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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fish Argues Against Interpretation Via Digital Humanities

Posted by Bill Benzon on 01/24/12 at 05:19 PM

He’s at it again. Fish has another post contra-digital humanities, this time centering on interpretation. Not surprisingly, he’s opposed, which is consistent with remarks he made about stylistics, including computational stylistics, in one or two of the essays in Is There A Text in This Class? What IS surprising, given the arguments in that—arguably ancient—book, is his final paragraph:

But whatever vision of the digital humanities is proclaimed, it will have little place for the likes of me and for the kind of criticism I practice: a criticism that narrows meaning to the significances designed by an author, a criticism that generalizes from a text as small as half a line, a criticism that insists on the distinction between the true and the false, between what is relevant and what is noise, between what is serious and what is mere play.

When did he revert to the beliefs he so strenuously argued against in that text, the beliefs that made him a Major Theorist?

But, of course, he’s allowed to change his beliefs. We all are. For that matter, some of the positions he’s arguing against aren’t terribly attractive to me, at least as he presents them. But that’s neither here nor there.

My major problem is that he’s implicitly asserting that digital humanities stands or falls on its service to interpretation. It doesn’t. And, heretical though though the idea may seem, interpretation need not be the central activity of literary criticism. We’ve been too long too greedy after meaning. Understanding how texts work is not at all co-extensive with figuring out, case by case, what this or that text means. 


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