Friday, April 29, 2005

Some of my notes from Hayden White's 4/21 talk in Ghent

The title of White's plenary at the Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics conference was "Historicality as a Trope of Political Discourse." I wrote down a few, probably not very helpful, notes about what he had to say:

White said that rhetoric "used to be the theory of the political uses of language." He felt that the separation of history from rhetoric [or rhetoric from history?], which was meant to make history into a science, "deprived it [history] of sources of invention and of literary sensibility" (rough quote). History as science separated history from philosophy and detaching history from rhetoric "deprived it of a theory of composition", which gave rise to the myth that history is found in materials, not the writing of it. White also spoke of the "domestication of historical sensibility" and of the current belief that historical empirical details give rise to the form as well as the content of history. [Some of these ideas remind me of White's The Content of the Form, which I've been reading lately.]

White cited Hume's Essays Moral and Political, where Hume argued that the relationship between ethics and politics couldn't be dealt with conceptually because of the separation of "is" from "ought" [that you can't get from statements about what is to ethical statements about what ought to be]. But, said White, Hume didn't see that rhetoric "is precisely the discourse that examines the anomolies [? can't read my handwriting] of trying" to bring together "is" and "ought." White described rhetoric as a "theory of trope" or "tropology", which he characterized as how "turns" are used to move "from statements of fact to statements of 'ought'" (and not just from the literal to the figurative).

White characterized rhetoric, ethics, and politics in a humorous formula:
  • rhetoric=what can I say?
  • ethics=what should I do?
  • politics=what can I get away with?
He obviously said a lot more than this (including a long quote from Hobbes, who accused the ancient writers as producing in readers a "tyrranophobia--the fear of being strongly governed"), but my notes aren't clear enough for me to be able to figure out how to put them together here.

Lien Chan's speech at Beijing University

My wife and I just finished watching a rebroadcast of Lien Chan's "historic" speech at Beida and came to the conclusion that one of his main points ran along the lines of "what a great man I am to have come to the mainland and to Beida". His speech was full of quotes from the leaders of different countries (Churchill, for instance, and Reagan's [ugh] "If not us, then who? If not now, then when?") that would make you think, if you didn't know better, that Lien was a national leader himself. (The Reagan quote came near the end of the speech, and Lien connected it to his reasons for being in China.)

He also got some shots in on the DPP and TSU, criticizing their ideas as still being in the 20th century. (Which is kind of ironic--I thought half the 20th century in Taiwan was dominated by a political party that spent a lot of its time thinking about how it would retake the mainland...) Altogether it looked like it was lapped up by the Beida audience (even though Lien did imply at one point that a lot of the intellectual giants of Beida, like Hu Shih and Fu Ssu-nien, escaped to Taiwan after 1949... ahem...).

Monday, April 25, 2005

Back from Ghent

My experience of the conference on Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics at the University of Ghent last week was great, particularly because I felt my session went quite well. The session title was "Direct Address" and featured Maria Boletsi from the University of Amsterdam, Olaf Du Pont from Hogeschool Ghent, and Fernand Vandamme from Ghent University (and me, of course!).

Boletsi's paper (abstract) on the conflicts between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the issue of the name "Macedonia" was a very interesting counterpart to my paper (abstract) on the naming of Taiwan in R.O.C. presidential inaugural addresses. Du Pont's paper (abstract) on the rhetoric of American exceptionalism also fit our "mini-theme" of rhetoric and national identity quite well. And the final paper by Vandamme introduced the idea of content management as it related to the study of rhetoric. I think the best part of this session was that the four of us hadn't planned to present together (we didn't submit a panel proposal, that is), but our papers still fit together so well. (This usually doesn't happen to me...) And the fact that we were all talking about different nations broadened our views of the rhetoric and politics of national identity.

I'll say more about the conference later. Just wanted to post this for now...

Saturday, April 16, 2005


"良藥苦口," my wife tells me (good medicine tastes bitter). Then she gives me the cup of Chinese medicine that is supposed to help bring down the swelling on my foot. I taste it and gag, instantly getting the the second part of this chengyu. "Hold your breath and swallow it in one gulp," she suggests. I can do the first half of this, but can't bring myself to accomplish the second. Wow! This is awful stuff! Indescribably awful! It must be really good for me!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pedestrians need sidewalks

My colleague Michael Jacques had a letter printed in the Taipei Times yesterday on the lack of usable sidewalks in Taichung.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

13th R.O.C. English and American Literature Association Conference

While I'm posting Tunghai-related events, here's some information about this conference that will be held at Tunghai in December. The conference theme is "(De)Constructing Identities: Cultural Translation and Literary Empowerment" and the Keynote Speaker is Dr. Shirley Geok-lin Lim of UCSB, who will be speaking on "Asian American Inventive Identities: Rethinking Difference and Hybridity in Chinese American Mixed Race Identities."

From the call for papers:
We welcome paper proposals on topics related to the study and teaching of English literature, particularly in Taiwan. We are particularly interested in the following: the ways in which literary texts dismantle and (re)construct such identity categories as race, nation, class, gender, etc.; the strategies via which Taiwan-situated readings of Anglophone literature recognize and negotiate cultural difference; and the ways in which literary works contribute to an increased sense of agency for and when acting in the world.

Abstracts (in Chinese or English) are due May 10. For more information, click the top link.

Panel discussion on "The Image of Taiwan in Europe"

My OFL colleagues in Tunghai's FLLD are going to hold a panel discussion on April 22. The topic is "The Image of Taiwan in Europe." They've invited panelists from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Taiwan to talk about stereotypes that Taiwanese might encounter in (and have about) Europe and "how to overcome such hurdles in intercultural communication." The panel discussion will be held at 6:30 p.m. in L007 (the FLLD theater). Attendance is free. I wish I could go, but I'm going to be in Belgium on that day. (Ironic, isn't it?)

I'm a little bit country, ...

If you can believe this... Seems to leave out a ton of varieties of American English. (I also think quite a bit of my English has been shaped by my experiences teaching English in Taiwan all these years.)

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

25% Dixie

20% Yankee

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

[4/17/05 Update: Bridget Samuels (a.k.a. ilani ilani) has put together an analysis of the dialect test in order to answer "why is it that a bunch of Californians have been scoring 5% Dixie" on it... Check it out.]

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fourth acupuncture treatment

Today we went to a different place to get my ankle worked on. Originally we had been going to the China Medical University's hospital, but my recovery seemed kind of slow. So we went to a Chinese medicine clinic (a clinic of Chinese medicine? a Chinese medical clinic? er...) recommended by our neighbor. The doctor there agreed that the recovery was going a little too slowly. He said I should probably come to the clinic every day or every other day (which will be easier because the clinic is closer to home than the hospital).

Then he took me into the back and stuck two needles in the top of my head (to help my foot regain some of its flexibility--don't ask me how) and four in my ankle. That's about 3 times as many needles as they used at the CMU hospital. I told my wife I felt like a bulletin board. After a while the nurse took out the needles (almost forgot to take the needles out of my head!) and packed my ankle in some Chinese medicine. I'll go back tomorrow for another treatment.

After 15 years, Julien again

ERG will remember how in the early 90s, our mutual professor S would greet me as "Julien" every time he saw me. For some reason, I never had the heart to tell Professor S my real name (or maybe I just didn't care enough to tell him), but I was curious why he always addressed me as Julien. I guessed he was mixing me up with Julien Benda, author of The Treason of the Intellectuals.

Anyway, yesterday I ran into a former student who was visiting campus for the day, and he greeted me with a big smile: "Julien!" I'm pretty sure he was mixing me up with a former teacher here named Julien, though. Wonder if I should change my name, though...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Conference prep

Getting geared up to go to Belgium later this month for a conference on Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics (for some reason, I find the lack of an "and" in the conference title kind of cool). Now that I'm no longer worrying about how I'm going to pay for the trip, I can spend some time productively--worrying about what I'm going to say. I've got a paper that's about 8500 words and I'm still fiddling with the conclusion, which will probably make it longer. I've got 20 minutes in which to deliver it. So I'm trying to figure out what can be cut out of the oral presentation. My subject is presidential inaugural addresses in Taiwan, so I figure I'm going to need to keep a lot of the background information in, otherwise the presentation will be incomprehensible to most of the people at the conference. I suppose I can keep my quotations from the inaugurals to a minimum (though that means my audience will miss out on the A-bian imitation I've been working on).

I think this will be a good experience, though, because it's one of those times where I'm talking about Taiwan to people who probably don't have more than a general knowledge about Taiwan and its history. I need more practice with that, I think. It'll be interesting to see how clear and meaningful I can make my presentation in terms of the conference's focus.

[Update, 4/18/05: I've managed to cut the paper down from 30 double-spaced pages to 15, by cutting out all the inaugural addresses except for those of the democratically elected presidents. The word count is reading 5,218 right now, but I think I need to cut out more. At the same time, I've got to make sure this thing still makes sense to people who don't know much about Taiwan's history...]

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Spring break gripes

I'll limit these to only a couple, since no one likes a complainer:
  1. I told my students a few days before the break that I'd probably wait for the vacation before I got the flu that they were passing around. Well, so far I've avoided getting sick. Instead, I fell on the stairs the first day of spring break and twisted my ankle pretty badly (sorry, no pictures, but you can look at this from Earth Wide Moth to get a general idea). The good news is that I survived my first experience being acupunctured [is that a word?] without freaking out. I get the second treatment today. News at 11.
  2. Because of 1., I've spent a bit of time on the sofa during the break. Besides moaning and groaning (like a typical male, I didn't go to get any treatment for my ankle until a couple of days after falling), I started watching 好美麗診所 on TV. It's fairly entertaining, but why'd they have to make the bad gal (Peng Chunmei 彭春妹) a Hakka? (And why did they choose A-ya (阿雅), who's about as Hakka as Ma Ying-jeou, to play a Hakka?)
  3. On the bright side, I managed to hobble down to the travel agent yesterday to pick up my tickets to Belgium. Now if the NSC would just hurry up and approve my travel grant before the government disbands the NSC...