Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sample Summary

Students, please find below another sample of how to carry out the kind of summary required for ENG 099, as discussed here.

On 23 January 2012, Stanley Fish's "Mind Your P's and B's: The Digital Humanities and Interpretation" appeared in the online New York Times.  In the article, Fish complains that the tools being developed and employed by digital humanities scholars are changing methods of study for the worse by eliminating the possibility and need for critical interpretation.  He opens by carrying out a mock-reading of Milton's Areopagitica, using it as an exemplar of the kind of work that digital humanities facilitates, pointing out the inadequacy of such work by asserting that the simple existence of a pattern does not suffice to support a given interpretation of that pattern.  Fish moves on to assert that the simple identification of patterns is the focus of digital humanities research, a paradigm diametrically opposed to the methods by which literary criticism has been carried out for nearly a century.  He assails digital humanities work because it does not, in his view, offer closure and meaning, but rather rejects the certainty of meaning that he presents as the end-point of his own critical analysis.  Unfortunately, the article fails to convince for several reasons: he indulges in reductio ad absurdum arguments based on supposition errors (such as a tacit assertion that digital humanities research never approaches a text with an idea of critical approach already in hand, that researchers wholly hand over their agency to the machines), over-simplification, and, in his last paragraph, an excessive degree of smirking sarcasm.

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