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Early Times I had trouble reading Suttree in the room with my sleeping infant daughter, as I often couldn’t stop myself from cackling. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read: probably more funny than Bouvard and Pécuchet, Decline and Fall, Cold Comfort Farm, or any of a variety from Wodehouse, which would… Jonathan Goodwin 04/10/10 2 04/19/10
The Last Suck on a Mango Among the many idioms listed in Jag Bhalla’s I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears (National Geographic, 2009), this Czech idiom for poorly dressed leaped to my attention: “look like the Mona Lisa after a spanking” (85). I checked google books for a source on this and wasn’t able to find… Jonathan Goodwin 03/26/10 6 03/27/10
Vocab Primer I asked a related question here a couple of weeks ago, but I was curious about what single work of fiction has taught you the most new words. (In English, I mean, and read during your maturity, if you want to be cute.) I first read Blood Meridian fairly recently, but… Jonathan Goodwin 03/11/09 9 03/26/09
Miller on Olsen on Galbraith on Golding From Nancy K. Miller’s “On Being Wrong,” Profession 2008:[Tillie] Olsen attended a lecture given at her daughter’s high school during parents’ weekend. Inspired by his reading of The Lord of the Flies, John Kenneth Galbraith, then professor of economics at Harvard, was holding forth on the lessons of the novel, concluding… Jonathan Goodwin 12/03/08 8 03/18/09
A Juxtaposition The TLS is running a review of Russell A. Berman’s Fiction Sets You Free by David Hawkes. It beginsPolitical-activist literary critics were once an endangered species. The rise of capital to absolute global dominion and the concomitant withering of socialist aspirations affected departments of literature throughout the 1980s and 90s, and… Jonathan Goodwin 10/24/08 3 10/30/08
A Note and Query An old course blog just got a hit for “rape of the lock modern english version.” In this interview with Chomsky, he remarks, “In America, the professor talks to the mechanic. They are in the same category.” So, why can Chomsky’s American academic talk with a mechanic but not William Deresiewicz’s… Jonathan Goodwin 10/15/08 2 10/15/08
The Vicar of St. Leavis Leavis thought that Auden’s “Miss Gee” exhibited “pointless unpleasantness.” After discussing the poem in class earlier today, I can understand his point. But it also seems clear that Auden turns that reaction back on the reader at the end. It is Dr. Thomas who speculates about the repressive origin of cancer,… Jonathan Goodwin 10/10/08 6 10/15/08
The Current Consensus Adam Gopnik has an article in the current New Yorker on Chesterton that’s worth reading. It’s not on-line, I don’t think. Toward the end, he observes:Besides, if obviously great writers were allowed onto the reading list only when they conform to the current consensus of liberal good will---voices of tolerance and… Jonathan Goodwin 07/08/08 23 07/13/08
Value-Judgment Friday Seems like a great idea for a recurring feature, doesn’t it? Anyway, here’s Ron Rosenbaum, writing about whether Nabokov’s “The Original of Laura” should be burned: “Think of that: the final ‘distillation’ of the work of perhaps the greatest, certainly the most complex, writer of the past century.” 1) Perhaps the… Jonathan Goodwin 01/18/08 13 02/04/08
10/12 I suspect that this sentiment from Doris Lessing is going to get a lot of negative attention, if it’s not taken out of context. (Well, even if it obviously is. You know how that goes.) But I wondered briefly about what would have happened had the IRA decided to kill the… Jonathan Goodwin 10/23/07 8 10/25/07
The Mirror Was Watching Us "Bioy Casares had dined with me that night and talked with us at length about a great scheme for writing a novel in the first person using a narrator who omitted or corrupted what happened and who ran into various contradictions, so that only a handful of readers, a very small… Jonathan Goodwin 10/07/07 14 10/22/07
A Claim Alan Wolfe is quoted in this NYTBR piece: “Everyone’s read ‘Things Fall Apart’ ” — Chinua Achebe’s novel about postcolonial Nigeria — “but few people have read the Yeats poem that the title comes from.” Even before the last season of The Sopranos, this was so far from literal, allegorical, or… Jonathan Goodwin 09/15/07 12 09/19/07
Leroy Searle’s “Literature Departments and the Practice of Theory” The Valve has admirably or irresponsibly avoided discussions trending meta about matters such as theory, the profession, and the like. I would be interested, however, in hearing what you think of Searle’s piece. The English building at the U of Washington is apparently more of mass oubliette than panopticon, for example.… Jonathan Goodwin 04/05/07 3 04/08/07
Two Things The lowest (or highest, depending) ordinal to be used before “-rate” is third. I was reading one of the n+1 threads, and someone referred to someone else as a “tenth-rate Satie.” Could you really begin to distinguish between a ninth-rate and eight-rate Sartre, for example? Also, my favorite entry at “The… Jonathan Goodwin 03/20/07 12 06/09/07
Alvin Plantinga Admits There’s No Political Bias in Academia In his review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, a volume I don’t think has been discussed here but has attracted attention (and criticism for being theologically unsophisticated) from some quarters, Plantinga writes “Here it’s not easy to take them seriously; religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous… Jonathan Goodwin 03/01/07 19 03/03/07
He Died Old I thought it wonderful that De Quincey refers to J. C. Adelung’s (later volumes the work of J. S. Vater and Adelung fils) Mithridates, or The Universal Table of Languages when the “Malay” comes to visit in the Confessions. ObserveMy knowledge of the Oriental tongues is not remarkably extensive, being indeed… Jonathan Goodwin 01/30/07 1 01/31/07
Graduate Study for The 21st Century--A Good Book After coming across Geneviève Brassard’s review [Muse] in the latest issue of Pedagogy, I read Gregory Colón Semenza’s book, subtitled “How to Build An Academic Career in the Humanities.” Equipped with an admiring foreword by Michael Bérubé, it’s a remarkably detailed and pungent volume, filled with meritocratic ethos and practical advice.… Jonathan Goodwin 10/19/06 25 11/12/06
Linguistic Diversity An Asset I remember a book, dating from the height of bicameral enthusiasm, which seemed to argue that Polynesian seafarers, speaking what might have been termed a low-noun or high-abstraction language, were thus in much better contact with their holistic half and could thereby perform abstractional feats of navigation that might defeat the… Jonathan Goodwin 10/01/06 23 10/03/06
Kirk’s Yard I don’t know if you’ve seen Alan Liu’s sensible statements on Wikipedia, but I asked the students in the Intro to Media Studies class to comment upon them. Most of their responses seemed to agree with Liu about the proper use of Wikipedia. Several of them indicated that they used Wikipedia… Jonathan Goodwin 07/20/06 7 07/24/06
Culturally Sophisticated Self-Fashioning If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting for Brian Leiter’s response to Alexandra Heifetz’s recent n+1 article. Leiter’s response is measured and largely free of invective. Here’s what I think is the key paragraph ("graf"):"Continental" for these folks does not mean “Continental philosophy,” as Ms. Heifetz’s spectacularly ignorant remarks well… Jonathan Goodwin 07/11/06 39 01/02/07
Alan Jacobs on Blogging Jacobs, a former prolific commenter here at the Valve, writes, “With few exceptions, posts at the ‘academic’ or ‘intellectual’ blogs I used to frequent have become the brief and cursory announcement of opinions, not the free explorations of new and dynamic thinking.” What bullshit. And what could be disturbingly perverse about… Jonathan Goodwin 06/18/06 32 06/24/06
Saturday Morning Suppose that you could only own one of the Library of America editions. Which one would it be and why? (I don’t know if the Melville one is valuable, but please no.) I’d probably go with this one. Jonathan Goodwin 06/17/06 28 06/19/06
Familiar Foreign Words Here are those that are not italicized according to the 13th edition: effendi pasha élan barranca remuda trattoria mea culpa fazenda ménage weltschmerz kappellmeister a priori And the 15th: pasha weltanschauung in vitro a priori recherché the kaiser de novo eros and agape I wonder how many of those from the… Jonathan Goodwin 06/11/06 13 06/17/06
Dear Valve Commenters How about registering with the site so that your comments don’t have to be approved manually? Also, “Cylon-occupied Caprica” is the worst running sub-plot in the history of episodic television. And another thing: you may have seen this Chronicle article about indexing software and the like. It’s my understanding, however, that… Jonathan Goodwin 06/07/06 10 06/09/06
Best Fiction of the Last 25 Years I have little to say beyond noting here for the record the good taste of those Jesus’ Son voters. Perhaps we could discuss omissions and criteria. I think that Infinite Jest is the most glaring omission and that White Noise is a much better book than Underworld. Jonathan Goodwin 05/11/06 55 06/04/06
The Vocabulary of the Poets It’s said that Browning used over 38,000 words, perhaps the most of any well-known poet. Many are like “minish” and “baracan.” The amount of different words used is proportional to the total output, of course, but what poet uses the most obscure vocabulary per poem? I guess we should restrict this… Jonathan Goodwin 04/11/06 16 04/15/06
Stanislaw Lem, 1921-2006 If you haven’t heard, Stanislaw Lem has died. (I don’t exactly endorse that obituary, which is short on references to his work, and where’s the Olaf Stapledon entry in the ODNB, by the way? How did this happen?) Lem was perhaps the most intelligent writer I’ve ever read, and a substantial… Jonathan Goodwin 03/28/06 3 04/09/06
Cronenberg as Complete Darwinian Let us hear from Roger Ebert:David Cronenberg says his title “A History of Violence” has three levels: It refers (1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution,… Jonathan Goodwin 03/15/06 11 03/16/06
The Recreated World: A Research Question While reading this article about the prospects of a nuclear Iran, I noted that Kennedy estimated the odds of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Event as “‘’between 1 in 3 and even.” Using either that or some other potential apocalypse, can you think of fictional scenarios in which the… Jonathan Goodwin 03/13/06 10 03/15/06
Zizek’s 24: Jack Bauer is the Agent of Exception Being neither meet nor fitting that Crooked Timber should outflank us on Zizek commentary/flamewar, I want to redirect your attention to the following item from The Guardian. In particular, note this claim: It is here that we encounter the series’ ideological lie: in spite of the CTU’s ruthlessness, its agents, especially… Jonathan Goodwin 03/12/06 16 03/15/06
Some Brief Notes and Queries on Teaching Borges I’ve taught some of Borges’s fictions in two out of three of my last classes and am spending this week on “The Immortal,” “The House of Asterion,” “The Zahir,” and “The Aleph.” I’d be interested in hearing from any of you who’ve taught Borges, particularly in an introductory course. How did… Jonathan Goodwin 03/11/06 9 03/13/06
Judging a Book by Its Bibliography Ever do this? I understand it’s kind of a joke about how you know you’ve arrived as a graduate student, etc., but it’s always seemed to me to be the logical way of reading a scholarly book. Generally speaking, you can reconstruct the argument of a book from its list of… Jonathan Goodwin 03/06/06 24 03/09/06
Totality and the Genes of Literature “Suppose at this juncture we were to state the blindingly obvious: that, whatever their other properties, literary texts do not possess genes” (59). So begins the “Perils of Analogy” section of Christopher Prendergast’s response* to Moretti. Notwithstanding the Paris Review interviews, it does seem difficult to maintain that literature has genes.… Jonathan Goodwin 01/16/06 25 08/31/11
Graphs, Maps, Trees Files The first posts in the Graphs, Maps, Trees event will appear later today. We are pleased to be able to offer PDFs of the original NLR articles Thanks to Jacob Stevens at NLR, Verso, and Franco Moretti for allowing us to make these files available to our readers through the end… Jonathan Goodwin 01/11/06 2 01/04/07
Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: A Valve Book Event On January 11, we will begin posting a series of short essays and comments on Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees, an event similar to those past on Theory’s Empire and The Literary Wittgenstein. Several Valve regulars will contribute, and we also hope to have pieces from Cosma Shalizi and Scott McLemee.… Jonathan Goodwin 01/02/06 18 02/01/06
Nick Gillespie Goes to MLA I’ve always enjoyed the increasingly addled articles about the MLA guaranteed to appear around this time every year. And here’s a piece by Nick Gillespie at Tech Central Station, which has the trustworthy imprimatur of James Glassman, author of Dow 10,000!, so you know to expect good things. Not “bitch-slaps,” or,… Jonathan Goodwin 12/28/05 22 01/01/06
Book and Volume Nick Montfort, who wrote the (or at least “a") book on interactive fiction, has recently released Book and Volume, which is set in nTopia, has allusions ranging from Pynchon to Gygax, and feels very PKD--I mean that neutrally. My discussion is going to include some mild spoilers. Jonathan Goodwin 12/21/05 0
Eighties and Nineties Political Censoriousness: Where? From a long review of John Worthen’s D. H. Lawrence: Life of an Outsider: Now that the eighties and nineties fashion of censoriously political reading has come to seem a narrow cut, and nearly as dated as those postwar clichés about the sickness of civilized humanity, Lawrence can be rescued from… Jonathan Goodwin 12/12/05 3 12/17/05
It Starts with the Loss of a Semicolon The most famous paragraph in “bad writing discussions”: Theodor Haecker was rightfully alarmed by the fact that the semicolon is dying out; this told him that no one can write a period, a sentence containing several balanced clauses, any more. Part of this incapacity is the fear of page-long paragraphs, a… Jonathan Goodwin 12/10/05 14 12/14/05
Reading List Suggestions for Entering College Students Jane Kotulka is preparing a college prep reading list for students at Bassett High School in Bassett, VA. Her query was forwarded to our faculty list:I am working on a college prep reading list for our students.  We want to prepare them for their college career. Do you have a freshman… Jonathan Goodwin 12/07/05 22 12/09/05
Fuller’s Dover Testimony Michael Bérubé’s been wondering about how Steve Fuller, a leading figure in the sociology of science, could testify on behalf of ID proponents in Dover and also be blurbed on the back of a volume by Meera Nanda, criticizing the reactionary tendencies of post-modernism. The ACLU has made Fuller’s testimony available,… Jonathan Goodwin 12/04/05 59 12/13/05
The NYU Strike Word on the street is that Alan Sokal and Andrew Ross both support the striking graduate students, whereas it seems that Paul Boghossian, who has a piece in the Theory’s Empire volume you may remember from a while back, supports the administration. David Velleman, also of NYU’s “ranked the undisputed number… Jonathan Goodwin 12/04/05 5 12/05/05
PSA/A New Review of A New Kind of Science Many of you may remember Prof. Synecdoche. He seems to have deleted his blog. Unfortunately, it’s been replaced by a porn-spam blog. So, I’d advise everyone to de-link. Polymath Cosma Shalizi has an entertaining review of Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science. I have a paper in various stages of… Jonathan Goodwin 10/26/05 28 10/31/05
Remembering Wayne Booth Anthropologist Alex Golub has posted a remembrance of Wayne Booth. I never met Booth, though The Rhetoric of Fiction, A Rhetoric of Irony, and The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction were all influential books I read as an undergraduate. The latter volume, in particular, seemed very alien to me… Jonathan Goodwin 10/13/05 1 10/15/05
Reactions Here are some selections from an ALSC Forum, presented, with the occasional comment, for your reading pleasure. --- Wilbur’s stockboy reading Playboy on his lunch break shows (even though his choice of reading matter hardly counts as literary reading) a kindred absorption. It is as if the stimulus (to the eye)… Jonathan Goodwin 10/08/05 39 10/11/05
A Question about Public Libraries Should public libraries primarily invest in materials their patrons want to read or things that they are good for them to read? (And who would make this decision, the Coast Guard?*) Or, perhaps, a mixture of both--but in what proportion? Have you been in a small-town public library recently? I know… Jonathan Goodwin 09/22/05 13 09/26/05
What’s New in NLH? New Literary History is a journal I find consistently interesting. I previously wrote a brief overview of an issue of Social Text, and these types of informal introductions to the contents of recent journals in the literary and cultural studies are one of the many delights you can look forward to… Jonathan Goodwin 09/20/05 2 09/22/05
Class and the Literature Professor Scott McLemee writes about academia and class in today’s InHiEd. He discusses an article by Eric Hayot over at Printculture. Hayot has a bulleted list of cultural pointers that I’d like to review: It helps to know something about wine, because you will need to bring wine to people’s houses if… Jonathan Goodwin 09/20/05 8 09/21/05
Another Journal Etiquette Question GZOMBIE observes:I dread cranky readers’ reports, though. The earlier version of this article was criticized for getting key factual claims wrong, but it was the reader (and not me) who had those facts wrong. Dude, I’ve looked at the primary documents, and I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been going… Jonathan Goodwin 09/18/05 2 09/19/05
Defining Literacy Down There’s an article in the Post about the apparent resurgence of the core curriculum across the country. First, I’d have to say that I have met several faculty, students, and alumni from Oglethorpe, and I wouldn’t say that it is “little-known.” In fact, it’s the only college mentioned in the article… Jonathan Goodwin 09/06/05 13 09/13/05
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