". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

*Jane Austen, Game Theorist* Teaches Games' Theorists

Jane Austen, Game Theorist (2013 - Princeton University Press) is by Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.  As one might presume, located in Los Angeles as Chwe is, the spark for this work, as well as his first knowledge that such a person as Jane Austen had existed, is a movie, Clueless (1995), a very loose LA update of Emma. *

Dr. Chwe had a major scientific break-through watching Clueless:

“This movie was all about manipulation,” Mr. Chwe, a practitioner of the hard-nosed science of game theory, said recently by telephone. “I had always been taught that game theory was a mathematical thing. But when you think about it, people have been thinking about strategic action for a long time.”

Which led him to read some of Jane Austen's novels, in order to ca$h in on the Jane Austen + monsters + anything else anyone can think of  to write Jane Austen, Game Theorist because English majors, students of literature, generations of readers of Jane Austen needed to be clued into the news that their admired and beloved author contained more than mere entertainment -- she can teach us lessons about how human beings interact, in order to get the outcomes they desire.  Who knew? 

Chwe organizes his study of Austen around the "Clueless Concept" ** at least judging by this article:

But Mr. Chwe, who identifies some 50 “strategic manipulations” in Austen (in addition to a chapter on the sophisticated “folk game theory” insights in traditional African tales), is more interested in exploring the softer side of game theory. Game theory, he argues, isn’t just part of “hegemonic cold war discourse,” but what the political scientist James Scott called a subversive “weapon of the weak.”
Such analysis may not go over well with military types, to say nothing of literary scholars, many of whom see books like Mr. Chwe’s or “Graphing Jane Austen,” an anthology of Darwinian literary criticism published last year, as examples of ham-handed scientific imperialism.
“These ostensibly interdisciplinary efforts are sometimes seen as attempts to validate the humanities by attaching them to more empirical disciplines,” said Jonathan Kramnick, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins and the author of the 2011 essay “Against Literary Darwinism,” who has not read Mr. Chwe’s book. “But for some, myself included, literary studies doesn’t need to attach itself to any other discipline.”
Even some humanists who admire Mr. Chwe’s work suggest that when it comes to appreciating Austen, social scientists may be the clueless ones. Austen scholars “will not be surprised at all to see the depths of her grasp of strategic thinking and the way she anticipated a 20th-century field of inquiry,” Laura J. Rosenthal, a specialist in 18th-century British literature at the University of Maryland, said via e-mail.

* Coincidentally, I re-watched the movie last week, which did not hold up my positive memories from its theatrical release, back-to-back with the Gwenyth Paltrow period Emma, which confirmed that production's lack of depth -- but startled me by including Polly Walker as -- Jane Fairfax!  Can you imagine my dears, HBO Rome's Atia of the Julii as -- Jane Fairfax??????

** Again, note the unconscious but present distorting lens through which LA view everything, for it is highly unlikely a reader will find the word 'clueless' within Jane Austen's novels. She does though, on one occasion, employ 'world-class' , to describe a particularly fine vista.

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