Wednesday, May 4, 2011

About That POS Rally Table

Not all foreign policy episodes produce a “rally round the flag effect,” and most of those effects are far smaller than one would believe from a Public Opinion Strategies table that everyone was linking to yesterday.

POS posted the table, which lists 13 such bumps in presidential approval ratings, under the comment: “Not including the post-9/11 response, the average presidential approval rating bumps up 13% for an average of 22 weeks.” However, the table is highly selective in choosing these events. In fact, POS has basically selected the largest such rallies in Gallup history, and omits those events which produced smaller rallies – as well as those that produced no rally at all.

The key study of these events is an old article by political scientist Richard Brody, who listed 65 potential rally events from the announcement of the Truman Doctrine in March 1947 through the Iran/Contra Affair in November 1986. The average approval gain? Under 3 points.

There doesn’t appear to be any particular reason for the inclusion of some events and the exclusion of others in the POS table. For example, POS includes the beginning of the Korea War, which produced a 9 point surge for Harry Truman. A good example of a rally! But they omit the Berlin blockade of April 1948, which produced only a 3 point increase. The Ford-era Mayaguez incident (+11) is in, but not the similar Johnson-era Pueblo incident (-7). The Cuban Missile Crisis (+12), but not the Bay of Pigs (+5). By the way, the Pueblo incident was hardly the only negative one – just during the Reagan presidency there are three separate Libya incidents (in August 1981 and February and March 1986) which were all associated with small declines in the president’s approval rating.

Now, Brody’s article predates the major rallies under George H.W. Bush (Gulf War) and George W. Bush (9/11, Iraq War, capturing Saddam)…but presumably it also misses some smaller events under those presidents and Bill Clinton.

The POS table also gives the duration of the rally effect, and I agree with those who say that the duration of the effect is probably as important or more than the height of the spike. I’d be very cautious about their data on these, too, however. While Brody doesn’t give data for the duration of his larger group of cases, presumably including all of the small bounces would cut the average duration dramatically. Even without that, however, I’d urge people not to take the POS table at face value. Gallup only recently began their daily tracking of the president’s approval ratings, and in many of the earlier episodes POS includes, polling was highly irregular. For example, in 1962 Gallup was polling only once a month or so, on no (apparent) regular schedule; it’s very possible that the 40 weeks it took for JFK’s approval to fall back to pre-Cuba levels would have been much shorter if we had daily tracking back then. That, of course, is not POS’s fault, but it’s worth keeping in mind. It’s also worth remembering that after a few days, or at best a few weeks, most rally events are probably not responsible for elevated presidential approval numbers, and it’s very possible that some other intervening event is going on (indeed, when dealing with only a handful of episodes, all sorts of distortions are possible).

All that said, my guess was that the killing of bin Laden would produce a very healthy bounce. We’ll see. The immediate results are well below my 15 point guess (Nate Silver has one roundup, Mark Blumenthal has another). As I’ve written before, Brody found that the key variable is the reaction of opposition party politicians; if they praise the president, the rally happens, and if criticize him, no rally. Either way – the 13 point POS estimate is far, far too high for an average rally event.


  1. Reading this post, it occurs to me that it's non-optimal to pick a name for your organization that gives it the acronym "POS."

  2. I know, I keep thinking they're talking about Parts of Speech. Kidding.

  3. classicist, I would have thought that you thought it meant "Plato Or Socrates." :-)

  4. Kennedy's ratings went up after the Bay of Pigs? Wow, that makes no sense at all. . .

  5. Jeff -- much better! "I'd urge people not to take Plato or Socrates at face value ... That, of course, is not Plato or Socrates's fault, but it's worth keeping in mind ..."

    There must be other amusing "PoS" options (Planes on a Snake?) but I don't want to wear out my welcome ...

  6. No, "Planes on a Snake" is the clear winner. (*laughter, applause*) There's an interesting bit of movie trivia about the title "Snakes on a Plane," incidentally -- it's explained briefly here:

    Hooray for Hollywood!

  7. So this is what literary analysts spend their time on, eh? Trivia about kitsch of the past?

    *quickly hides her DVDs of "Attack the Gas Station," "The Room," a whole bunch of "MST3K," and that Busby Berkeley boxed set*
    *and her Fred Schneider & the Shake Society LP*
    *and her Ronald-and-Nancy-in-bed slippers*

    Hm, best I can do in return in re: "SoaP" is point you to

  8. Folks,

    I'm way swamped what with being over at Greg's place and all, but I did feel I had to pop in and thank you all for keeping me entertained with this comments thread. Also, it cheers me up because I thought everyone would cite this post, and no one did. know, I really want to add a joke here, but I'm coming up blank. Sorry -- and again, thanks.

  9. As you see, JB, we have no trouble keeping ourselves amused in your absence, so don't worry about us.

    Thanks for the link, classicist. (Wow, the character's name is really "Jeffrey"? Anyway, I'm pleased to say I haven't had that particular dream.) In all seriousness, if you want to know what I spend my time on -- as much as I can spare, anyhow -- it's stuff like this:

    Granted, I've insinuated other mentions of this book on these and other threads. But from my latest sales/royalty statement it appears they haven't exactly "gone viral" yet, so here's one more shameless plug.

    With summer break upon us, is there anything you've written that I could have a look at? I like classics too -- once directed a small theater production of Lysistrata that was great fun, and in the course of adapting the script I wound up reading a lot about Greek Old Comedy. I've also taught The Clouds in a couple of classes. Wish I weren't hopeless at learning ancient (or any) languages so I could read the originals.

  10. JB: thanks!

    Jeff: 1. Two summers ago I read Cavell's _Pursuits of Happiness_ movie-by-movie -- maybe I can revive Film Criticism Summers and go through your book soon! I do have to ask up front whether you happen to have mentioned the cinematic Presidential appearance that to my mind best captures the intersection between creepiness, absurdity, and awesomeness, namely the moment in the "Shanghai Lil" number in "Footlight Parade" when -- well, it starts around 9:15 in this, and it would send Jonah Goldberg into positive conniptions.

    2. As to my own work ... I'm pretty confident it'd be terribly boring to anyone not trained in analytic philosophy. My dissertation is on three overlapping conceptions of self-sufficiency the Stoics make use of, so ... pretty far from Aristophanes. I'm always happy to talk classics, but I'm in a Philosophy Department (my nom de blog was to distinguish myself from the other contributors to this now-defunct philosophers' food blog that I wrote like two posts at ... ), and although I love it my work is definitely not Fun like you pop culture people get to have. (You, too, JB -- I've read that paper about the music &c. different partisans prefer!)

    And you didn't ask, but my total experience in theater amounts to one semester in my college's Gilbert & Sullivan Society plus later in college stage-managing a one-person play for a friend who had done the translation and was directing. I have, however, read "The Clouds" in Greek, but I suspect the "what's that in your cloak?" jokes translate pretty well.

  11. Ah... My one exposure to analytic philosophy was in a grad seminar where it was obviously poorly presented (probably because the prof was a literary guy, not a philosopher). I remember reading Quine's example of the rabbit / "gavagai" and not getting it -- it didn't sound to me like there was actually a problem there that needed explaining.

    By contrast, Cavell, in his stuff about movies and Shakespeare and such, writes about problems that are obviously interesting (to people like me, I mean), although he's so convoluted at times that I can't tell whether I've just encountered a brilliant insight or not. Maybe that's how you create a mystique.

    You say Aristophanes' jokes translate well, but that hasn't stopped remarkable numbers of translators from mangling them. That's why I ended up doing my own adaptation. I think some translators imagine that since they're translating a "classic" they can't just give us a straightforward sex or fart joke -- they have to pretty it up, i.e. make it not funny anymore. (Or maybe Quine would blame the "indeterminacy of language.") Having said that, some translators have borrowed Gilbert and Sullivan styles for Lysistrata; I haven't seen it staged that way, but I did see a production in London where it was done a la an Edwardian music hall, to good effect.

    As to "Shanghai L'il," no, I confess I missed that one. Ah, for the days when Democrats were getting the Kim Jong Il treatment. For some further creepy absurdity, though, may I recommend this:

  12. Oh, dear. "Labels: camptastic, horrible comic books, I can't believe I own this, ronald reagan" kind of says it all, doesn't it. Now if only the _Road to Serfdom_ comic had been more widely distributed, then we'd have seen some properly cartoonish right-wing heroes! (--I mean, besides Ayn Rand's.)

    Oh Quine ... Well my diss isn't that analytic. (The philological dogressions are surely just as boring to others.) But since my absolute favorite part of grad school is the look on a student's face when he suddenly sees a problem that he hadn't seen before, I'll have a brief go at the "gavagai" thing. Basically it's a problem not about language but about explanation, or that's the bit that's interesting to me (I tend to read it along the same lines as Nelson Goodman's "new riddle of induction"). The issue is that we take for granted certain ways of dividing up conceptual space -- green is green and yellow is yellow, men do this and women do that, animals have spirits and trees don't and trees are alive but fire isn't, the chair I'm pointing at is the same thing as that chair I sat on the other day. The importance of "gavagai" is that it's a way of highlighting -- not even the arbitrariness of those conceptual divisions -- but the pervasive arbitrariness of our taking this and that one for granted. (Again, this is really Goodman -- from his slim and elegant midcentury classic _Fact, Fiction, and Forecast_ -- but I think it's the deeper problem Quine is gesturing at.) Of course that's the reason that arguments from cultural differences have some intuitive force: because they raise this same trouble, that we actually are unable to justify calling this green and that yellow when idk Koreans draw the line differently -- and what does that indicate about whether we have any decent reasons for doing as we do? It's less easy to motivate the concern with a speculative, concededly made-up case with non-obvious implications, like Quine's rabbit/undetached rabbit parts/&c. But it's the same set of questions as literary analysts' beloved gender anti-essentialism presupposes a particular set of answers to, and the scientists who eventually noticed that these conceptual schemata dividing people into races and positing phlogiston in the air ... maybe didn't exactly track some facts just given to us by the universe ... and that we'd gve to actually explain what they were good for if not simply Correspondingto Reality. "Rabbit" seems obviously more useful than "set of undetached rabbit parts," but how about referring to a tomato as a fruit in the botany lab (one type of classification by origins, or perhaps by family resemblance to undisputed cases) and as a vegetable in the kitchen (one type of functional classification)? -- So Quine is using gavagai to argue that neither of those is "primary" in some fundamental sense, and therefore we're making a lot more choices and presupposing a lot more controversial claims than you would imagine, just by calling a rabbit a rabbit.

    See? Not as much fun as watching old movies, is it? ;) But I do take very seriously the idea that philosophy is for everyone (what kind of Socratic would I be otherwise?), so I try to make it interesting at least if not fun --

  13. classicist, with apologies to our host for having hijacked this thread to talk about twelve other things besides presidential "bumps," and with appreciation to you for your attempt to explain, I still don't get it.

    The reason that Quine came up in a grad seminar in an English department is that, as you may know, issues like indeterminacy and linguistic "aporias" and the problems of knowing how we can ever know what language means -- along with, relatedly, "social constructedness" and various kinds of cultural relativism -- have had quite the cachet in literary studies for the past 30+ years. For a while I was interested in understanding what it was all about, but at some point it started to seem to me like elegant demonstrations of the obvious. Yes, of course, when you and I talk, things are going on in my brain that are not identical to what's going on in your brain. Of course that's even more true if we speak different languages, and of course the native saying "gavagai" might mean, not "Hey, there's a rabbit," but "Let's have rabbit stew tonight." I get that.

    But so what? To conclude from this (as some of the lit people do, anyway) that language doesn't "refer" to anything is playing games with semantics. No, words are not somehow magically attached to the things they name -- only a small child would think that. Yes, it's arbitrary that we have the word "rabbit" in English and they have the word "gavagai" in the Quinian Tribal Area, and there will be some effort involved in figuring out how similar or different the meanings of those words are. But look, if 15 uses of "gavagai" all occur when a rabbit in some form is present, I'm pretty safe in concluding that "gavagai" means rabbit in any useful sense of the term "means." Likewise, if you and I agree, purely by exchanging language (say, e-mail), to meet under the Marshall Field's clock at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and then we're both there at the same time and actually do meet, then there must be some sense in which "meet at" and "3 p.m." and "Tuesday" and "Marshall Field" and "clock" all referred to same things for both of us -- even if one of us isn't a native speaker of English and was using translation software the read the other's e-mail.

    So what problem is this obsessive concern about language and "reference" actually addressing? On the assumption that it's all about something and not just a discovery delayed from childhood that words are merely arbitrary sounds to which meaning has to be assigned, I have to assume it's ultimately about some problem in the sciences: like, it's illogical to suppose that science is "describing" "reality" when we can't say for certain what the word "describe" means (let alone the word "reality"). And yet, 50 or 75 years since these problems became a big deal, science seems to be breezing right along, discovering useful and real things, without scientists constantly stopping to ask themselves what they "mean" or are "referring to." And literary studies has never made particularly good use of this stuff despite all the attention to it; it seems more like (at best) an interesting philosophical cul-de-sac -- a kind of asterisk next to every actual literary interpretation, noting that all interpretations presuppose that "interpretation" is even possible. That seems about as useful as explaining to my mechanic, when I bring my car in for repair, that the car is a device for transporting me and is capable of moving on its wheels if it's properly fixed.


  14. Part 2:

    You're wrong to suggest that these questions aren't "fun." They are, I see that, but that may be the problem: Are they anything besides a kind of Sudoko for Ph.D.'s? Sure, we need to blast apart wrong conceptual schemata that do damage to people, like the hierarchies of race. But I've come to believe that the better way to do this is to continue the project of trying to describe reality more accurately, and that discarding that task as impossible actually helps the oppressors. What shot down racism as a respectable opinion was a combination of (a) scientists like Franz Boas empirically demonstrating that skin color and skull shapes and so on did NOT in fact correlate with other traits, and (b) great political leaders like M.L. King talking about "injustice" and "oppression" as if even those very abstract terms meant something. (The powers-that-be of the time would have liked nothing better than to have King's listeners paralyzed by the indeterminacy of the conceptual schemata indexed by the arbitrary signifier "justice.")

    Overran the length limit for comments! See, you shouldn't get me started on this.....

  15. Jeff: totally agree on all points! That's why I (1) tried to deemphasize the language issue and reorient towards explanation, (2) < strike >have little patience with English Departments< /strike > am not in an English department, (3) tried to show how the same thing was at issue in some really important changes in our society, theory, theorization of society, whatever. Also that's why (4) people in analytic philosophy groan whenever we're* associated with much of Theory so-called. We never worried much about whether words could refer, since as you say communication is the norm and miscommunication te exception; and our questions about the mechanisms of reference were big in the 1890s and 1960s but certainly aren't hopping now. (Though some people still work on it. Not like my area is hopping, either!) And (5) it's why we get so frustrated at popular perceptions of philosophy. E.g. when I had jury duty one time at the voir-dire one of the attorneys called me out and was like "Miss [classicist] here may gve grand theories about why it's not necessary to obey the law, but this case involves a traffic accident." And all the philosophers I know, and almost all te analytic philosophers working, think that neither "this was made at least partially by people" nor "this is made up up atoms and the void" entails in any necessary way "THIS IS NOT REAL" or any such.

    (On the other hand "oh, philosophy? Yeah, in Architecture we do a lot of philosophy, too. Lots of Foucault, lots of Derrida" is probably less frustrating than "you're a philosopher? what's your philosophy of teamwork?" or "tell me some of your sayings!" or "so what do you do? you just sit and think?" or -- the common refrain anyone in the humanities can sense five minutes ahead of time -- "what are you going to do with that?")

    Oh also (6) one thing I love about doing classics is seeing how everything old is new again. E.g. the linguistic turn in late 19th/early 20th-century Anglo-American and German philosophy had a lot in common with the linguistic turn in Greek philosophy around 300 BCE.

    Oh, yeah, sorry we've stopped being entertaining, JB.

  16. P.S. If we're meeting by Marshall Field's and I'm late, it's because I popped in for some Frangos!

  17. classicist, have to rush to an appointment, but I have one or two more (non-analytical) thoughts I'll post later today. :-)

  18. Back now. Just a couple other things:

    1. Frangos, as you probably know, used to be a whole industry, until Macy's took over Marshall Field's and trashed its brands. Thanks, Macy's! May you get knocked on the head by a giant Thanksgiving balloon Smurf.

    2. I didn't know there was a linguistic turn in 300 BCE. Is there someplace I can read about that?

    3. "Tell me some of your sayings!"? Pretty lame, but.... Do you have any sayings?

    4. In English (I mean the field), the equivalent of those lay misunderstandings -- I think I'll coin a term for them here: "laymeness" -- is, "Oh, you're an English professor? I'll have to watch my grammar." I decided early in my career that instead of poking people in the eye when they say that, I would just answer: "Don't worry, I never correct grammar unless they're paying me to."

    5. I'd like to think that the lawyer who assumed you'd have grand theories to justify lawbreaking had just come from reading Clouds in the original Greek. More likely, though, he was just an idiot.

    6. You're in Oxford? (I finally clicked on your "name" link.) I spent a sabbatical term there in '08. Fabulous town, wish I could live there.

  19. Haha, you don't have to apologize for taking two hours to reply to a long comment on a dead thread. I've been at a conference all day so couldn't have checked earlier anyhow. It was a sad conference: honoring upon her retirement one of my favorite ancient philosophers and favorite people, Gisela Striker, whose name I mention only because she is about the best person to read on Hellenistic philosophy if you are curious. (My adviser is just as brilliant but a much harder read.) Fave moment: when someone waxed too fulsome in his praise, Gisela yelled out from the audience: "This is not a funeral!" Fantastic.

    Which brings me to your 6: if my "about" says I'm in Oxford then I guess I haven't updated it in two years. My adviser moved to Oxford and told me it didnt make sense for me to transfer there, so I've spent three non-consecutive terms there, or I see him when he's back in the States. (His wife still teaches in my department, though now she spends every spring in Oxford because she can't live without my adviser. Like, they spend six weeks apart every other year and he had to write her a whole book of what to do in his absence -- things like "how to make the bed, how to use an ATM, how to make oatmeal.) No, I'm in Massachusetts for the moment. I'm sure some of my comments' time stamps would be horrifying if I were on GMT!

    Love #4. Like when my baby sister took Formal Syntax and everyone was like "oh, linguistics must be a breeze for you, you know so many languages!"

    Oh #3. I suppose the usual ones: what is hateful to you, do not do unto your neighbor. we are all drowning, but some of us are nearer the surface than others. friends share everything in common, and a friend is another oneself. the unexamined life is not worth living. dignity -- always dignity! -- that sort of thing.

    As to 2 -- I don't even know where to direct you because what we have of Hellenistic philosophy is so fragmentary, so two quick comments: (1) philosophy of language was essentially born together with the rise of skepticism as a proper philosophical movement -- and btw the formal study of grammar was possibly born out of Hellenistic philosophy of language. (2) Probably the most comprehensive and certainly the most entertaining primary(ish) source for this stuff is the second century CE compiler Diogenes Laertius. Unfortunately the widely available Loeb translation in some places becomes a Comstockian Bowdlerization, but usually not fatally so. "Lives of the Eminent Philosophers" sounds boring but it's basically two-thirds gossip and one-third factual information plus philosophical material. The lives of the Cynics are especially entertaining -- oh, for that there's also a paper by Ineke Sluiter, I think available via Google Books, called "Diogenes' Gangsta Rap" that is couched in lit-theory sorts of terms (at least, that's not what analytic philosophers mean when we say "performative") that is very good. Well this hasn't been very helpful I'm afraid. But the Cambridge Companion to the Stoics and the Cambridge Companion to Hellenistic Philosophy and relevant Oxford Handbooks if they exist and also the language volume in the series on ancient philosophy Stephen Everson edited will certainly be of great use if you're considering Hellenistic philosophy for the role of summer fling. Not that you should per se!

  20. And this is from way long ago, but I would put in a plug for Frederick Douglass in the set of folks who made serious racism of the old style empirically untenable. Not just because he was obviously exceptionally talented (so much so that he was accused of not having written his own memoir -- hm, where else have we heard that?) but also because he points out that if all that racial science had been real it surely wouldn't apply very broadly because so very many slaves were multiracial. (I don't just love him because he talks like a Stoic, really. That's what I have Admiral Stockdale for.)

  21. Yeah, my linguistics friends have also reported that "you must know many languages" bit. Laymeness.

    If you've spent quality time in Oxford then I expect you know what I mean about it. MA is nice too, though. One reason I gave you that heads-up about a further comment is that I thought you might assume the thread was well and truly finished and I wasn't coming back. This is a concern I sometimes have when posting direct responses to people because I'm in Los Angeles, so I figure they're likely to be hours ahead of me and that by the time I post something they've probably already signed off for the day.

    I had never read any Frederick Douglass to speak of, but had occasion to reference him in a paper I'm currently finishing (about the concept of "nations within nations" and how it drove some of the race fiction of 100 years ago). Great writer, no question -- must have been a great speaker. The hair alone would command attention.

    Your last parenthetical there reminds me of a joke Garry Shandling once made. He was trying to decide whether someone he was describing looked more like Ghandi or Barney Fife. (*pause*) "Wow, Ghandi and Barney Fife... How often do you see the two of them in the same sentence?" I would say the same could be asked of Adm. Stockdale and the Stoics.

    Thanks very much for the biblio! But, you say "Comstockian Bowdlerization" like it's a bad thing. ;-)

  22. Oh, yeah, I forgot that people who are not me* are not aware that Admiral Stockdale wrote a short book about how Epictetus helped him when he was being tortured.

    I actually only read FD's Narrative recently, and immediately became incensed that I hadn't been forced to read it in high school. I mean obviously you can't do without multiple nineteenth and early twentieth century American social novels about white strivers but there must be something you could cut to make room for a nineteenth century account of social mobility that's more dramatic, more insightful, better written, and, you know, true. < /sarcasm >

    Oh, Oxford is nice -- I've rarely lived so close to so many more-or-less-accessible gardens (I stayed in Somerville housing up in North Oxford, and when summer came I'd go sit in Port Meadow reading with the cows; also, there is a public entranceto the Blenheim grounds that they don't tell you about but is free, so that's nice if you don't want to go inside) -- but it's a little hard being some place so decentralized and undergrad-oriented both as a visiting grad student -- doesn't give you much opportunity to meet anyone, not that I made much effort. Plus it's expensive even in the recession.

    You mistake me, sir -- I merely say "Comstockian Bowdlerization" like I'm tickled with my own delightful coinage ;)

    *Nancy Sherman remembers too 'cause she wrote a book about Stoicism and the military. She teaches at like West Point or the Naval Academy or something too. It's kind of a crazy book but interesting, very accessible too.

  23. Thanks for clarifying -- my hat's off to Adm. Stockdale then, and Epictetus too. I do realize he had a distinguished career before becoming kind of a joke as a VP candidate (Stockdale, I mean; I don't think Epictetus was ever tapped for VP), but I didn't know any details of it at all.

    For my one term in Oxford I had an office at the Rothermere American Institute that opened onto the Mansfield College gardens... I mean, I could literally walk out a door/window into the gardens. Also I lived across a tiny courtyard from the Sackler Library, so I looked out my kitchen window to see pepole browsing the stacks about 20 feet away.

    Myself, I would have happily read Douglass in high school in lieu of The Age of Innocence, which I didn't understand at all, or even Great Expectations, which I also didn't understand even though it's about a kid. And I mean, if a future English Ph.D., a guy who's already reading Shakespeare criticism on his own for fun, isn't understanding the novels you're assigning, there's something wrong -- like, maybe you should explain that they're about social class, or at least what "expectations" are in that obsolete usage. (At least the race issue is a bit easier to detect in FD.) Anyway, I read every word of both those books, unabridged, not really clear at all on why anything was happening. Comstockian Bowdlerizations would have been most welcome at that point, especially if they were any shorter.

  24. Whoa, were you right by the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers? I must have walked by your office nearly every day (unless you were there Michaelmas '08, I wasn't there then), since the Philosophy Faculty's only a few blocks further down (by Merton) -- besides that my adviser is in Keble, and that I've often worked in the Natural History Museum. Oh, man, that's some prime real estate. Wait important question: were you constantly eating at Maison Blanc? They only have one outlet, but it's pleasant and the food is really, really good, which I can't really say of any place else in Oxford. Well, the Big Bang (in Jericho) is good, too. Kind of ridiculous that about the best vegetarian options are at the sausage place. But Maison Blanc has cuter waitresses! (Sorry, recommending it to you on those grounds is probably like ... sexist and heterosexist both maybe. True though.)

    Ha, how did you know I was talking about Wharton? Well, I guess she is a high school classic. We had House of Mirth and besides all the other stupid stuff we had to talk about how anti-Semitic the portrayal of Rosedale was (I went to Jewish day school). We read GE too and I didn't really get into it, though the David Lean adaptation isn't bad (by merest coincidence, it skips at least half the book). I kind of love _AToTC_ but yes he would have been well advised to get it Bowdlerized. But oh, Sydney Carton! (Literary tmi: I once wrote a poem rhyming "Sydney Carton" with "default on," because I'm self-indulgent like that.) Also I didn't much like Jane Eyre -- however, further confessions of my adolescent philistinism have no place here there or anywhere really.

    What was your Shakespeare criticism habit in high school? I remember reading Stephen Greenblatt's book about Hamlet when it first came out, but mostly I read novels, and some philosophy and poetry, and I wanted to be a literary translator when I grew up. (Philosophy looks practical in comparison, mm?)

    Ha, no, Epictetus was a slave actually, manumitted in middle age. Nero's tutor Seneca would be rather closer to Stockdale on that score ;)

  25. Which one is Michaelmas, again? Fall? That is indeed when I was there, fall '08. Yeah, nice locations, also an easy walk between "home" and office. I don't know if I ever ate at Maison Blanc, though a colleague and her husband took several of us to Thanksgiving dinner someplace nice -- it might have been there.

    I get the thinking behind Great Expectations (about a kid) and Tale of Two Cities (great story, I liked it too), but I wonder who ever decided that Age of Innocence was suitable for high school. Regardless, I was fortunate to have had great English teachers (at a public school! in the American sense!), and I had really a college-level literary education between grades 10-12, which made it all seem easy in college. The Shakespeare criticism I took to at 17 was A.C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy; Greenblatt's, which is interesting in an entirely different (almost opposite) way, hadn't appeared yet. (And let's be clear, though I went to high school before you did, I was not reading a first edition of Bradley in 1904.)

    This is the weirdest thread in the history of this blog. I'm sure everyone else has disappeared. Perhaps we should carry on this conversation some other way? You don't have your own blog, right, other than contributing to that one about food? Anyway, this is me:


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