In recent months I’ve been loaning my father various history books. Part of it is to, quite simply, make some space in my apartment. But for the most part, it’s my way of making my parents part of my scholarly life again. As I’ve written here before, my parents are the primary reason I’m in graduate school. Their reading habits became my reading habits. With my father squeezing in some time to read when he’s not at work at his truck driving job, I wanted to repay the favor.
About three weeks ago I made the decision to do the index myself. More accurately, the decision was made for me when the combo indexer-proofreader I had hoped to contract couldn’t do my project. Because few do both, I had to allocate my resources to either a proofreader or an indexer. I hired the former, which left me with the latter.* (*These kinds of decisions explain why publishing ‘subventions’, offered by employers or helpful scholarly societies, exist. I was unfamiliar with the term until Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen thanked UW-Madison for one given to her in the process of finishing up American Nietzsche.)
This was purely an economic decision because, as an inveterate index user, I deeply appreciate the difference between good, mediocre, and bad indexes. Continue reading
The following is a guest post by William Fine.
One of the things we can do with written texts is read them, but how, and to what end? For some, “close reading” of historical texts is virtually a defining feature of intellectual history. Does this mean getting at what the text “says,” or reading between the lines for what it doesn’t or is unable to say, or wouldn’t if it could — a “surface” or a “symptomatic reading?” I had seen reference to the latter in connection with Althusser and Jameson, but wasn’t aware of a sort of movement to articulate alternatives under the term “surface reading.”
Perhaps the upcoming conference on “close reading” noted by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn is part of a “turn” to surface; maybe Rivka Maizlish’s piece on “’Reading Too Much Into This’” could be seen as impatience with symptomatic reading.
What started this little study for me was encountering Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading: An Introduction” in Representations Fall 2009. Most articles in the issue began as papers at a 2008 conference, which in turn came out of a 2006 seminar of the American Comparative Literature Association on the 25th anniversary of Jameson’s The Political Unconscious, which “popularized symptomatic reading among U.S. literary critics.”  Contributors to the journal issue develop various alternatives, more or less distant from it. Continue reading