Thursday, March 20, 2008

A hermeneutic of suspicion...

Too Expensive?
A textbook case...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Readers will recall my recent mention of a Professor C. Cox, the Milton List participant who criticized the 'tyranny' implicit in my remarks about "licentiousness" and "liberty" that I had written for a humorous column about language in the Expat Living section of the Korea Herald two weeks ago.

Professor Cox also dislikes something that he thinks that I wrote on the Milton List itself . . . but you'll need some context.

Several scholars on the listserve were discussing whether or not students are displaying "greed" by purchasing used books instead of the new ones ordered specifically for the course.

A certain Professor Flannagan thought that "inverse greed" motivates students, and even professors, to buy cheaper, used books, by which he must have meant that such customers were being miserly.

In response to Flannagan, a Professor Logsdon disagreed with the view that "professors and students tend to be driven to used copies of texts by inverse greed, to get something for nothing," and he asked:
But where does the simple fact that life is f**king expensive come in? Who can blame a student or professor for still wanting to still be able to make ends meet after the book expenses are all tallied up? My USED copy of Hughes was over $60!
Since I concurred with this point, I wrote:
I agree with Prof. Logsdon, life is swyvend expensive.

I might be able to afford an expensive book these days -- or until my contract runs out -- but as a student, I had no money left after tuition except for what I got by working 20 hours a week for less than minimum wage on a "work/study" job at the university cafeteria as dishwasher.

There must still be a lot of students who struggle financially and are driven by a budget rather than greed.
Professor Cox found something to dislike in what I'd written, so he quoted the offending words and commented on them:
Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote: "There must still be a lot of students who struggle financially and are driven by a budget rather than greed."

Carrol Cox wrote: "Don't even make this comparison. Greed (decently defined) consists in accumulating more money (from the work of others) than one would need for personal expenses. If you want to talk in ethical terms (though I think it rather unintelligent to do so in this contex), then the student who buys the cheapest text available is practicing the virtue of prudence."
Was the man trying to insult me? He certainly sounded annoyed. I chose to respond concisely rather than to repeat words that he'd already misconstrued:
Well, Carrol, my words were chosen to express polite disagreement with Roy Flannagan, but thanks all the same for the lessons on vice, virtue, intelligence, and the subtle art of gracious opposition.
Professor Cox retorted:
I don't think attacks on the right to survival deserve a polite or gracious response. I was deliberately ungracious.
At least his intention to insult was now clarified. I replied:
In that case, Carrol, you were surely thinking of some post other than mine since my post protested against the charge that students are greedy for buying used books.
I suppose that this exchange will go on, but I doubt that my words will sway Professor Cox, who seems locked into a hermeneutic of suspicion when reading Words Posted By Horace Jeffery Hodges, thereby leading to a total misconstrual of whatever I happen to post.

At least the misreadings give me something to blog about...



At 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write, "There must still be a lot of students who struggle financially and are driven by a budget rather than greed."

And then you use the word "prudence."

Having been a student yourself I sincerely hope you've not forgotten your physics, well "states" to be precise.

It is not greed, and it might not be prudence. However it can be called, "the State of Being Broke."


At 6:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I should have pasted more clearly. The one who wrote "prudence" was Professor Cox.

I've now made that much more clear.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:05 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

"Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined; Till at his second bidding darkness fled, Light shone, and order from disorder sprung."

Isn't a great site!
Just search for confused, cantankerous Milton scholar and the above Milton quote pops up!

I don't even know what a Milton scholar really is, does, knows, or discusses.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, would that my own words had such pacifying force . . . if that's not an oxymoron.

A Milton scholar is an supposed expert on Milton who publishes articles and/or books about Milton, probably therefore actually knows something concerning Milton, and thus discusses Milton and Milton's works at great length and with great if sometimes cantankerous enthusiasm.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:57 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

I do want to clarify; I meant that the OTHER guy was cantankerous!

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I understood that, and that's what I was referring to . . . but now that you bring it up, I can't claim to be without cantanker.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you, Jeffery, and many others, I worked to put myself through college and still came out with $12,000 in student loan debt. I am furious to read that university profs would disparage students for buying used books, rather than increasing textbook author and publisher profits by buying new books. Have these educated people never heard of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle? It is wasteful of our earth's limited natural resources and greedy of textbook authors and publishers to crank out new editions of textbooks every two or three years.


At 10:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Excellent points, Sonagi. I hadn't even considered the larger ecological context.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should have realized that the word "prudence" doesn't readily slip off the fingertips and onto the screen of an Ozarkian. Mine at least, the concept being foreign.

I do feel a need to add, Jeanio's quote was unreachable by myself: ya reckon she came up with that on her own and attributed just to throw us off?

I might be somewhat confused, having spent seveal consecutive hours sloggging through a Pentagon assessment. I think the authors must be following my trail and learning how to be obtuse.

But I am glad I didn't have to buy the damn book.


At 2:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, the quote that Jeanie found comes from Paradise Lost, right after the expulsion of the rebel angels and at the beginning of the Son's creative act of forming the world.

As for "prudence," an Ozarker would know that only as an old-timey name for a lady.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:27 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Suspicious Minds,
I would never be in a state of licentiousness with Milton!!(or Elvis for that matter)
The quote was on the intro to chapter page in a book that I finished last week on the English Civil War and the hapless Charles.
I remembered the gist of it, but went to brainyquote to get it just right. It seemed apropo-
Prudence in the Ozarks

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Except that we Ozarkers aren't especially prudent, are we? We're just stubborn . . . or ornery.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah I found it. The pentagonese had me squinty-eyed. Now I realize that Milton had a far more adept hand where it came to clarity than I'd ever given him credit for.

P.L. didn't have a "Preface Summary" then three more "Sub-Summaries" that each had to be cross-referenced in order to find the appropriate page to read the full text from.

Well, to be sure, Milton didn't: until the darned scholars started scholarizing. I realize too the finer points between greed, prudence, and being plain ol' broke.


At 3:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, Milton provided a cheat sheet for us in what were called 'arguments' -- posting one at the head of each 'book' in Paradise Lost.

I've found those helpful.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah I've found those too. However none that I've seen has a superscript (2-A>1-C) then going to sub-summary "A" page "2" one is referred back to "Primary Summary" where one is directed to: "Bibliography-check named cited."

I'm just glad in this case I said "I'll do it on an hourly."


At 5:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, even with Milton's generous cheat sheets, PL ain't easy.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:01 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

When any discussion of greed takes place, the testbook industry MUST be at the top of the list of offenders.

I have a photo of a banner recently displayed at Ozarka by the book-buy-back guy that reads, "Milk it for all it's worth."

I know that things must be different for students in other countries, but in the 'States, textbook sales is one of most wasteful/dishonest scams going on in society.

I wrote an essay a couple of years ago about American colleges entitled "Making the Most of your Money Mill".

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, I hadn't thought about textbooks in a long time, but you and Sonagi are surely right.

Jeffery Hodges

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