Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Unbearable Ugliness of Panel Titles

In the interest of the advancement of knowledge and the quest for unalloyed truth, disciplinary status, and shameless self-aggrandizement, I’ve put together a research instrument that I have no doubt will lay to rest for all time the ugly questions surrounding improper areas of focus at academic conferences. To that end, reader, I’d be grateful for your input, if you’d be so generous with your time as to

take a very brief survey.

I’ll post the results here.

Or maybe propose to present them at an academic conference, in the interest of confirming certain folks’ ongoing fears.

Still Lazy After All These Years

On March 31, 2006, John Schilb referred to Mark Bauerlein as “lazy and paranoid” in response to Bauerlein’s uninformed attack in a blog post at The Valve on that year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication, with the evidentiary basis of Bauerlein’s attack being a few presentation titles.

In what one might see as a generous attempt on Bauerlein’s part to confirm Schilb’s assessment, he’s recycled his 2006 blog post at The Valve into a 2008 blog post at The Chronicle Review, with exactly the same method (cherry-picking presentation titles) and exactly the same evidence (the 2006 conference program).

Versions and Upgrades

Upgrades for the new year: WordPress 2.3.2, Mac OS 10.5.1, Adium 1.2.1, GraphicConverter 6.0.2, Transmit 3.6.3.

Curtains 1.2.

Living room ceiling fan 2.0, with substantial advisory help from Dad, chisel work on the joist, and wire nuts by flashlight.

ceiling fan

As a relatively new homeowner, I’m always relieved and surprised when I do something to my house that doesn’t result in catastrophe. (And, frankly, always terrified by how bad things always are in their current state, said state being the one in which the last owner left them.) But I’m starting to see why people want to build their own homes: the chance to do it right, from the first time, the ground up.

Huckabee’s Paralipsis

Congratulations are apparently in order to Mr. Huckabee, both for his win in Iowa and for his familiarity with the classical rhetorical figures. While I’m not in a position to say anything about Mr. Huckabee’s forthrightness or his politics, it was at least amusing to see him on December 31 taking advice more than 2,000 years old:

Occultatio est cum dicimus nos praeterire aut non scire aut nolle dicere id quod nun maxime dicimus, hoc modo: …”Non dico te ab sociis pecunias cepisse; non sum in eo occupatus quod civitates, regna, domos omnium depeculatus es; furta, rapinas omnes tuas omitto.” Haec utilis est exornatio si aut ad rem quam non pertineat aliis ostendere, quod occulte admonuisse prodest, aut longum est aut ignobile. Rhetorica ad Herennium IV.xxvi.37

In Harry Caplan’s 1954 translation:

Paralipsis occurs when we say that we are passing by, or do not know, or refuse to say precisely what we are now saying, as follows: … “I do not mention that you have taken monies from our allies; I do not concern myself with your having despoiled the cities, kingdoms, and homes of them all. I pass by your thieveries and robberies, all of them.” This figure is useful if employed in a matter which it is not pertinent to call specifically to the attention of others, because there is advantage in making only an indirect reference to is, or because the direct reference would be tedious and undignified.

Mr. Huckabee, it would seem, knows his pseudo-Cicero, although I’m not quite as inclined as the New York Times is to call his recent performance in telling reporters that he would not air his negative ad about Mr. Romney (and then showing them the ad he wouldn’t air) “remarkable,” unless it’s in his savvy deployment of paralipsis / occultatio / praeteritio by proxy. However, it did get me into an interesting discussion with a colleague of what the device is actually called. You’ll notice that Harry Caplan takes the Greek term paralipsis as a translation for the Latin occultatio, which is what my colleague wanted to call what Huckabee did, with the emphasis on hiding or obscuring. I had always understood the figure to be referred to as praeteritio, though, with the emphasis (as in pseudo-Cicero’s infinitive praeterire) on ostensibly passing something by, which seems more appropriate to the quoted examples.

So I’m left with a distinction that maybe isn’t a difference. I think paralipsis works fine as a catch-all term for the general practice of saying something by saying we’re not going to say it, but I kinda like the fine-grained distinction we see in the Ad Herennium between saying something by obscuring it (occultatio) and saying something by passing it by (praeteritio). Are they two different things?

And if so, which is the more appropriate term for what Mr. Huckabee did?