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Thread: Trouble with Literary Theory

  1. #16
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereward View Post
    Could you link these successful hoaxes? I would be interested to see how similar they are.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who%27...Peer_Review%3F

    These kinds of things don't really demonstrate that critical theory or peer review journals are non-reliable, but it does illustrate that there are failings and weaknesses in a system that relies on a handful of people to be the arbiters of quality scholarship. With the Sokal paper, someone didn't understand what they read but thought it was interesting, however this wouldn't be evidence that the larger community of scholars in critical theory would have accepted the nonsense paper. Just like open access science papers accepting a flawed paper on biochemistry is not evidence that all biochemical papers published in those journals are nonsense.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
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    Well, that page identifies a financial reason why these new types of scientific journals would publish sub-standard articles. It implies that they do not have a peer review process at all.

    Another big difference with the sokal hoax is that he directly lampoons ideas that were current at the time. He quotes real cultural theorists. His piece is an attack on the ideas themselves, not just the peer review process.

  3. #18
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereward View Post
    Well, that page identifies a financial reason why these new types of scientific journals would publish sub-standard articles. It implies that they do not have a peer review process at all.

    Another big difference with the sokal hoax is that he directly lampoons ideas that were current at the time. He quotes real cultural theorists. His piece is an attack on the ideas themselves, not just the peer review process.
    At the same time the editors of Social Text noted to Sokal that the article was poorly written and published in deference to his credentials because they were looking for articles that fit their "Science War" issue. They published his article as a good faith attempt to include a scientist into the social studies debate. This was a failure of the peer review process at Social Text, who should have been more rigorous. Saying that Sokal's hoax was an attack on the ideas themselves is an overstatement, whether it demonstrate people's willingness to accept nonsense as serious comment is one thing, but it doesn't actually demonstrate the weakness of the concepts he criticizes in context. Sokal's hoax was an effective popular critique because of its simple digestible dissemination through the media. However, it is far from being an actual sophisticated rebuttal of those post-structuralist ideas. I'm by no means a fan of Irigaray or Lacan, and would never consider them seriously in my own scholarship, but Sokal didn't really do anything to address why they shouldn't be taken seriously through this hoax. He went to greater lengths in Fashionable Nonsense, but even then it's a bit weak and light. It's easy to quote things out of context and make fun. Irigaray in particular has a penchant for grand overstatements that sound ridiculous (which they often are anyway).
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
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  4. #19
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have been ploughing through my book on literary theory and not understanding very much of it. It did remind me of a book by David Lodge called Nice Work. In that book, a young lecturer in English is assigned to shadow a managing director of a factory that makes metal things for other companies. It was like proper heavy industry. I don't know if there ever was a government scheme like this, but it sounded like the sort of thing they used to encourage back in the 80s and 90s. In the book the academic and the factory boss don't initially get along. She thinks his factory alienates the workers. He thinks her work is of precisely zero value. Anyway, the author, David Lodge, is a professor in English, so he understands literary theory a bit. There was one bit where the young lecturer deconstructs the the brand of cigarettes that the factory manager smokes (Marlborough). So maybe there is some commercial use to literary theory: advertising.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    I'm a self taught layman with no higher education. It tested my own IQ on line sensing my own limitations ; it was 105 or slightly above average. I still try to push my limits but I realise I will never make a research physicist.
    Regarding literature , some I find unreadable and modern poetry leaves me cold most of the time. The same applies to music;stuff written after the romantic period means little or nothing.
    Some tell me it is a matter of taste but I think graspability has a part to play.

  6. #21
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    But maybe you know it already:
    Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton
    I read it, and like everything else by Terry found it amusing, highly intelligent and informed, elegantly written and readable.

    The trouble was that after I'd finished it I found I had barely a clue about literary theory.

    Since I read for my own amusement rather than to pass exams, I just get on reading.

    I don't mean to condemn all literary theory. There are plenty of things in this world that I don't get and that's me.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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