Updates on Publishing

wbccover
First, Writing for College and Beyond is now out and desk and review copies are available. Check out the book site, and if you’re a first-year writing instructor and would like a review or desk copy, or would like to review it for your journal, email me.

 

 

 

 

 

CoverRDC
Next, Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History was published in April 2019. Consider ordering it for your library, for yourself, or for review in your journal. This edited anthology explores how crises in democracy during different historical periods influenced the development of different theories or methods of interpreting written works.

 

 

 

Rock and Romanticism: Blake and Wordsworth, Book Cover
Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (2018) 
is doing great. It’s been nominated for an ASCAP music writing award and has been reviewed by ChoiceReview 19, and Rock Music Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Image, Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
 (2018) is doing great too. It’s been reviewed by Review 19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I’m happy to report that David Bowie and Romanticism: The Chameleon Poet and the Changeling Self is now under contract, and Women in Rock/Women in Literature: The Emancipation of Female Will is under consideration with a publisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading as Democracy in Crisis Now Available for Purchase

I’m pleased to announce that Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History is now available for order on Rowman & Littlefield’s website.
The chapters in this book demonstrate how the variety of reading strategies represented by the figures and movements discussed within its pages were motivated in part by different historical circumstances, many of which involved periods of crisis in democracy. These circumstances range from Plato’s Thirty Tyrants to the French Revolution to the two World Wars and the Holocaust, from the Civil Rights movement to LBGTQ rights to the Arab Spring in Egypt to social media. It covers figures and movements such as Plato and Derrida; Hegel; Marx; Wittgenstein; Warren; Rosenblatt; Adorno, Foucault, Derrida, and Frow; Butler; and Object-Oriented Ontology alongside Digital Humanities. Chapters include:

1 Democracy as Context for Theory: Plato and Derrida as Readers of Socrates, by James Rovira
2 Historian, Forgive Us: Study of the Past as Hegel’s Methodology of Faith, by Aglaia Maretta Venters
3 Karl Marx: The End of the Enlightenment, by Eric Hood
4 Ludwig Wittgenstein: Toward a Dialectical Pragmatism, by Steve Wexler
5 Robert Penn Warren: Poetry, Racism, and the Burden of History, by Cassandra Falke
6 Louise Rosenblatt: The Reader, Democracy, and the Ethics of Reading, by Meredith N. Sinclair
7 Aesthetic Theory: From Adorno to Cultural History, by Philip Goldstein
8 Judith Butler: A Livable Life, by Darcie Rives-East
9 Networking the Great Outdoors: Object-Oriented Ontology and the Digital Humanities, by Roger Whitson
The following 30% discount code is valid until April 30, 2020: LEX30AUTH19. It should work on the publisher’s website linked above.
This book presents straightforward explanations of each figure’s or movement’s central ideas alongside an original thesis about each figure or movement, so it can also be useful for introducing students to different theoretical approaches to texts.

Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History

I’m pleased to announce that Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History was made available for purchase by Lexington Books, the academic imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, in April of 2019. The featured image above by photographer Rebekah Rovira is the full image used for the cover — you can view actual cover on this post. Many thanks to the contributors who stuck with this project for so long. Chapters include:

Introduction
— by James Rovira
1. Democracy as Context for Theory: Plato and Derrida as Readers of Socrates
— by James Rovira
2. Historian, Forgive Us: Study of the Past as Hegel’s Methodology of Faith
— by Aglaia Maretta Venters
3. Karl Marx: The End of the Enlightenment
— by Eric Hood
4. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Toward a Dialectical Pragmatism
— by Steve Wexler
5. Robert Penn Warren: Poetry, Racism, and the Burden of History
— by Cassandra Falke
6. Louise Rosenblatt: The Reader, Democracy, and the Ethics of Reading
— by Meredith N. Sinclair
7. Aesthetic Theory: From Adorno to Cultural History
— by Philip Goldstein
8. Judith Butler: A Livable Life
— by Darcie Rives-East
9. Networking the Great Outdoors: Object-Oriented Ontology and the Digital Humanities
— by Roger Whitson

Notes on Derrida

I’ve been reading Derrida for a forthcoming publication, so I’m just thinking out loud here. I invite other readers to join with me. Nothing I’m writing here attempts to engage the published scholarship on these topics.

Comments on Writing and Difference:

For being an atheist, he writes a lot about God.

His engagement with negative theology is needed and valid within the context of his argument in Writing and Difference. But it’s defective because he relies too much on Meister Eckhart (perhaps exclusively?), who was a thirteenth/fourteenth century Dominican monk. Eckhart was a German Catholic. His Catholic identity pressured him to pull back from the strongest expression of negative theology, which sounds heretical to Catholic ears. Derrida should have relied on Russian or Greek sources, but I don’t know what was available to him in French or German translation in the late 50s/early 60s. If he had, I think that would have led to a much more productive discussion of negative theology in Writing and Difference.

He’s a great close reader. He seems most interested in deconstructing the works that are most interesting and valuable to him. He doesn’t call it “deconstruction” in WD, though the word may appear there once. He uses the word deconstitution.

Since the chapters of WD are brought together from previously published articles, I’d like to list these chapters, along with his chapters in Of Grammatology and in Speech and Phenomena, all of which were published in 1967, in the order in which they were originally written, and then read them in that order, not in the book chapter order. I’d also like to list the pre-reading needed for each chapter. Order of publication in English doesn’t at all mirror order of publication in French.

Authorial Intent and Ham Sandwiches

I regularly teach both literature and literary theory courses, so I’m regularly confronted with the problem of interpreting literature. What defines meaning in a literary work? The default position is “the author’s intent,” and people generally think that if you were to somehow distance linguistic meaning from authorial intent that words might come to mean anything and everything anyone wants them to mean.

I’d like to start by saying that the fear is unfounded: words are our most important shared cultural resource, which means that no one — neither readers nor writers — have the ability to make any given word or group of words mean anything at all arbitrarily. At the same time, many given arrangements of words, especially the more creative kind, are still susceptible to multiple interpretations. So we want to start by thinking that most arrangements of words are capable of being interpreted in a limited number of ways. Only under certain circumstances will an arrangement of words mean only one thing (think highly technical language in limited contexts), and under no circumstances can any arrangement of words mean anything at all arbitrarily.

So what’s the problem with authorial intent as the basis of literary meaning? The problem is inherent in what I’ve already said: authors don’t own language any more than readers do because language is a shared cultural resource. Now of course authors get to say what they meant when they wrote the work: no one gets to ascribe motives to an author on their behalf (which is what defining a work in terms of authorial intent usually does, in fact). But that doesn’t mean that the arrangement of words exclusively means, or even actually means, what the author intended.

I’d like to illustrate this point with a Lou Reed song called “Perfect Day”:

“Perfect Day”

Just a perfect day
Drink sangria in the park
And then later, when it gets dark
We go home

Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later a movie, too
And then home

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It’s such fun

Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone good

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow

Here’s the song:

Now here’s what Lou Reed said the song was “about”:

My song “Perfect Day” was originally inspired by a ham sandwich I had eaten. It was so amazing that it had turned my day into a perfect day. It was delicious, so delicious that I decided to dedicate a song to it. I really liked where I was going with the song so I changed some of the lyrics around and now it just sounds like any ordinary song. Most people wouldn’t have guessed that it was about a ham sandwich.

Lou Reed on “Perfect Day”

What the heck? That was a song about a ham sandwich? I’m thinking about this line from 27 Dresses now: “I feel like I just found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich.” I’m beginning to think this line really was inspired by this song.

Seriously, Lou: how the heck do you get from point A, a ham sandwich, to point B, a sweet song about a day spent with someone you love? And what the heck is all that “reap what you sow” stuff about at the end? Sow a sow, reap a sandwich?

Still have any doubts about what I’m saying about authorial intent? No intent-based reading strategies could ever arrive at the right answer and, in fact, the meaning of the song really has nothing to do with ham sandwiches, regardless of what Reed had on his mind. Yes, it really is just a sweet song about spending the day with someone that you love, and the “reap what you sow” lines turn a rather threatening idea into a promise and a wish: “let’s have more days like these so we can have more days like these.”

Now I’m not saying there is never some intention behind any literary work, or even that the intent is never worthy of consideration. It’s just that we often cannot ever really know what the author’s intent was. and sometimes even the author doesn’t, and that reading strategies designed to reveal or uncover authorial intent never really read the author’s mind. What they do instead is place the work within a sociolinguistic and biographical context to limit possible meanings. But, that process never eliminates all other possible meanings. It just focuses upon one type of meaning.

If you’d like to consider other ways of reading, you might find this video interesting:

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: