."
>>
>> Fish's point is that gathering up every instance of a word or phrase in
>> a 19th century corpus, in his interpretative community, doesn't provide
>> a basis for insight into meaning.
>>
>> Fish is free to criticize such shallow dredging of a corpus as providing
>> insight into meaning, but it is a different "set of institutional
>> practices," which he says defines an interpretative community.
> First, I don’t see what’s gained by referring to “his interpretive community”–something which Fish himself doesn’t do. 


My point was that if you accept that interpretative communities exist,
then of necessity, Fish himself must be located in at least one such
community. Not that the community belongs to him but that he is located
in one (according to his account, multiple) interpretative communities.

I'm working from your report, the Chronicle has insulated itself from
non-subscriber reading and/or comments.

I do appreciate the pointer to Journal of Cultural Analytics
(http://culturalanalytics.org), which has a wealth of great content.

Great content that is still subject to the criticism voiced by Fish in
“What Is Stylistics and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things About It?"

From Fish's later introduction to that essay:

"... to answer the question "Does it illuminate the text?" This question
troubled me because of what it assumes and, by assuming, predecides.
First of all, it assumes that texts are independent of theories, an
assumption that is, at the very least, arguable, and one I was in the
process of challenging. Second, it assumes that theory is justified only
in its relation to practice, whereas it seemed to me that theory is a
form of thinking with its own goals and rules, and therefore that
theories should be evaluated in terms of the coherence of their claims.
Third, it assumes that it would be possible for a theory to not
illuminate a text, whereas it was becoming clearer and clearer to me
that the relationship between theory and practice is a secure one. That
is, theories always work and they will always produce the results they
predict, results that will be immediately compelling to those for whom
the theory's assumptions and enabling principles are self-evident.
Indeed, the trick would be to find a theory that didn't work."

(apologies for the long quote, any errors are mine)

I don't see any "straw men" in that later preface to his essay.

Fish is saying, at least in my reading, that you can proceed with
whatever tools (digital humanities) you like, but be aware there are
multiple unexamined layers (as seen by different interpretative
communities) beneath those tools. (The same is true for non-digital
tools as well.)

If anything, Fish's criticism calls for a deeper analysis and awareness
about the limits and assumptions of digital humanities tooling.

Do you find that objectionable or Fish's pointing out that sort of
questioning isn't common? (As I said, I haven't seen the piece where he
was writing for the groundlings so I assume it wasn't as precise as his
formal writing.)

<snip>

> Fifth. I think we should place a ten-year ban on the use of certain spatial metaphors. Let there be no more talk of “close reading” or “distant reading”, or “surface reading”, “depth”, or even “hidden meaning”. 
Religions have been trying to enforce readings on "texts" for centuries,
with very little success. I don't see any signs of that changing for
religions or digital humanities. 

Patrick

-- 
Patrick Durusau
patrick at durusau.net
Technical Advisory Board, OASIS (TAB)
Editor, OpenDocument Format TC (OASIS), Project Editor ISO/IEC 26300
Co-Editor, ISO/IEC 13250-1, 13250-5 (Topic Maps)

Another Word For It (blog): http://tm.durusau.net
Homepage: http://www.durusau.net
Twitter: patrickDurusau 





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