MLN: Practices of the Ordinary (Comparative Literature Issue, December 2015)

front_coverMLN’s latest comparative literature issue is out and has a lot that will be of interest to readers of OLP&Lit Online: Papers by Donatelli, Laugier, Marrati, and Shuster on Practices of the Ordinary, plus Zumhagen-Yekplé on Diamond and Woolf, and more!


Click here for the full issue.


(And thanks to Finn Otis for the heads-up.)


New Article of Interest: “Wittgenstein and the genesis of neo-pragmatism in American thought” by Erik Hmiel

Erik Hmiel (graduate student in American Intellectual History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) has a new article in the forthcoming issue of History of European Ideas titled “Wittgenstein and the genesis of neo-pragmatism in American thought.” In it, he traces a genealogy of Wittgensteinian ideas running from Cavell and Thomas Kuhn through to the Rorty-Putnam debate of the 1980s and 90s. OLP readers take note.
The piece is available to read as a stand-alone piece under the “latest articles” section of the journal:
Happy reading!

Jon Baskin on Ben Lerner and the Novel of Detachment


Ben Lerner

In his recent review of Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (“Always Already Alienated,” The Nation) Jon Baskin explores themes of bad faith, fraudulence, and misanthropy in contemporary American fiction. Baskin’s prose is as precise as ever and his insights shine out. I dare say his review does the rare work of ‘raising and cheering’ us (à la Emerson’s American Scholar). Of course I encourage you to read the essay in full. At the risk of spoiling your dinner, I include the punchline below.

. . . Though they measure success by different criteria, this doesn’t mean it is impossible to adjudicate between the novel of detachment and other trends in contemporary literary fiction. I’m sure my preference is clear. “A wise and hardy physician will say,” wrote Emerson in his great essay “Experience,” “Come out of that, as the first condition of advice.” What Lerner calls “fraudulence” does not indicate the failure of modern society but the condition of its possibility. We show different parts of ourselves to different people; there is a gap between our inner lives and our public “performance”; at times, it is incumbent upon us to assume roles that may feel artificial to us, or to hide what we are feeling from those closest to us. So what? We have been acknowledging such facts for some time now; perhaps we are ready for an art that will accept them, and keep walking.

“Wittgenstein, Pedagogy, and Literary Criticism” by Timothy Yu and “Wittgenstein’s Use” by R. M. Berry in New Literary History

One of the pleasures of summer is discovering (or re-discovering) articles published over the last year. Here are two on our “to-read” list:

The Summer 2013 issue of New Literary History includes Timothy Yu’s article “Wittgenstein, Pedagogy, and Literary Criticism” (Vol. 44, No. 3, 361-378). Here is the abstract:

“Both literary critics and philosophers have sought to use the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein to provide a firmer foundation for the way we talk about literature. These attempts have generally fallen short in their attempts to extract a positive theory of literature and reading from Wittgenstein. In working through some of Wittgenstein’s remarks on music and poetry in Zettel, I suggest that Wittgenstein does not give us a “new” way of reading, but instead gives us tools for clearing up misunderstandings about our process of reading. Reading Wittgenstein may help us give literary criticism peace, allowing us to see that our disagreements about critical styles do not prevent us from carrying forward the day-to-day practice of criticism. Wittgenstein’s focus on how we learn to use words turns our attention away from literary theory and toward literary pedagogy, reminding us to think about how we learn and teach the very terms that we debate and question.”

The Autumn 2013 issue of the same journal proposes a number of scintillating reflections on the uses and value of literature, art, humanistic study in the contemporary age. Rita Felski’s introduction sheds light on the stakes of such reflection today: “What are the uses of literature—or film, sculpture, dance, philosophy, music, dramatic performance? And to what purpose are these subjects being taught in colleges and universities? At present, such questions are very much in the air, thanks to a heated back-and-forth about the value of humanistic study. Bristling with a new-found sense of indignation, politicians and pundits are demanding that the humanities be called to account, that professors be required to document the uses of the subjects they teach. There is no longer any agreement, it would seem, that Baudelaire and Buddhism are worth studying for their own sake. To many scholars, such demands seem radically misconceived—a sign of the growing philistinism and creeping corporatization of academic life. Yet in certain cases, interlocutors may be talking at cross-purposes. After all, what exactly do we mean when we talk about use? What does “use” encompass and how might its meanings and possibilities be understood? The essays in this special issue share a sharpened curiosity about a constantly invoked yet rarely examined idea.”

Of particular interest to readers of this blog might be R. M. Berry’s essay, “Wittgenstein’s Use” (New Literary History, vol. 44, No. 4, Autumn 2013, 617-638). Please find the abstract below:

The current “crisis” of the humanities foregrounds conceptual confusions about the humanities’ use. Wittgenstein’s account of meaning as use can help clarify these confusions, but only by making humanistic knowledge internal to the knower’s form of life. Part of the reason recent debates over the practical value of the humanities have proven so unsatisfying is their failure to explain how it is possible for humanistic knowledge to be either useful or useless to the human beings whose lives form its basis. Because in Philosophical Investigations knowledge of human life is normally expressed in how humans live, not in descriptions of how humans live, the practical value—that is, the use—of humanistic study seems obvious only in contexts where dehumanization has become continuous with human life. Martha Nussbaum’s attempt to enlist the humanities in combatting dehumanization fails to account adequately for this dependence of humanistic knowledge on humans’ alienation from themselves and their kind. If Wittgenstein can meaningfully describe the natural conditions of being human, it is only because he addresses readers who, like himself, find it natural in certain contexts to live as though having forgotten them. Chinua Achebe’s account of racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness also addresses readers for whom, in certain contexts, dehumanization comes naturally, but Achebe presupposes, rather than describes, what it means to know another as a human being. In Stanley Cavell’s interpretation of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, knowing a human being is a matter of acknowledging, not necessarily of describing, naturally occurring conditions of one’s own and others’ form of life. However, in contexts where dehumanization has come to seem natural—that is, where humanity is experienced as an external condition to which, in living, everyone conforms—acknowledging what it means to be human requires describing what one knows. These descriptions will comprise contributions to the humanities. Knowing another as a human being, when not naturally occurring, means getting to know human life better, and getting to know human life is Wittgenstein’s use.

Back to Ordinary Life

The last issue, No. 18, of Raison Publique (Presses Universitaires de Rennes), edited by Sandra Laugier and Marie Gaille, is entitled “Retour à la vie ordinaire.” Some of our readers might be interested in this collection of essays:

  • Sandra LaugierIntroduction
  • Pascale Molinier et Lise GaignardL’ordinaire tient à un fil…
  • Hélène L’HeuilletLe sujet de l’inconscient, une exception ordinaire ou L’ordinaire dans la cure psychanalytique
  • Sylvie ServoiseL’« ordinaire » des camps (R. Antelme, P. Levi, Imre Kertész)
  • Michel NaepelsAprès toutes ces guerres
  • Albert OgienRevenir à l’ordinaire, l’exercice de la connaissance en situation d’intervention
  • Marie GailleLe retour à la vie ordinaire : un enjeu épistémologique pour la philosophie morale. Ce que nous apprend l’enquête éthique en contexte médical
  • Séverine MayolL’ordinaire comme commencement du travail sur soi : le cas de la prise en charge des hommes et des femmes sans domicile
  • Magali BessoneLe territoire national comme ordinaire de la solidarité politique : réflexions à partir du cas des Roms migrants en Europe
  • Hourya Bentouhami Qu’est-ce que réparer ? De la justice réparatrice à la réparation du bien commun

Questions présentes

  • Stephen Holmes Repenser le libéralisme et la Terreur
  • Johann Michel Le paradoxe de l’origine des institutions
  • Laura Quintana Démocratie, conflit, violence. Du pari conceptuel aux impasses politiques de la Marche patriotique en Colombie


  • Jean-Baptiste MathieuQuand la recherche littéraire redécouvre les émotions
  • Naël DesaldeleerLa République n’a pas dit son dernier mot
  • Diogo SardinhaRevers silencieux de la violence


A new issue of the Nordic Wittgenstein Review will be published in June 2014.



Note from the Editors
Yrsa Neuman, Martin Gustafsson, Lars Hertzberg


Reasons for Action: Wittgensteinian and Davidsonian perspectives in historical, meta-philosophical and philosophical context
Hans-Johann Glock


Trust in Conversation
David Cockburn
“Meaning is Use” and Wittgenstein’s Treatment of Philosophical Problems
Stefan Giesewetter
The Trouble with Harry
Don S. Levi
Wittgenstein’s Critical Physiognomy
Daniel Kirwan Wack


A Passport Photo of Two: On an Allusion in the Pictures of Wittgenstein and von Wright in Cambridge
Christian Eric Erbacher, Bernt Österman
The Wittgenstein Collection of the Austrian National Library
Alfred Schmidt


Fact and Fiction – Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ein biographisches Album (2012) by Michael Nedo
Dinda L. Gorlée

ISSN: 2242-248X

Publications by Benjamin Mangrum & Alois Pichler

Hi Folks,

A couple of papers in the latest issue of Philosophy and Literature (Volume 37, Number 2, October 2013) that might be of interest to some of you.

Benjamin Mangrum, “Accounting for The Road: Tragedy, Courage, and Cavell’s Acknowledgment,” pp. 267-290.


The nameless father of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is repeatedly faced with the difficulty of having to account for a world left desolate after a global catastrophe. The father remains committed to such a world even though it is rife with cannibalism and violence. Yet how can he account for this existence to his son? Why pass on such a way of life? I enlist the ordinary language philosophy of Wittgenstein and Cavell in an effort to account for the father’s commitment. I employ the categories of tragedy, courage, and Cavell’s notion of acknowledgment to understand the novel’s unsettling vision.

Alois Pichler, “Reflections on a Prominent Argument in the Wittgenstein Debate,” pp. 435-450.


Does the way authors treat their own works tell us something about how these works are to be understood? Not necessarily. But then a standard argument against the “New Wittgenstein” comes under question. The argument is: the undogmatic interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus cannot be correct, since Wittgenstein himself later treats it as a work that holds certain positions. My response is: the argument is only correct if the answer to four specific questions is “yes.” The main purpose of the paper is to bring issues of philosophical authorship more into focus within Wittgensteinian interpretation.


Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies — Issue No. 1 (2013) Now Available


Great news! The first installment of Conversations: the Journal of Cavellian Studies is now available. Click here to view individual articles and/or download the full issue.

Table of Contents

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.53.16 PM

Editorial Comment: Genesis
  Sérgio Dias Branco, Amir Khan
Me, Myself, and Us: Autobiography and Method in the Writing of Stanley Cavell
  –  Timothy Gould
A Scarred Tympanum
–  Chiara Alfano
Medium and the “End of Myths”: Transformations of the Imagination in The World Viewed
–  Daniel Wack
Stanley’s Taste: On the Inseparability of Art, Life, and Criticism
–  Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira
Seeing Souls: Wittgenstein and Cavell on the “Problem of Other Minds”
–  Jônadas Techio
Un Poète Maudit: Stanley Cavell and the Environmental Debate
–  Tomaž Grušovnik

“Testimony, Illocution and the Second Person” — New Article by Richard Moran


Thanks to Bernie for alerting me to this recent article by Richard Moran, published in the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume (V. 87, I. 1, pages 115–135, June 2013) and available through Wiley Online.

The abstract reads:

The notion of ‘bipolar’ or ‘second-personal’ normativity is often illustrated by such situations as that of one person addressing a complaint to another, or asserting some right, or claiming some authority. This paper argues that the presence of speech acts of various kinds in the development of the idea of the ‘second-personal’ is not accidental. Through development of a notion of ‘illocutionary authority’ I seek to show a role for the ‘second-personal’ in ordinary testimony, despite Darwall’s argument that the notion of the ‘second-personal’ marks a divide between practical and theoretical reason.

The complete article can be accessed here.