Anticipating the Turn


Breton’s apartment in Paris, filled with objects he and Levi-Strauss bought while exiled in New York during the war.

As with any intellectual history, there is more to “the turn toward performance” than meets the eye: there is considerable buildup across a broad intellectual front, including the introduction of existentialism into the American academy and public culture. (E.g., William Barrett’s The Irrational Man [1958] — see note below). A consideration of these broader trends would reveal that the acceptance of work by Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus following the second World War was anticipated by work in American philosophy, such as John Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934) and Kenneth Burke’s Philosophy of Literary Form (1941). Some of the effort to discern a particular American culture was in response to the rise of rich international connections (which manifested in politics as a concern over communism), many of which were brought about by displaced intellectuals who came to the U.S. in the thirties and forties. Some of them stayed and the result was that American intellectuals interested in work by Roman Jakobson found him referring to work by Vladimir Propp and Mikhail Bakhtin, and so American scholars found themselves confronted by an entire school of literary theory, now known as Russian formalism, which interacted somewhat with their emerging interest in structuralism as it had been developed in France by Lévi-Strauss, Piaget, Lacan, and others. (And all of this ignores the many contributions of the Frankfurt School during this time.)

Burke, Kenneth. 1973/1941. Literature as Equipment for Living. The Philosophy of Literary Form. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 293-304.

Jakobson Roman. 1960. Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics. In Style in Language, 350-377. Ed. Thomas Sebeok. MIT Press.

Lord, Albert. 1960. The Singer of Tales. Harvard University Press. (The link below will take you to an online version of book hosted by Harvard University.)

Note: If you have never had the chance to read Barrett’s The Irrational Man, I highly recommend it. A survey of its chapter titles should prove reason enough: from “The Encounter with Nothingness” and “The Testimony of Modern Art” to “The Place of the Furies,” the book was the gateway to existentialism, and thus also phenomenology, for many.

Hannah Arendt holding court at the New School for Social Research.

Python’s `google` Module

So, like me, you become interested in the possibility of executing Google searches from within a Python script, and, like me, you installed the google module — which some have noted is no longer developed by Google itself but by a third party — and got an import error, here is what happened: yes, you did install it as google:

pip install google

but you do not call it google because that will lead to an ImportError. Instead, the name of the module is googlesearch, so what you want to do is this:

from googlesearch import search

Now it works.

Hat tip to shylajhaa sathyaram in his comment on GeeksforGeeks.

Difficulties with PIP

As I have noted before, the foundation for my work in Python is built on first installing the Xcode Command Line tools, then install MacPorts, then installing (using MacPorts) Python and PIP. Everything I then install within my Python setup, which is pretty much everything else, is done using PIP, so when I kept getting the error below after finally acquiescing to macOS’s demands to upgrade to High Sierra, I was more than a little concerned:

ImportError: No module named 'packaging'

See below for the complete traceback.1

I tried install setuptools using MacPorts, as well as uninstalling PIP. I eventually even uninstalled both Python and PIP and restarted my machine. No joy.

Joy came with this SO thread which suggested I try:

wget https://bootstrap.pypa.io/get-pip.py
sudo python get-pip.py

Everything seems to be in working order now.

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/opt/local/bin/pip", line 6, in <module>
    from pkg_resources import load_entry_point
  File "/Users/john/Library/Python/3.4/lib/python/site-packages/pkg_resources/__init__.py", line 70, in <module>
    import packaging.version
ImportError: No module named 'packaging'
~ % sudo pip search jupyter
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/opt/local/bin/pip", line 6, in <module>
    from pkg_resources import load_entry_point
  File "/Users/john/Library/Python/3.4/lib/python/site-packages/pkg_resources/__init__.py", line 70, in <module>
    import packaging.version
ImportError: No module named 'packaging'
~ % sudo pip install setuptools
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/opt/local/bin/pip", line 6, in <module>
    from pkg_resources import load_entry_point
  File "/Users/john/Library/Python/3.4/lib/python/site-packages/pkg_resources/__init__.py", line 70, in <module>
    import packaging.version
ImportError: No module named 'packaging'

  1. For those interested, the complete traceback looked like this: 

Bookends, at last

In September 2016, frustrated with data that had gone missing in a transition between versions of the reference manager I had been using and liked very much, I listed the following specifications for what I wanted in such an application:

  • drag and drop input with autocompletion of data fields with as few clicks as possible;
  • storage of documents in human-recognizable containers: articles, books, etc. with names that look like in-text citation: e.g., Glassie_1982.pdf;
  • ability to scan PDF for highlights and notes and to print those notes and highlights separately;
  • ability to indicate if physical copy is present — or if physical copy is only copy — and its location — the ability to check out a physical copy would be useful;
  • ability to handle epubs gracefully — being able to read and mark them up within the app would be nice.

I am relieved to note that Bookends has much of this. For most items with a DOI, it can fairly quickly grab all the needed metadata — there really is no reason that at this moment in time anyone needs to spend time filling in those fields themselves. (I should note that occasionally Bookends either confuses the order of author’s names in BibTex files or, perhaps, that information is recorded properly in BibTex.)

While I do wish that Bookends would give me the option of replacing spaces with underscores automagically, when it offers to rename files it does so sensibly and in a human-readable form and in a location of my choosing.

Bookends’ tagging system remains opaque to me, but I’ve compensated by creating groups that do much of the work of tags. I’ll live with it.