Fish’s Object

Stanley Fish has a piece in the New York Times today that makes some use of my contribution to Debates in the Digital Humanities. The DH Debates collection isn’t online yet, but similar work of mine can be found in Post45 and (with updates) in the proceedings of the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science (PDF).

Jeremy Rosen anticipated most of what Fish says in his lengthy response to the Post45 essay. My reply to Rosen probably works equally well as a response to Fish.

Here I’ll only add that while I appreciate the attention, I have my doubts about Fish’s sincerity when he proposes to defend the pursuit of authorial intent (in Milton, no less!).

[My colleague Steve Fallon—the distinguished Miltonist—observes that Fish frequently uses a different, constructivist account of imputed authorial intent in his own criticism. But I’d maintain that this is sufficiently different from the naïve version offered in the column as to be an entirely distinct thing.]

Update: Ted Underwood has a smart reply on the relationship between theory and experiment or, more humanistically, where our ideas come from.

Update 2: Mark Lieberman at Language Log runs some revealing numbers on the P’s and B’s in Areopagitica that were part of Fish’s set piece.

Update 3: Martin Mueller has a long and wide-ranging response to Fish’s series of articles, including a defense-cum-clarification of my own work. Worth a read and I thank him for it.

3 thoughts on “Fish’s Object

  1. I’m largely sympathetic to Fish’s skepticism in this case, but was struck that he didn’t see data-mining as providing a solution to the question of the randomness or deliberateness of all those Ps and Bs.

  2. Yes, I agree. Fish’s concern over authorial attention is, well, fishy.

    I’ve not been following things closely enough to have a sense of just when and how the “digital humanities” term was invented, but it’s unfortunate. It’s seems that one side-effect of high-Theory has been the branding and commodification of intellectual work. Has anyone been talking about “the digital turn” or has that indignity been avoided so far?

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