Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Using My Words

L Magee has offered to open the discussion of Austin’s How to Do Things with Words some time later this week – jet lag and other distractions permitting. I won’t pre-empt this “official” reading group discussion, but I did want to offer a few choice words on the personal impact of this reading selection:

(1) My son doesn’t like it. Every time I settle down to read this work, he comes up and says: “No! No Auttin! Read Tchsomsi! Read Tchsomsi!” Perhaps there’s something to that nativist notion, after all… (My son’s reading preferences have been discussed previously…)

(2) I will never again believe LM’s evaluations of how long it will take to read a work. When we discussed the timelines for the “diasporic” readings, I remember some claim to the effect that we should easily be able to knock this work off in a week, given that it was a slim volume of a scant 150-odd pages. Next time, I’ll have a closer look at what’s in those pages before I fall for this…

(3) More seriously, I am quite enjoying the work. It has a wonderful, playful style. It leaves me, though, with the sense that I am stepping into the conversation in medias res: I feel like I need more context to assess what I’m reading (or else risk falling into reading the work in an idiosyncratic way). In particular, I’m worried about missing the strategic intent of the work – again, it’s a matter of getting a clearer sense of the core problem the work is trying to resolve (not the problem addressed directly in the text itself, which is clearly enough presented, but the overarching problem addressed by the broader discussion into which this work intervenes). LM might feel comfortable providing a bit of context – or perhaps this will need to be built into our future reading selections, once we’ve followed the Chomsky tangent as far as we believe it will take us.

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