My article in the current edition of Babel, The Language Magazine on Susan Stebbing and her relevance to the current social and political climate is now available in full on the blog of the Citizens of Everywhere project, which is led by the Centre for New and International Writing at the University of Liverpool. The article can be found here.
Over the weekend I was in Durham for a workshop of the (In Parenthesis) project. We had some fascinating discussions about the work of the Oxford philosophers Mary Midgley, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot and Iris Murdoch, and about the contribution of women more generally to mid twentieth century philosophy.
The latest issue of Babel, The Language Magazine is out now, and contains some great articles and features.
I have contributed to the regular ‘Lives in Language’ slot, writing about L. Susan Stebbing. I am struck yet again by the insight and indeed the prescience of her later work on critical thinking. In 1939 Stebbing published Thinking to Some Purpose, motivated by what she described as the ‘urgent need for a democratic people to think clearly without the distortions due to unconscious bias and unrecognised ignorance’, a need which seems just as pressing now as it did eighty years ago.
I am on research leave from the University of Liverpool for the academic year 2016-17, having completed three years as Head of the Department of English. I am looking forward to developing my work on the Irish novelist George Moore (1852-1933), whose stylistically experimental and influential writing has interested me for many years. In a new book project on ‘George Moore’s Acts of Re-writing’ I am planning to apply pragmatic theory in the neo-Gricean tradition to the study of some of the ways in which Moore revised and republished a number of his major works, years or even decades after they were initially published. The major questions I hope to explore in this project are: firstly, how Moore’s specific acts of rewriting shaped and determined his creative output; secondly, how analytical paradigms developed in the discipline of linguistic pragmatics can be used to explain those processes; and thirdly what we can learn from this about the mechanisms and the significance of literary re-writing more generally.
Together with Billy Clark, I will be organising a panel at the 15th International Pragmatics Conference, in Belfast in July 2017. The panel title is ‘Pragmatic Approaches to Literary Analysis’, and the deadline for the submission of papers is 15th October 2016. The conference website can be found here.
Herbert Paul Grice was born on 15th March 1913 in Harborne, Birmingham. During his lifetime and in the years since his death in 1988 he has had a profound effect on how we understand the nature of meaning and the relationships between language and context. In 2001 Peter Strawson and David Wiggins offered the following assessment of Grice’s philosophical legacy:
“Other anglophone philosophers born, like him, in the twentieth century may well have had greater influence and done a larger quantity of work of enduring significance. Few have had the same gift for hitting on ideas that have in their intended uses the appearance of inevitability. None have been cleverer, or shown more ingenuity and persistence in the further developments of such ideas.”
Babel, a new quarterly magazine about all issues concerned with language, has just been launched. The first issue is available free via the magazine’s website here. It includes an article about the life and work of H. Paul Grice in the first of what is to be my regular series of articles on ‘Lives in Language’.
On Thursday 25th October I will be traveling down to London to give a talk at the Irish Literary Society at 7.30p.m. at the Double Tree hotel, 2 Bridge Place, just behind Victoria mainline station.
The title of my talk is ‘”Oh, do let’s talk about something else”: Changing the subject and avoiding the issue in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September‘. I will be discussing how recent developments in pragmatic theory can contribute to an analysis of the novel. The Last September is set in an Irish country ‘Big House’ during the time of tension and violence that led up to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. The house, Danielstown, is fictional, but the novelist made no secret of the fact that it was closely based on her own family home, Bowen’s Court in County Cork. This picture of Elizabeth Bowen shows Bowen’s Court in the background.