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Being human has historically limited our perception, bound it to the human. Recent works like Insect MediaAlien Phenomenology, etc. have really opened up interesting discussions. Posthumanism isn't new, of course, but I think there is a general trend toward removing the 'centrality' of the human in criticism itself...and I think that's a great thing. 

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Probably right around the time you decided to go to Purdue, amiright amiright? The thing I don't like about these "hot" "new" "fields" is that they aren't new, they are only hot because people are

thestage, Fishbucket, you guys are aware that you can study some things, and other people can study different things, and that's okay, right?

Yes, all that new technology that we've developed to turn us into insects and allow us to communicate with aliens has really rejuvenated the humanities!

Being human has historically limited our perception, bound it to the human. Recent works like Insect MediaAlien Phenomenology, etc. have really opened up interesting discussions. Posthumanism isn't new, of course, but I think there is a general trend toward removing the 'centrality' of the human in criticism itself...and I think that's a great thing. 

 

Yes, all that new technology that we've developed to turn us into insects and allow us to communicate with aliens has really rejuvenated the humanities!

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This might be more trouble than it is worth, but what is animal studies? Any introductory reading you could recommend?

 

In addition to those that others have suggested, you should of course read Derrida's The Animal That Therefore I Am and John Berger's About Looking. You should also be familiar with the likes of Peter Singer and Tom Regan. There was also an animal studies issue of PMLA a few years back that is worth getting your hands on.

 

 we can't actually exit the human perspective

Well, yes. This is one of the most basic concerns of animal studies and posthumanism in general (the acknowledgement that human experience is not the experience but that is is nonetheless everywhere). It's not as if animal studies/posthumanism/etc haven't grappled with this problem or as if scholars live in fantasy-land where they imagine that they can view the world as a pea.

 

 

In terms of what will be "hot" soon, I'd like to see more network theory and game theory sorts of things popping up. There were a few people at my recent visit to Buffalo talking about literature and mathematics. 

Edited by asleepawake
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I study literature. Insects don't write literature

humanities, dawg. I Believe In Human Beings.

Posthumanism isn't new, of course, but I think there is a general trend toward removing the 'centrality' of the human in criticism itself...

In terms of literature, this is actually the most nonsensical thing you could possibly put in print.

Edited by thestage
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Well, yes. This is one of the most basic concerns of animal studies and posthumanism in general (the acknowledgement that human experience is not the experience but that is is nonetheless everywhere). It's not as if animal studies/posthumanism/etc haven't grappled with this problem or as if scholars live in fantasy-land where they imagine that they can view the world as a pea.

 

In terms of what will be "hot" soon, I'd like to see more network theory and game theory sorts of things popping up. There were a few people at my recent visit to Buffalo talking about literature and mathematics. 

 

So animal studies/posthumanists discuss how their efforts are impossible. What else is new? Philosophy does that all the time, and it leads us nowhere. That's why things like phenomenology were invented, to analyze and describe things in a way that can actually be useful... or maybe useful isn't the word, but at least not so circular and pointless.

 

In response to the idea of literature and mathematics: Didn't they already do this a long time ago? Like for example in Lewis Carroll?

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In terms of what will be "hot" soon, I'd like to see more network theory and game theory sorts of things popping up. There were a few people at my recent visit to Buffalo talking about literature and mathematics. 

 

I am not into the idea of game theory entering English. The shift to quantative as the end-all-be-all of "true knowledge" has hurt enough fields already (Politics, for one, my husband the political philosophy person would say; and I would agree). Why can't we recognize that the qualitative is just as valuable? Aren't we supposed to protect that? I don't want the future of our discipline to be works like What Pronouns Say About You, where ridiculousconcluions are made based off counting words (which I know is some DH as well, though I think DH can hopefully be more than that).

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So animal studies/posthumanists discuss how their efforts are impossible. What else is new? Philosophy does that all the time, and it leads us nowhere. That's why things like phenomenology were invented, to analyze and describe things in a way that can actually be useful... or maybe useful isn't the word, but at least not so circular and pointless.

 

In response to the idea of literature and mathematics: Didn't they already do this a long time ago? Like for example in Lewis Carroll?

 

I would never argue that philosophy leads us nowhere.

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I am not into the idea of game theory entering English. The shift to quantative as the end-all-be-all of "true knowledge" has hurt enough fields already (Politics, for one, my husband the political philosophy person would say; and I would agree). Why can't we recognize that the qualitative is just as valuable? Aren't we supposed to protect that? I don't want the future of our discipline to be works like What Pronouns Say About You, where ridiculousconcluions are made based off counting words (which I know is some DH as well, though I think DH can hopefully be more than that).

 

I think there are qualitative ways to talk about things like game theory, though. As these kinds of things enter English, they also grow and change.

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Humans write literature, and sometimes that literature is about insects.

 

But it will always be a human's-eye-view of insects. So why pretend that we can have insect-oriented philosophy? It's just a person talking for an [insect/object/animal]

 

I don't think Philosophy is pointless. I think certain kinds of philosophical thinking are pointless. That's how you keep philosophy sharp, by thinking critically about how one does philosophy.

 

Sure, people can study different things from me. But if I think those things are fundamentally flawed in their methodology, gonna go right ahead and say so, thanks.

Edited by Fishbucket
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But it will always be a human's-eye-view of insects. So why pretend that we can have insect-oriented philosophy? It's just a person talking for an [insect/object/animal]

 

I don't think Philosophy is pointless. I think certain kinds of philosophical thinking is pointless. That's how you keep philosophy sharp, by thinking critically about how one does philosophy.

 

Sure, people can study different things from me. But if I think those things are fundamentally flawed in their methodology, gonna go right ahead and say so, thanks.

In this case I sense you just don't know very much about animal studies and posthumanism, especially considering that asleepawake has already acknowledged one of your primary critiques (of something you obviously know nothing about) and you read right through it. This is either cognitive dissonance or you are a troll.

 

Humanism is also people talking for other people (see like everything ever written by Spivak for instance -- the fucking double bind!). Does that invalidate humanism? Is humanism a flawed methodology? Are you a troll?

 

Edit: Everything is representation. Get over it.

Edited by TripWillis
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But it will always be a human's-eye-view of insects. So why pretend that we can have insect-oriented philosophy? It's just a person talking for an [insect/object/animal]

 

It's not about escaping the human point of view. It's about acknowledging that an alternative point of view exists at all (which humanism, traditionally, has not done--hence post-humanism).

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I am not into the idea of game theory entering English. The shift to quantative as the end-all-be-all of "true knowledge" has hurt enough fields already (Politics, for one, my husband the political philosophy person would say; and I would agree). Why can't we recognize that the qualitative is just as valuable? Aren't we supposed to protect that? I don't want the future of our discipline to be works like What Pronouns Say About You, where ridiculousconcluions are made based off counting words (which I know is some DH as well, though I think DH can hopefully be more than that).

I actually did my bachelor's in Political Science (theory, specifically!) and while I am obviously heading toward a more humanities-based discipline, I think this is an unfair caricature of Political Science (and of quant methodology which is, you know, actually valid and I don't think any more dominant in the field than it was 50 years ago). Well, what asleepawake said. The people I know in Literature who are actually currently doing this aren't working with it in the same way that an IR person is, they just aren't. That's what makes it interesting. We (as someone whose interests dovetail game theory) DO value the qualitative -- that's why I'm here -- and I think we're all capable of using math responsibly (because we actually also respect math! Which shouldn't be so outrageous!).

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The presumption that one can only ever think, theorize, write, or indeed experience the world from a uniquely human perspective is not a given truth, nor is it a universal phenomenon today. Moreover, it is a relatively new concept in the scheme of Western thought. Cf. Laurie Shannon's brilliant new book, which historicizes the concept of the "human" in utterly fascinating ways. (http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/A/bo14312671.html).

 

I share the skepticism of certain commenters on this thread about some of the new philosophical and theoretical postures that are capturing the current collective scholarly imagination without, I think, good application or use (and, whatever our ideals of the humanities are, we MUST engage and demonstrate their use these days, because that's where we are as a culture at the moment; practice ideas for the sake of ideas at your own peril). However, casually dismissing certain methodologies and philosophies as "pointless" is both childish and lazy. If you think something is stupid, try to engage it. It will make your own arguments, methods, and theories that much stronger. It will help you be a better practitioner of your own work, and will also give you enough authority when you are dismantling those theories with which you disagree that people will take your criticisms seriously. Completely dismissing methodologies and theories before you know them well enough to back up that dismissal does nothing but expose a crass intellectual indolence.

Edited by Phil Sparrow
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But it will always be a human's-eye-view of insects. So why pretend that we can have insect-oriented philosophy? It's just a person talking for an [insect/object/animal]

 

I don't think Philosophy is pointless. I think certain kinds of philosophical thinking are pointless. That's how you keep philosophy sharp, by thinking critically about how one does philosophy.

 

Sure, people can study different things from me. But if I think those things are fundamentally flawed in their methodology, gonna go right ahead and say so, thanks.

 

gawd i love when people who have absolutely no knowledge of what a given subject even is take it upon themselves to fearlessly proffer that they think it's "fundamentally flawed," based on their own radically uninformed, strawman version of it, instead of the real versions of some of the most respected and established scholars in the field they are ostensibly trying to enter. it's exactly the sort of lazy, hubristic thinking i combat in my undergraduate students.

 

posthumanism is not about "transcending the human perspective." that's like deep ecology, which went out as fast as it came in the '90s. it's about interrogating the category of "human."

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Cary Wolfe, "Human, All Too Human: 'Animal Studies' and the Humanities," PMLA 2009 (this is, I believe, the same issue of PMLA asleepawake mentioned). 

 

For the record, the argument "[insert subject here] doesn't write literature, so, bored now" impresses me less every time I hear it. 

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I read a little bit of Animal Studies, Thing Theory, etc. in a theory course during my MA. Honestly, I don't really know how much staying power these fields have. I think one thing we all have to think about as we're planning our specialization is whether or not that field will still be relevant 10, 20 years from now. Obviously no one does Structuralism anymore. That was 50+ years ago. But to teach theory, you have to know Structuralism. Will the same be true of Animal Studies when we've been out of grad school and (hopefully...) on the path to tenure a decade from now? Maybe, and for those who are interested in it, I hope so! But count me as one who is a bit skeptical.

 

As for what's "hot" in English, religion and literature is not exactly a "hot" topic. But there are some rockstar scholars (i.e. - Amy Hungerford at Yale, John McClure at Rutgers) and philosophers (Richard Kearney at BC, who studied under Ricoeur, John Caputo who is closely connected to Derrida, etc.) who are driving at some interesting theoretical approaches to the relationship between religious discourse / religious studies and literary artifacts. It's a turn in the interdisciplinary direction that I think might be very promising. It worked (reasonably well, I guess) in my PhD applications?

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