Wednesday, 28 June 2006

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Abstractalous Mission Statement One reason I've opened Abstractalous overwhelms all others: I'm terrible at quickly, cogently summarizing what I read. I belabor outlines until they're of equal or greater length than the article they're intended to supplant. That's not a useful skill. Re-writing an article or a chapter in so many different words doesn't help me remember the argument contained therein. So shortly before the accident, I started abstracting what I read in a deliberate fashion unseen since the days of qualifying exams. But I'm not good at it. I miss things. Big things. Things which lead others to believe I'm lying about having read the article. I think this the result of dissertation-scavenging for so long, but whatever its etiology, it must stop. Now. I have drawn the line, in the form of this blog, and I hope you find it as useful to read as I do to write. My purpose is two-fold: Get the argument right. Include all the important nuances. Establish its place in the critical tradition. Provide enough theoretical background so it makes sense to non-specialists. (Because someday you too will forget how to connect-the-dots of that subtle Derridian argument.) Focus on what the argument says, not criticisms of it. Too often the presence of criticism alongside fractures the argument itself. We can hash out the problems with the argument in the comments. The main body should be a direct, uncritical account of the argument in question. It should be the strong form of the argument, so that when we take up arms against it, we do not assail a man of straw. Create a resource for budding literary scholars. A catalog of abstracts they can turn to (or back to) when they need to understand a particular argument about a work of literature. To that end, I want these to be as direct (as per #1) and clearly written as possible. You're probably asking yourself: Why is he setting down these groundrules if he's going to be the only one writing it? Pish-posh. I don't think I'm that important. I also can't write an abstract for every book and/or article out there. I'm offering you the opportunity to help me out. Is your computer larded to the guts with abstracts of everything you've read the past five years? Why not post them? The information isn't proprietary, after all, since no one will ever publish your summaries of other people's publications. However, think of the status you could eventually acquire in the profession's reputation economy: you could be one of the few, the proud, the abstractors. People who took a little time every day to boil important arguments to the bone and put them up there for public consumption. I don't hold out too much hope that other people will agree to participate. But some of you already do something of the sort, so I'm still somewhat sanguine about my chances. But even if all my utopian desires are foiled, this should be a damn fine way for...
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Funny Books Threaten Local Sanity IRVINE – A package left on the front stoop of an Irvine apartment this morning had local residents fearing for their sanity. One of the occupants of the apartment characterized its contents as "four more funny books." "She likes to call them that," said the other occupant, who asked he be referred to as "Morning Person." "Morning Person? He wakes up early three mornings in a row and now he's 'Morning Person'?" said the other occupant, who then requested she be called "Smell Good." "Well, she does," Morning Person said. "Writes perfume reviews and everything. Always talking about 'notes' and having me stick my nose in ornate bottles. But she's completely off-base about the funny books." The funny books in question contained materials Smell Good considered inappropriate for intelligent adults to consume. "I walked in the room this morning and I saw a picture of Captain America," she said, referring to Marvel Comics' walking jingoism. "And he was standing over a dead body screaming 'Do you think this "A" [on his forehead] stands for France?' Seriously, I mean, seriously." Morning Person refused to recant. "Alright, Captain America said that, and my stomach turned too. But ten minutes later Hawkeye said he preferred to work alone because there was 'no showboating, no "you think this A stands for France," no overgrown kids getting in their battle armor drunk.'" "What does that even mean?" Smell Good replied. "I can't take it anymore. Yesterday he tied a towel around his neck and insisted I call him 'The Multitasker' because he had 'the power' to watch television and surf the web simultaneously." Local residents responded to the dispute stoically. "We know what goes on in there," a neighbor said. "Which is more than enough to know that we don't want to get involved."

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