Response: Stanley Fish Columns

Am I posting this in the right place?


Reading Stanley Fish’s columns, especially “The Digital Humanities and Transcending of Mortality,” made me think of Lewis Carroll’s riddle: “How is a raven like a writing desk?” I think that a problem in DH debates is no one exactly knows how to define digital humanities, so this all-encompassing “it’s the study of everything except online with computers and stuff” definition is attached to it. So Fish’s lamenting of Fitzpatrick’s argument that “a blog privileges immediacy… This emphasis on the present works at cross purposes with much long-form scholarship, which needs stability and longevity in order to make its points” is, I believe, incorrect, or at least ill-placed.

The nature of a blog isn’t the nature of scholarship, but journalism. I mean journalism in the expository sense–where articles are archived based on what is newest; that’s why they call it the news and not the olds–and journalism in the sense of journaling. It is a very linear method of recording thoughts. I don’t know where Fitzpatrick got the notion that blogs and academic scholarship (another gigantic and vague attachment) are even similar. They’re second cousins, twice removed, if anything. In the same way that newspapers, history books, or anything concerned with the recording of things in time does not encompass all of academic scholarship (that’s just history), so it is with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. The only difference between these forms of recording and a ledger or a diary available to the pubic is that one is material, with a beginning and an end, and the other seems to have no end.

Second, I am tired of people prophesying the end of books because of Twitter. Books aren’t going anywhere. Bookstores I cannot speak for. But when I look at history–people complaining that folks didn’t read enough of the Bible because it wasn’t available to them in their own language; people complaining that folks didn’t read enough literature because they were too busy working in factories, and if they did have time to read, they read “sickly, stupid German novels”; people complaining that folks didn’t read enough because they were too diverted by the radio-then-movies-then-television-then-internet– I see that nothing much has changed. Intelligent people who read will still read, because it is their civic duty as intelligent people, and those worrisome people who only communicate in short bursts of Twitter-like messages will still cling to a lower form of communication/entertainment than books.

As for how DH will change academics, the only real change I see it making right now is in libraries or research. As I said last class, until the end is changed (the dean/people in charge of hiring the college-educated masses/the government making public education mandates and also SAT-makers decide that turning upside-down present our way of life in favor of a groovy world where we can take online classes and get respectable degrees for respectable jobs, sharing everything and abandoning authorship) the means will not noticeably change. But I think Stanley Fish realizes that as well. That’s why he makes that “everything has its day in the sun” argument in “The Old Order Changeth.”

One thought on “Response: Stanley Fish Columns

  1. David Ainsworth

    Yes, the blog is the right place to post responses to readings or classroom discussions. (Y’all are free to respond electronically to what we discuss in class, too.)

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