Presner & Mangle of DH

Reading Presner was very engaging for me and solidified the debate of the function of DH, whether to ‘critique’ or to ‘build.’ I believe Presner build a strong foundation to support the view that one in DH must build, which he did by threading a connection between the Frankfurt Schools’ theory and Liu’s critique before continuing from there. The Frankfurt School philosophers articulated the difference between a ‘traditional theory’, which is about, ‘the pursuit of factual knowledge,’ or a ‘critical theory,’ which is a continuing development of Kantian philosophy that factual knowledge is not enough. One must be aware of knowledge but also engage with the social world. This was an elegant three-pointer to use a basketball metaphor. And a way to put this into practice is to use a ‘negation,’ or to shake things up or to punk it (rock’n’roll metaphor), which leads to a ‘mangle.’ This, I believe, is what he means when he states, ” DH is experimental, dirty, and completely suffused by social and material diabetics or resistance and accommodation.” Punk rock lives! Mangle is what one gets when things are shaken and no longer rarified, when the structures are crumbling, when ideas are fraying, or a new chapter is being written.

I will make only one more observation, which is his elaboration of utopia. He made an excellent point about what is not said when one is stating a social criticism. What is not said and hiddenly implied is that the author has a vision of something better which is not brought into the conversation.(This is thought of a strength or virtue for most people.) As he states, “Nowadays utopian ideas have a bad rap because they appear hopelessly naive or programmatically prescriptive:however, without an idea of change for the better, there can be no constructive social critique.” I think this is something that has to be stated and not just even implied by the person giving the critique. It must be articulated as part of the process, which is where Presner leads to by emphatically stating that ,” For the DH, that there is a utopian idea at its core: participation without condition”

Presner definitely set the DH in a philosophical framework to expand the essence of the traditional humanities for the next century by articulating the humanities’ social, participatory, and ethical dimensions leading to a better, more inclusive world.