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What I’m Working On Now
- I’m writing my first monograph, provisionally titled Humanist Certainty. Broadly speaking, the book argues that the ancient notion of certainty, alien to the modern concept of the same name, is most fully theorized in Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria as a term denoting customary agreement, not unimpeachable truth. This consensus-based understanding of certainty, built upon earlier sources including Aristotle and Cicero, exerts an enormous influence on Quintilian’s humanist readers, who use it to ground their writings on law, logic, and science. The second half of the book, which treats these later authors, focuses on the writings on Lorenzo Valla, Thomas Hobbes, and Giambattista Vico. The monograph expands upon my doctoral dissertation, which you can download at Columbia’s Academic Commons website.
- I’m co-editing a book on ambiguitas with Michael Fontaine at Cornell and William Short at the University of Exeter. The volume includes contributions on matters of linguistics, literary theory, Renaissance humanism, and more. In addition to my editorial work, I’m contributing an essay on the notion of ambiguity in rhetorical education, not merely as a stylistic flaw to be avoided (as ambiguitas is often understood in grammatical texts) but as a point where an expert courtroom advocate can use his strategies of legal interpretation.
- I’m beginning to reconsider a research project (from my presentation at the 2014 ACLA) on the metaphors of information and knowledge used in ancient discussions of education, including writing on a wax tablet, filling a water jug, and eating at a banquet. Launching from recent considerations of data as a scarce resource like crude oil, I look at how ancient authors conceive of the material properties of information-as-a-substance.
- As far as piano work goes these days, it’s been a lot of Debussy and Ravel, with some Real Book noodling tossed in once in a while.
(last updated 5/28/2018)