Finally noticed this conversation. If this meet-up isn't buried on the North side, we (SoulessAutomaton and I) could possibly make it. We'd have to drive in from Grand Rapids.
I have a BA and MA in English Lit, and I can't sincerely answer you. I know several of the standard answers--most of which are derived from and are designed to promote various literary theories and the associated coterie of career minded professors. I left Lit in large part because of those (non-) answers, and did my PhD in Rhetoric instead.
Painting with a very broad brush here, but mainly why people study lit groups into five areas.
Art for art's sake-->new criticism, structuralism, deconstructuralism: those fields that see studying literature of value in itself for understanding how literature works.
Author worship-->few scholars still do this, but these see studying literature as valuable as a way to understand a great writer. A modern version is the "shrink crit" types who use literature to do armchair psychoanalysis of the author (too often using extremely outdated Freudian theory).
Reader worship-->reader response theory, mainly, though some accuse rhetoricians of doing this: these theories mainly look at what readers make of a text as being the meaning/value of that text (sometimes they argue that the author is nothing more than a first reader).
How a text works-->linguistics and literature, mainly. These critics study literature to understand how the artistry shapes and is shaped by the constraints of language.
What it means in context-->there's two separate groups here. One is the social/cultural critics who build out of the class/race/gender studies (Marxist, Feminist, et al). The other are the "New Historicist" critics who study lit to see how it lends insight into it's historical context and how the historical context lends insight into the text.
There's a graph of this, but my ability to do ASCII art is ... not up to the task. Basically, you draw 5 circles, one in the center, the other for at the cardinal points. In the center are the text focused people (art for art's sake). To the left are the author focused types, to the right are the reader focused types. You can draw arrows from the author circle to the text circle and from the text circle to the reader circle, but that leads to a whole 'nother can of worms. Anyhow, above the text circle can either be the linguistics/language one or the history/culture one. The other goes below. (What gets put on top can be telling about the teacher's biases.
And, of course, any literary critic worth their salt will immediately violate any of these groupings if that's what makes the most sense to developing insight into the text/reading experience.
I hope that helps.
The wiki is a good starting tool, but it's not yet as fully developed as I would like. I'm still working to develop sufficient background knowledge of the discussions, assumptions, and definitions used in Less Wrong so as to be sufficiently confident in commenting.
So I will forgive the occasions when someone who sincerely wants information and thoughtful reactions stumbles into spaces that have already been well-trodden.
Nevertheless, the wiki itself isn't yet fully developed with interconnections and links to definitions: until such internal tagging is complete, newer people will sometimes fail to find what they are searching for and will instead ask it directly.
I welcome these questions being asked, and if only as a sign that Less Wrong does not encourage self-censorship (which, I gather from conversations elsewhere, may have been a concern on Overcoming Bias).
I am trying to contextualize this discussion, given that my background in rhetoric and ethos is far removed from the background of the author.
So, I'm going to ask this simply (pun intended) to hopefully generate some useful complexity.
Is the goal of this analysis to systematize the implementation of pre-established ethical guidelines, or, as implied by Soulless Automaton's comment, to derive the ethical guidelines themselves?
Also, does this assume that ethics are derived from observing behavior and then selecting the best behavior given observed results? (If so, I would have to suggest most ethical choices are trained into people before they have enough experience to act outside of the ethical systems developed through our history. In effect, is this discussion assuming a tabula rosa that doesn't exist?)
Actually, I'm a bit afraid of the opposite--as an older fart who has a degree through an English Department... I'm often more than a little unsure and I'm concerned I'll be rejected out of hand, or, worse, simply ignored.
I suspect, though, that this crowd is inherently friendly, even when the arguments end up using sarcasm. ;-)
I'm here because of SoullessAutomaton, who is my apartment-mate and long term friend. I am interested in discussing rhetoric and rationality. I have a few questions that I would pose to the group to open up the topic.
1) Are people interested in rhetoric, persuasion, and the systematic study thereof? Does anyone want a primer? (My PhD is in the History and Theory of Rhetoric, so I could develop such a primer.)
2) What would a rationalist rhetoric look like?
3) What would be the goals / theory / overarching observations that would be the drivers behind a rationalist rhetoric?
4) Would a rationalist rhetoric be more ethical than current rhetorics, and if so, why?
5) Can rhetoric ever be fully rational and rationalized, or is the study of how people are persuaded inevitably or inherently a-rational or anti-rational (I would say that rhetoric can be rationalized, but I know too many scholars who would disagree with me here, either explicitly or implicitly)?
6) Question to the group: to what degree might unfamiliar terminology derived from prior discussions here and in the sister-blog be functioning as an unintentional gatekeeper? Corollary question: to what degree is the common knowledge of math and sciences--and the relevant jargon terms thereof--functioning as a gatekeeper? (As an older woman, I was forbidden from pursuing my best skill--math--because women "didn't study math". I am finding that I have to dig pretty deeply into Wikipedia and elsewhere to make sure I'm following the conversation--that or I have to pester SoullessAutomaton with questions that I should not have to ask. sigh)
Thanks. Last time I googled it--before there was a Google--I came up with nothing.
The dieting discussion seems to have slipped from the intended purpose into a discussion of, well, dieting. I'm wondering if some of that discussion belongs over here, under "open thread" discussion, instead?
Also, am I the only person who has problems dieting because sometimes, for causes yet to be identified, hunger can trigger a migraine? I'll do anything to avoid migraines, including being fat. (Though today I started experimenting with the Shangri-La diet: if it works and doesn't trigger migraines, I would be delighted.)
Thanks for the confirmation, and yes, I appear to be at 20.
Now to start thinking about how to open up a discussion about rationalist approach to rhetoric.
Wouldn't it take human readers to separate out the trolls from the new posters, and wouldn't such human readers need to be paid for that work? I'm assuming a lot, granted, but isn't this site volunteer work? Who would want to slough through the new posts to remove the trolls from the new people?
Ok, that could sound sarcastic. It isn't. I really don't think that many people would volunteer for such work for long, and I honestly don't know about any computer programs that could make that sort of judgment about posters.