The User's Guide to Phil-Lit

Welcome to PHIL-LIT, the electronic discussion group of Philosophy and Literature. Here is the User's Guide to the list at Please bookmark or write down this URL for future reference.

If you have any questions, please contact the list's technical moderator:

You can also contact D. G. Myers


  1. Email Addresses: How to Post to the List
  2. Commands: How to Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Your Settings, and so on
  3. Guidelines: Rules for the List
  4. Database Searches: Searching the Archives
  5. Governing Structure of Phil-Lit

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PHIL-LIT was created on March 3, 1994, to accompany Philosophy and Literature, the interdisciplinary journal published by Whitman College and Johns Hopkins University Press. It was started by Denis Dutton, the editor of Philosophy and Literature, and D. G. Myers of Texas A&M University. In September 1995, Stephen Ogden of Simon Fraser University took over for a two-year term; and in July 1997, Andreas Ramos became the principal day-to-day administrator. Together the four developed PHIL-LIT as an electronic symposium devoted to the same sort of topics covered by the journal: philosophical interpretations of literature, literary investigations of classic works of philosophy, the aesthetics of literature, philosophy of language relevant to literature, and the theory of criticism. Like the journal, PHIL-LIT owes allegiance to no particular school or style of criticism or philosophy.

Subscriptions to Philosophy and Literature cost $22 a year. Write to:

To purchase a subscription by Visa or MasterCharge via e-mail send the name of the journal, length of subscription, credit card number, expiration date, and your name, address, and phone number to

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1: Email Addresses

To send a message to the entire list:

To send a command to the listserver in order to change your options:

There is a difference between the two addresses. Use to write to other people. Use to send a command to the computer that manages the list.
If you send commands to everyone, your command will not be read or used by the computer.

When in doubt, contact the list's technical moderator.

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2: Commands

Send all of the following messages to

To subscribe:

(For example, SUBSCRIBE PHIL-LIT James Joyce)

To sign off:

N.B.: This message must be sent from the address at which you originally subscribed. If you changed addresses, contact the list's technical moderator (see the top of this page.)

A single request to the PHIL-LIT computer can provide you with a daily anthology of all PHIL-LIT messsages. This means that you receive only one message per day from PHIL-LIT. You may then browse through these at leisure. This is called "digest mode."

To set to Digest mode:

To suspend delivery of messages without signing off:

To return to regular delivery:

You do not normally see a copy of your own postings. To see your own postings:

To stop receiving copies of your own postings:

To put a stop to advisory messages indicating that your posting has been distributed to the list:

Again, send these commands to If you have a problem send a message privately to the list's technical moderator--not the whole list.

N.B.: Sometimes it happens that subscribers are "auto-deleted" by the listserv computer, because messages cannot be delivered for various reasons. If you find that you are not receiving messages from PHIL-LIT--and there are always several messages per day--contact the technical moderator privately.

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3: Guidelines

These guidelines are the rules of the list. All other guidelines are superceded by this page.

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4: Database Searches

PHIL-LIT is archived daily. You can easily search the archive logs for past topics. You send listserv a brief program, commanding it to search the list's archives for a word, term, or name (defined as a "string" as in "string of characters"). Here's what to do. Send to the following:

(For example, SEARCH Waste Land IN PHIL-LIT)

(You can use upper case or lower case. It doesn't matter. search waste land in phil-lit is also okay.)

You can refine the search even further. If you are not sure, for instance, what Eliot's poem might have been called in the post you want, you can write this search command instead:

If you remember the author's name--if you remember, for instance, that Amy Schwartz posted a parody of _The Waste Land_ some time ago--you might send the command

Tip: Since we ask everyone to sign their posts, the easiest way to find someone's postings is to include their name as part of the search string. Check one of their emails to see how they sign their name, and then use that as part of the search string. For example, SEARCH Waste Land OR Wasteland AND Amy AND Schwartz IN PHIL-LIT. Since the archives go back to 1994, it's best to include a date limit, such as SEARCH Waste Land OR Wasteland AND Amy AND Schwartz IN PHIL-LIT since 02/01/15 (that's 2002/01/15, or 2002/January/15th.)

You can search by including the sender's name. (Note: this sometimes doesn't work. See the tip above.)

You can search for every post by the address of a particular author:

(Note: This also sometimes doesn't work, since the sender's email address may not be identical to the server's email address. See the tip above.)

The notational convention here is to use an asterisk (*) to represent everything and anything.

You can limit your searches by date:

The date is year/month/day.

You can limit your searches by subject:

Or you can combine methods:

By return mail Listserv will send you a list of "hits" (postings found), not the postings themselves. For example:

004803 94/12/22 11:10   61   Holiday fare
006181 95/03/04 10:46   44   Getting the Waste Land parody
006198 95/03/06 18:01   73   Wasteland Parody

To retrieve the postings, send the following command to listserv:

(N.B.: Since these examples have been cited in the User's Guide since practically the beginning of Phil-Lit time, *these* searches will net every copy of the User's Guide that has ever been posted to the list.)

If you get many hits, such as:

GETPOST PHIL-LIT 4803 6181 6198 6208 6322 6447 6549 
7623 7727 8116 8283 8398 8561 8768 9148 9290 9610 
10245 10490 10681 10911 11063 11212 11613 11794 12102 

then you'll need to include a command on each line when you send it back. Send the following:

GETPOST PHIL-LIT 4803 6181 6198 6208 6322 6447 6549 
GETPOST PHIL-LIT 7623 7727 8116 8283 8398 8561 8768 
GETPOST PHIL-LIT 10245 10490 10681 10911 11063 11212 

As always, these programs and commands need to be sent to and not the list itself.

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5: The Governance of PHIL-LIT

The Moderators:


Meta-Phil-Lit provides a forum for members to comment on moderators and posters, the suitability of particular threads, and so on. Meta-Phil-Lit is open to any list member. Subscribe to or contact William Dolphin, the Meta-Phil-Lit moderator.