Thinking About Lines of History

Last year I jumped on the chance to preorder Ron Chernow’s book on U.S. Grant. The Amazing R and I had just come back from a visit to Antietam. When the biography came via mail, I ate it up. I should write a review but I’m too busy following up on the text and thinking about it.

This has lead to a research focus on American reconstruction and its legacy on the now. This led to Black No More then to W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America, which I’m about halfway through. This has led to Foner which I’m now starting or plan to start after Du Bois’ amazing work.

This has also led back to Coates on reparations and why these arguments matter. There is so much to read.

The Amazing R is key to all this line of research.

The learning proceeds.

There’s more also:

Herman Melville’s, Moby Dick

Theodor Dreiser’s, The Financier

Stephen Coss’s The Fever of 1721



An Odd Test Post

I’m taking students through the wordpress back end. It’s fun. They like it. At least those students who are awake.

On Taking Law Enforcement Away

This tweet by the so-called president makes very little sense:

“So-called judge” and “which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country” are more than just inappropriate. And so we have the “so-called” president and the “so-called” president who “takes law-enforcement away from the country.”

I’m pretty sure that there’s adequate law left over.

When an Oxymoron Becomes Du Jour

Studying figures of speech can be fun. The new meme these days is “fake news.”

This is, of course, an oxymoron.

On “The text with words”

From The Journey to the West. The Buddhist Patriarch says:

However, those creatures in your Land of the East are so foolish and unenlightened that I have no choice but to impart to you now the text with words.

This is a significant section of the novel, which redefines a previous judgement, switching “dumb” for “foolish” and “blind” for “unenlightened” and “wordless texts” for “text with words.”

The Purpose of Sleep

On the Purpose of Sleep:

Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators.

How to Write about Being Incorrect

I’m somewhat puzzled by this use of language by David Graham at The Atlantic regarding the whole Frederick Douglass imbroglio. He writes:

In a way, Trump isn’t totally wrong about Douglass “getting recognized more and more,” though one is left to scratch one’s head at where precisely he noticed that.

First we have the hedge phrasing “In a way,” which has become a prepositional tic. I wonder what “way” is meant here. If the writer writes “In a way,” we would expect a description or definition of “the way.” In what “way,” for example, is the president “right”? And then we have the grammatical couple of “isn’t totally wrong,” which would suggest that the lego bricks in use here are both stable and unstable. We might write: “almost right”?

I would suggest that Conor Friedersdorf is more accurate in just writing the plain English of this example:

The mix of Trump’s incompetence and Bannon’s casual bellicosity endangers America.

A College from Scratch

This is an interesting project, building a college from the ground up.

Christine Ortiz is taking a leave from her prestigious post as a professor and dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to start a radical, new nonprofit university that she says will have no majors, no lectures, and no classrooms.

All Poems are Failures (as poems)

Good stuff:

Poems can, of course, succeed in any number of less grand ambitions than the ones I’m describing (they can be funny or lovely or offer solace or courage or inspiration to certain audiences at certain times; they can play a role in constituting a community; and so on), but I’m attempting to account for a persistent if mutable feeling that our moment’s poems are bad, that we hate them or at least strongly dislike them, and that it’s their fucking fault.

Thanks, R.

On Willful Ignorance

From The Chronicle:

Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the “science wars” were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity. The skirmishes blew up in the well-known “Sokal affair” in 1996, in which a prominent physicist created a scientifically absurd postmodernist paper and was able to get it published in a leading cultural-studies journal. The ridicule that followed may have seemed to settle the matter once and for all.