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The Sokal Hoax: The Sham That Shook the Academyby Alan D Sokal
Synopses & Reviews
In May 1996 physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in the fashionable academic journal Social Text. The essay quoted hip theorists like Jacques Lacan, Donna Haraway, and Gilles Deleuze. The prose was thick with the jargon of poststructuralism. And the point the essay tried to make was counterintuitive: gravity, Sokal argued, was a fiction that society had agreed upon, and science needed to be liberated from its ideological blinders.
When Sokal revealed in the pages of Lingua Franca that he had written the article as a parody, the story hit the front page of the New York Times. It set off a national debate still raging today: Are scholars in the humanities trapped in a jargon-ridden Wonderland? Are scientists deluded in thinking their work is objective? Are literature professors suffering from science envy? Was Sokal's joke funny? Was the Enlightenment such a bad thing after all? And isn't it a little bit true that the meaning of gravity is contingent upon your cultural perspective?
Collected here for the first time are Sokal's original essay on "quantum gravity," his essay revealing the hoax, the newspaper articles that broke the story, and the angry op-eds, letters, and e-mail exchanges sparked by the hoax from intellectuals across the country, including Stanley Fish, George F. Will, Michael Bérubé, and Katha Pollitt. Also included are extended essays in which a wide range of scholars ponder the long-term lessons of the hoax.
Book News Annotation:
May, 1996: physicist, Alan Sokal publishes his "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" in the Duke University journal, Social Text, edited by Bruce Robbins and Andrew Ross. The article's prose, heavy with quotations from Derrida, Harraway, Deleuze, and Lacan was also thick with poststructuralist buzz words. Sokal argued that gravity was a fiction society agreed upon but needed liberation from. Sokal then revealed in Lingua Franca that he had meant the article as a parody. Sokal's submission and subsequent revelation turned into a story about the "science wars" that made it to The New York Times. The Sokal Hoax documents the controversy with Sokal's article and revelation, the responses by the Social Text editors, and then reactions from the likes of Katha Pollitt, Stanley Fish, Bruno Latour, George Will, and many others. The volume ends with two post-hoax reflections from Andrew Ross and Sokal. No index or bibliography.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Collected here are Sokal's original essay on "quantum gravity," his essay revealing the hoax, the newspaper articles that broke the story, and the angry op-eds, letters, and e-mail exchanges sparked by the hoax from intellectuals including Stanley Fish, George F. Will, Michael Beruse , and Katha Pollitt. Also included are extended essays in which a wide range of scholars ponder the long-term lessons of the hoax.
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