josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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11 Aug '16 07:46:29 PM

'A dot-com address was considered crass.'

8 Aug '16 05:07:13 PM

'What are the sources of this life, the origins of such a business? This book began as both a cultural-historical and an autotherapeutic answer to this question. Its working claim is that the origins of error—as an ideology, a practice, a defining mode of scholarly identity—lie in the nexus of the editorial, the academic, and the political that has shaped textual adventures from the Renaissance to the present. My argument is that the professionalization of literary study took shape through such encounters with the erroneous: more specifically, through detailed engagements with the classical inheritance of rhetoric and philology. But my conception of error embraces both the erring and the errant (the Latin word “errare” means, of course, “to wander”). Being wrong is also about being displaced, about wandering, dissenting, emigrating, and alienating. The professionalization of the scholar, and, in turn, the pose of the vernacular rhetorician and philologist, was a means by which émigrés, exiles, dissenters, and the socially estranged gained private worth and public legitimacy. This is a book, therefore, about the academic’s search for institutional and intellectual belonging. By defining a rhetoric of error in professional self-shaping, by recalibrating the impact of canonical writers and readers, and by resuscitating long-neglected but historically vital early scholars, this book hopes to illuminate the texture of academic culture and the formation of university disciplines. Indeed, it hopes to show how scholarship itself can be a form of personal illumination—an encounter with the sublime, a romance of reading.'

5 Aug '16 08:51:21 AM

Νέος ἐφ' ἡμέρῃ ἥλιος.

17 Jul '16 09:17:55 PM

Another coffeeshop, with L., to talk about my book. Protesters file in, signs in hand. They name the dead, denounce our silence as making us complicit. Of course, when they leave, L. and I turn to talk (talk) about Philando Castile for some time.

All the while, another patron, a man in his fifties plonking away at his computer, listens to us talk, unable to suppress his smirk.

Oh, how I wanted to smack it right off his face.

14 Jul '16 02:40:05 AM

Yesterday's barista was showing protesters where they could hide their phones out of sight while they charged. Today's was bitterly recounting her story of someone who tried to use the bathroom without buying anything. 'I just want it to be done. It's been, like, a week!'.

13 Jul '16 09:03:28 PM

'The first step in building our dwelling is to recognize that we have already built one.

Society remains as mysterious to us as we are to ourselves, or as God is. That we are the slave-drivers of ourselves has not come about "for private reasons, as [we] must believe" (I, 10). It is an open realization of what we have made of the prophecy of democracy. It is what we have done with the success of Locke and the others in removing the divine right of kings and placing political authority in our consent to be governed together. That this has made life a little easier for some, in some respects, is a less important consequence than the fact that we now consent to social evil. What was to be a blessing we have made a curse. We do not see our hand in what happens, so we call certain events melancholy accidents when they are the inevitabilities of our projects (I, 75), and we call other events necessities because we will not change our minds. The essential meaning of the idea of a social contract is that political institutions require justification, that they are absolutely without sanctity, that power over us is held on trust from us, that institutions have no authority other than the authority we lend them, that we are their architects, that they are therefore artifacts, that there are laws or ends, of nature or justice, in terms of which they are to be tested. They are experiments.

To learn that we have forgotten this is part of our education which is sadly neglected.'

9 Jul '16 09:17:05 AM

'When we encounter the unmarked nonprogressive present tense with occurrences, we can guess that we are dealing with a foreigner or a poem.'

7 Jul '16 10:29:34 PM

Drumming on Lexington, just around the corner from the governor's mansion: No justice, no peace.

6 Jul '16 06:21:40 AM

An Amtrak passenger line from above, passing beneath a bridge across Ayd Mill Road, illuminated from within in anticipation of its Saint Paul stop: cars for sitting, dining, viewing are so visibly distinct in function that the whole train—with almost no passengers to be seen—seems transparent.