Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Critical writings on C. S. Lewis

I picked up a volume from the library of critical writing (both positive and negative) on C. S. Lewis. It's the first in Scolar Press' Critical Thought Series, which includes such postmodern icons as Foucault. The series editor, George Watson, a former colleague of Lewis, makes a provocative case in the introductory essay that Lewis was much more modern - or postmodern, rather - in his critical thinking than most people recognize or appreciate (and he notes that Lewis certainly would not appreciate such a categorization). Watson suggests that Lewis was perhaps twenty years ahead of his time in certain aspects in his critical theory, such as de-emphasizing authorial intent and taking a formalist approach to fantasy. Though Watson admits that Lewis could never be lumped together with the likes of Derrida, he stresses that Lewis was still well ahead of his time with certain ideas and made very important and often unacknowledged contributions to intellectual history and critical theory. He surmises that the reason a school of thought did not develop around Lewis is primarily due to his contrarian nature and his efforts to play the devil's advocate to modern thinkers. In the collection, Lewis comes in for high praise from such esteemed historians as A.J.P. Taylor and E.M.W. Tillyard. Quite incredible given the current mainstream scholarly opinion of Lewis. I think his contributions to intellectual history are due for a reconsideration.

[Note: I originally emailed this to a professor and thought afterwards that it might make a nice post.]

Famous Cliftons: Big in Japan

My crazy little niece Rosemary is the star of a Japanese product catalog!

The Scriptorium

Wendy and I have yet to decide upon a name for our new apartment, but the place includes a nifty little den where I conduct my studies which we've dubbed The Scriptorium. Nice, huh? It's little more than a hole in the wall, but it contains that peculiar comfort that a place shut off from the rest of the world can sometimes provide - just enough comfort, but not too much; just enough to take your mind off the world outside and to let you focus. It's entirely different from my workspace at the Trailer of Paradise, our previous residence, where I sat at my table in front of a window with a view to our small backyard and the ruined wilderness beyond. Squirrels, cardinals, and bluejays often entertained me as I worked on papers, alighting on the fence and acting out the comedy of creation. No more of that. Now I am a cloistered scholar poring over obscure texts to contribute my own yet-more-obscure conclusions amid piles of books and papers, scattered knickknacks from around the world, and a steady flow of coffee and herbal teas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography

Blackwell is publishing A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography next month. The volume, edited by Aviezer Tucker of Queen's University, Belfast, promises to make an indispensable guide to the discipline (although it will require one to dispense with nearly $200). Here is the table of contents:

1. Introduction: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
Part I Major Fields:
2. Philosophy of Historiography: Peter Kosso (Northern Arizona University)
3. Philosophy of History: Zdeněk Vašíček (Institute for Contemporary History, Prague)
4. Philosophical Issues in Natural History and Its Historiography: Carol E. Cleland (University of Colorado, Boulder)
5. Historians and Philosophy of Historiography: John Zammito (Rice University)
Part II: Basic Problems:
6. Historiographic Evidence and Confirmation: Mark Day (Nottingham-Trent University) and Gregory Radick (University of Leeds)
7. Causation in Historiography: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
8. Historiographic Counterfactuals: Elazar Weinryb (Open University of Israel)
9. Historical Necessity and Contingency: Yemima Ben-Menahem (Hebrew University)
10. Explanation in Historiography: Graham Macdonald (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) and Cynthia Macdonald (Queen's University, Belfast)
11. Historiographic Understanding: Guiseppina D'Oro (Keele University)
12. Colligation: C. Behan McCullagh (La Trobe University)
13. The Laws of History: Stephan Berry (Berlin)
14. Historiographic Objectivity: Paul Newall (British Royal Navy)
15. Realism about the Past: Murray Murphey (University of Pennsylvania)
16. Anti-realism about the Past: Fabrice Pataut (Institut de l'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris)
17. Narrative and Interpretation: F. R. Ankersmit (University of Groningen)
18. The Ontology of the Objects of Historiography: Lars Udehn (Stockholm University)
19. Origins: Common Causes in Historiographic Reasoning: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
20. Phylogenetic Inference: Matt Haber (University of Utah)
21. Historicism: Robert D'Amico (University of Florida)
22. Ethics and the Writing of Historiography: Jonathan Gorman (Queen's University, Belfast)
23. Logical Fallacies of Historians: Paul Newall (British Royal Navy)
24. Historical Fallacies of Historians: Carlos Spoerhase (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Colin G. King (Humboldt University of Berlin)Part III: Philosophy and Sub-fields of Historiography:
25. Philosophy of History of Science: Nicholas Jardine (University of Cambridge)
26. Philosophies of Historiography and the Social Sciences: Harold Kincaid (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
27. The Philosophy of Evolutionary Theory: Michael Ruse (Florida State University)
28. The Philosophy of Geology: Rob Inkpen (University of Portsmouth)
29. Philosophy of Archaeology: Ben Jeffares (Australia National University)
30. Reductionism: Historiography and Psychology: Cynthia Macdonald (Queen's University, Belfast) and Graham Macdonald (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
31. Historiography and Myth: Mary Lefkowitz (Wellesley College)
32. Historiography and Memory: Marie-Claire Lavabre (CNRS, France)
33. Historiographic Schools: Christopher Lloyd (University of New England)
Part IV: Classical Schools and Philosophers of Historiography and History:
34. Leopold Ranke: Thomas Gil (Technical University of Berlin)
35. Scientific Historiography: Chris Lorenz (VU University of Amsterdam)
36. Darwin: John S. Wilkins (University of Queensland)
37. Logical Empiricism and Logical Positivism: Krzysztof Brzechczyn (Adam Mickiewitz University/Institute of National Remembrance, Poland)
38. Jewish and Christian Philosophy of History: Samuel Moyn (Columbia University)
39. Muslim Philosophy of History: Zaid Ahmad (Universiti Putra, Malaysia)
40. Vico: Joseph Mali (Tel Aviv University)
41. Kant and Herder: Sharon Anderson-Gold (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
42. Hegel: Tom Rockmore (Duquesne University)
43. Neo-Kantianism: Charles Bambach (University of Dallas)
44. Marx: Tom Rockmore (Duquesne University)
45. Collingwood and Croce: Stein Helgeby (Melbourne)
46. Phenomenology: David Weberman (Central European University, Hungary)
47. Jan Patočka: Ivan Chvatik (Czech Academy of Science)
48. Hermeneutics: Rudolf A. Makkreel (Emory University)
49. Postmodernism: Beverley Southgate (University of Hertfordshire)
50. Philosophy of History at the End of the Cold War: Krishnan Kumar (University of Virginia)Index

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Profile photograph explained

You may have noticed my new profile photo. Yes, that's a microwave. It was taken by Wes Taylor, singer and bassist for our band, Daigaku, at the First Assembly of God in Pensacola as we waited to take the floor. By the way, I either played keyboard or tambourine/cowbell/triangle, depending on when this took place. I can't remember off the top of my head. Could be something to do with the microwave.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crouch on American coziness

"So why am I hopeful? Because I believe the coming years are going to reveal some pernicious weeds in our culture for what they are. One of the characteristics of weeds is that they suck up resources from other plants. They are quick-growing, quick-spreading, invasive. They do not coexist with the other plants in the garden, they overtake them. Kudzu is a weed not because it is unattractive in its own way or even has no rightful place in the ecosystem, but because it grows over and chokes out other valuable and beautiful things. Weeds are, as every gardener knows, the easiest thing to grow.

"And I believe the fundamental weed in the American garden is, in fact, ease. Easy-ness. Effortlessness. Along with the incredible benefits of the rise of technology has been this terrible weed: the idea that things should be easy. The Staples office-supply chain has profited handsomely selling the ultimate symbol of our times: a plastic button that does absolutely nothing but is great fun to push, labeled "easy.""

- Andy Crouch, "Why I Am Hopeful," Books & Culture

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Favored tea of the moment

Lukacs on the development of modern historical consciousness

"To sum up, therefore: the evolution of historical consciousness ever since its first definite emergence about three centuries ago may have developed through the following phases:

Eighteenth century: History as literature; the narrated past.
Nineteenth century: History as science; the recorded past.
Twentieth century: a dual development: on the surface, history as a social science; the ascertained past. But, in a deeper and wider sense: history as a form of thought; the remembered past."

- John Lukacs, Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Megill on history as discourse

"History is indeed a discourse, but it is more than that, at least if its practitioners want their work to be more than a collection of diverse bardic responses to the pains of people's historical existence or multiple attempts to celebrate the glories of our nation's past, whichever nation or would-be nation that is. One can certainly imagine historians becoming bards, blog writers, or hired celebrators. But if history were to become a multiplicity of discourses it is likely that historians' variant voices would drown each other out or not be heard at all. Surely some measure of disciplinary auctoritas - and the quality control of that goes with it - is required."

- Allan Megill, "A Review of Manifestos for History," Historically Speaking July/August 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ratzinger on discipline and discovery

I lifted this remarkable Joseph Ratzinger quote from Mark Gavreau Judge's recent article at Books & Culture:

"Today an illusion is dangled before us: that a man can find himself without first conquering himself, without the patience of self-denial and the labor of self control; that there is no need to endure the discomfort of upholding tradition, or to continue suffering the tension between the ideal and the actual in our nature."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kerouac: WWII American youth

"...why are the youngsters living the way they do? With no sense of right and wrong, no feeling of responsibility, no sincere hopes or things like that. You might say on account of the war. But think of the poor kids who haven't got time to feel one way or another about it right now, the kids on the fronts - will they all be like that after the war? ... There's something missing somewhere."

- Jack Kerouac, The Town and the City

Kerouac and the legend of wartime America

"They had their picture taken. It was a picture that Joe was going to keep in his wallet throughout the war and years later. It was a picture that really contained the lovely image of Patricia's brooding devotion to him, as well as the whole legend of wartime America itself, a picture upon which was written the great story of wandering, sadness, parting, farewell, and war."

- Jack Kerouac, The Town and the City

Friday, October 10, 2008

Benton on the so-called "end of the book"

"The end of the book has, by now, been debunked. The electronic book is no substitute for the paperback, after all. Amazon's Kindle is apparently no more viable than the automated feeding system demonstrated in Chaplin's Modern Times. Besides, computer software and digital media change so fast that paper — for all its seeming fragility — remains the surest means of projecting a text into the distant future (except, perhaps, for clay tablets)."

-Thomas H. Benton, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Also, check out Mark Bauerlein's comments on the Kindle at The Chronicle's "Brainstorm" blog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eliot inspires, worries people at Pensacola Starbucks

Our Starbucks clientele at the north end of Pensacola (the Ferry Pass area) received Friday's T. S. Eliot readings rather well, or at least better than I expected. We didn't have any screaming or bursting into tears, although I think one of my co-workers (we call each other "partners," which is almost a little creepy) came close. In fact, most of our customers cheerily accepted my somber orations with something approaching approval, and nearly all signs of bafflement or irritation were swept under the rug of courtesy. Pensacola, you made me proud!

I tried to avoid the morbid and macabre, but I discovered that this is not so easy with Eliot, or at least not with the sets of his poetry in my collection. The phrase "unreal city" kept catching my eye as I scanned the pages for more uplifting verse. Pensacola, anyone? Surely, Eliot is talking about Pensacola.

My, er, partners were slow to take up the mantle of the bard, leaving me the bulk of the recitation duties. However, despite some aversion to "The Wasteland," they were inspired to contribute their own poetic creations in the form of satirical haiku. Aha! Individual creativity unleashed in the corporate service industry. Who would have guessed? The Apocalypse must be nigh.

All in all, Friday night at Starbucks achieved a most lyrical and transcendent quality as patrons and partners alike felt their spirits lifted by the likes of "The Hollow Men." The following evening with Yeats, William Carlos Williams, and Solzhenitsyn did not fare so well. Evidently, this city has its limits.