Showing posts with label Virginia Woolf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia Woolf. Show all posts

6.22.2015

An Account of David Hoover's DHSI 2015 Keynote: Performance, Deformance, Apology

David L. Hoover of NYU gave the opening keynote during week 2 at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (#dhsi2015) this year. It was an intense event, partly because Hoover used certain euphemisms about the poet Joyce Kilmer that some members of the audience perceived as homophobic or transphobic. Another issue was perhaps a bit less urgent, but certainly at least one audience member noted it publicly and it struck home for me as well: Professor Hoover, throughout his lecture, adopted a somewhat comic and facetious tone when describing the ideas and methods of scholars whose work he was criticizing: Jerome McGann, Stephen Ramsay, and Stanley Fish.

As a service to those who weren't in the room, I'll try and summarize the controversy a bit briefly here. I did take notes at the event, but there were limits as to what I was able to record on the spot and my memory of some of what happened may be imperfect. (If anyone reading this wishes to correct my account or offer an alternative version of events, please do so in the comments below -- or send me an email at amardeep at gmail dot com.)

I should also say upfront that despite its flaws, I actually learned a lot from Hoover's lecture; it was, in fact, the first time I had ever seen a lecture strongly oriented towards this type of stylistic analysis. I have been thinking quite a bit about the contentious parts of the lecture, but the more 'bread and butter' arguments and analyses have been thought-provoking for me as well, as I'll describe below.

Hoover has a really impressive CV and extensive credentials in the stylistics (stylometry) subfield in the digital humanities. Here is his page at NYU: among other things, he recently edited a volume for Routledge called Digital Literary Studies: Corpus Approaches to Poetry, Prose and Drama, with two of his own essays in that collection. He also published an essay using cluster analysis to analyze the evolution of Henry James' style in an issue of Henry James Review (accessible via Project Muse presently). Most directly salient for our purposes, however, I would recommend readers look at his essay "Hot Air Textuality: Literature After Jerome McGann." Many of the rhetorical moves Hoover made in the talk he gave are worked out at greater length and with greater care in that published paper (indeed, one of my biggest problems with Hoover's talk is that he seemed to be skipping important steps in his critique of McGann in particular -- he at times came across as contemptuous of McGann; the published critique is actually more respectful of McGann's main arguments).