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Rhetorical Occasions

All right, I’ll let you all know what’s been keeping me so busy lately.  At the end of October I turned in the final draft manuscript of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?  Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education.  While that’s in copyediting, I’ve been finishing up a book of collected essays, Rhetorical Occasions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities.  (That book will even include some material from this humble blog!  But not this post.  That would be just too weird.) Yes, that’s right, I’m planning to have two books out next fall/ winter—it’s all part of my plan for world domination by 2009, as you might remember.  But I haven’t wanted to say anything about Rhetorical Occasions because I didn’t want to jinx it.

Don’t laugh.  I’ve mentioned Liberal Arts on this blog many times over the past two years, and as a result, I lost two chapters of it in a computer failure, saved unrevised versions of chapters over revised versions, and basically screwed things up again and again in a most uncharacteristic and vexing manner. What? you say. Here you are posing as a defender of Enlightenment reason against the incursions of superstition and pseudoscience, and you believe in this ‘jinx’ and ‘magical thinking’ nonsense? To which I reply: uh, well, actually, yes.  Time and again in my career, whenever I have spoken about a manuscript to people before it was done, I have jinxed it.  This is true both of book manuscripts and magazine essays: the principle works regardless of the length of the manuscript and irrespective of the publication venue.  So I have learned not to mess with the Angry Spirits who determine the fate of all mortal manuscripts.  Begone, Angry Spirits!  Go mess with Jonah Goldberg for a change.  (Ah!  I see you have.  Thank you, Angry Spirits.)

Anyway, Rhetorical Occasions isn’t just a collection of much of my work over the past ten years; a good chunk of it is substantially rewritten, and of the opening four essays (on the Sokal Hoax and its aftermath), one is entirely new, one has doubled in length (all by itself—it happened while I was sleeping), and one is an almost unrecognizable version of its former self (this is the “brute fact/ social fact” essay).  Over the past five weeks, I’ve been reading or rereading the whole pre- and post-Sokal crew, from Paul Gross and Norman Levitt to Paul Boghossian and Ian Hacking.  (That’s why I came across Steve Fuller’s blurb for Meera Nanda—and yes, I’ll have that reply to Steve a bit later this week.) As a result, there’s a kind of continuity between my arguments about postmodernism in Liberal Arts (which I’ve been hinting at here and there) and my work in the first four essays of Rhetorical Occasions. Just so you know how I’ve spent the fall of 2005.

More specifically, this project has required me to write seventy or eighty pages of new material over the past month, which is why I haven’t had a lot of spare time for commentary on politics and hockey—or updates on Jamie.  Or anything else.  But all that will change soon, because I’m finally getting the manuscript out of my house this week.  Unless, of course, I’ve just jinxed myself.

But hey, you know what?  While I was slaving away here over a hot laptop, I learned that I’ve been nominated for one of them Wizbang Weblog Awards.  So if you’ve been entertained or edified over the past year by this blog’s bizarre mix of cultural studies, Theory Tuesdays, Arbitrary But Fun Fridays, omnidirectional film and music commentary, and Jamie stories, please consider heading over to Wizbang and casting your vote my way.  You can vote once per day, every day between now and December 15.  (That’s right, it’s the Chicago System!  Vote early and often, people.) When last I checked, I was running well ahead of a couple of right-wing blogs, but in a virtual tie with Austin Bay for second behind . . . Sadly, No! Can we allow this all-important 251-500 category to be taken by Sadly, No!?  I think we all know the answer to that one.

Thanks!  I’ll be back in a bit with one of those pleasant, facetious posts you’ve come to expect from this harried blog.

UPDATE:  Sadly, No! answers the bell.

Posted by on 12/06 at 01:19 PM
  1. I’m so proud of myself. I voted for you before I even saw this post.

    Now, in true Chicago fashion, I need to find some dead people’s IP addresses so I can vote more than once a day.

    Posted by Orange  on  12/06  at  04:43 PM
  2. you got my vote! (if only for the parentheticals!)

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  04:46 PM
  3. Thanks, Orange.  Thanks, tony.  I so wish Wizbang had a separate category for blogs that make heavy use of parenthetical asides.  (I suppose I don’t need to explain why I wish this.)

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  04:52 PM
  4. Where are the awards (I can’t help but wonder) for the best commenters?

    If you were serious about your parentheses, Michael, you’d work in some layers. [Your asides need to have asides of their own (because otherwise you risk looking too focused).]

    Posted by Orange  on  12/06  at  05:05 PM
  5. Sadly, No! answers the bell.

    Ding dong!

    Posted by Sadly, No!  on  12/06  at  05:10 PM
  6. Wait!  That comment answers the bell about my update about answering the bell!

    The postmodern bell has now been answered.

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  05:28 PM
  7. Cast my vote for the best dang blog around. However, forget the Chicago fashion, too old fashioned. We need to go to the tried and true GOP version to truly spread blog-voting democracy
    {the Florida Version 2000 [or the Ohio Version 2004(tho possibly the Gitmo Version, where we torture to get results desired)]}.

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  05:51 PM
  8. Ok, I voted for you.  But only so you’ll beat that Quebecois--I mean, Quebecker.  Quebecken?  Where’s a Canadian dictionary when I need one?

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  05:56 PM
  9. Cast my vote for the best dang blog around.

    Well, of course that’s your right, Lefty, but I’d specifically asked you to vote for my blog.

    And SneakySnu, what’s a Canadian dictionary?  Are you suggesting that Canadia is another country or something?

    Posted by Michael  on  12/06  at  06:07 PM
  10. After the polls close on December 15 and the votes are counted, will you start turning over more blogging responsibility to the Iraqis?

    Posted by Orange  on  12/06  at  06:18 PM
  11. As someone who is otherwise completely unsuperstitious and totally non-religious, I too live in fear of the awesome and undisputed power of the jinx.

    I feel your pain.

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  06:30 PM
  12. After the polls close on December 15 and the votes are counted, will you start turning over more blogging responsibility to the Iraqis?

    Orange, as the Iraqis stand up, this blog will stand down.  Or sit down.  Or maybe get down.  Or maybe get on up.  Can I take it to the bridge?

    Posted by Michael  on  12/06  at  06:51 PM
  13. Michael:
    I also fear the jinx after not being able to find dissertation chapters and then reappear in red.  we may not believe in magical powers, but our computers do. 
    If you take it to the bridge does it mean Maceo is coming to this blog or do you just want to give the drummer some?  Wait a minute, you are a drummer.
    Happy to hear about the two books.  Can’t wait to read them.

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  09:54 PM
  14. Things were going well for you in the voting, Michael—until we unveiled the gay creche

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  12/06  at  10:34 PM
  15. I know, I too was shocked when I moved to Toronto and discovered the existence of this.  Good thing it’s only 15 pages long--I thought I’d have no way of communicating with people here!

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  10:37 PM
  16. Drat!  The link didn’t work.  Well, if you happen to be on that page, just type “Canadian dictionary” in the search box and see what you come up with.

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  10:39 PM
  17. What’s that line about a bunch of things between heaven and earth from Horatio Alger?

    I grew up with a sewing machine that hated me: all four of my sisters used it without any problem, but when I sat down, all sorts of things went wrong. The final straw was when it somehow managed to insert a foam curler inside its case and into its engine. I decided that if the machine was dedicated enough to commit suicide, I’d have to respect that and stop sewing.

    The college where I used to teach had an evil copy machine. The repair tech came out every week, and over the course of three semesters, he managed to replace every single part in the thing. Finally, he brought out a completely new machine, and all problems were solved. The geshtalt of the machine was broken, and we had to replace the whole thing.

    I could cite other examples from personal experience, but these are the most entertaining.

    (Ironically, I landed here from a link on Sadly, No!)

    Posted by Dorothy  on  12/06  at  11:46 PM
  18. Canadian English is a fusion of American and British English.  For the most part, we followed the British pattern of spelling (Noah Webster changed the spelling of some words in his first American dictionary as a form of protest against Britain, I believe), but since we imbibe most of the same pop culture from the US, there are plenty of Americanisms in our English.

    On the topic of “imbibe” and “pop”, my Connecticut cousins thought it weird that we used the word “pop” for soft drinks (they use “soda"), even though “pop” is used in parts of the US.  This Wikipedia entry clarifies that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_drink#Pop_vs._soda_vs._coke_in_the_United_States

    Oh, and Michael--love your blog, but Sadly, No! will bury you. smile

    Posted by  on  12/06  at  11:48 PM
  19. Michael
    “Can I take it to the bridge?”

    “Where’s that confounded bridge?”

    Posted by  on  12/07  at  10:52 AM
  20. False Prophet, might it yet be possible for me to catch up to Sadly, No!?  Sadly, no.  But I will be able to lead a meaningful life nonetheless as a runner-up, ready to take the crown if for any reason Sadly, No! cannot fulfill its duties as the Best Blog in the 251-500 Section of the Dewey Decimal System.

    Just as I long as I beat out Austin Bay.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/07  at  12:55 PM
  21. Beating Austin Bay is the prime directive, yeah. He’s behind, but flogging it hard. He’s attaching a vote-for-me plea to the bottom of every post.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  12/08  at  08:12 AM





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