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Archive for May 23rd, 2005

Long Sunday

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Make your way over to the new group blog – Long Sunday. Proud to be a member of what promises to be an exciting new forum… It’s got all your favorites on board: Charlotte Street, pas au dela, Alphonse van Worden, Commonplace Book, I Cite, CProbes, Fort Kant, Infinite Thought, Observing the Observer, and even the reincarnated Young Heglian…

And it has nothing at all to do with this.

OK. Maybe it does a little bit. At least that got the emails a flying…

I’ll be posting something there soonish. But do add it to whatever does your reading for you…

Written by adswithoutproducts

May 23, 2005 at 12:20 am

Posted in Weblogs

Hard to copy edit when you’re loaded…

with 11 comments

…but the Hitch seems to have pulled it off. Review today of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism in the NY Times. Sounds like he’s been hanging around The Valve lately – right down to the title of the piece, slathered in Holbirony.

Anyway, a selection of Hitch’s penetrating, substantive critiques of the guide and those who have a spot in it:

Words continue to lose their anchorage in meaning as one turns the
pages. ” ‘The question of gender is a question of language.’ This
statement is Barbara Johnson’s . . . and her succinct formulation of
the relationship between gender and language does much to characterize
the approach of a group of feminists who draw upon the discourses of
poststructuralism.” What, apart from its brevity, is ”succinct”
about an assertion — not at all a formulation — that asserts both too
much and too little and that proves nothing? If it is indeed true that
such a remark characterizes a school of thought, then so much the worse.

Ouch – really got her there. And then there’s this bit on Spivak:

Sometimes an unconscious humor infects the leaden pages: ”The
sometimes formidable challenge of Spivak’s work as a whole derives
partly from the effortless and eclectic way that she draws on
discourses as diverse as. . . .” Hold it right there. Does the
mercurial Prof. Gayatri Spivak really want to be depicted as
”sometimes” formidable? And isn’t ”effortless” a bit backhanded?
The three words ”as a whole” are a sheer waste of text. ”Eclectic,”
however, seems more or less right.

Hitchens seems to like sniffing out "unconscious humor," as he ends with a trademark zinger of this sort:

In another unconsciously funny entry, on the Kenyan Marxist Ngugi Wa
Thiong’o, Nicholas Brown appears to praise his subject for a
postcolonial essay entitled ”On the Abolition of the English
Department.” Like the other contributors to this shabby volume, Brown
ought to be more careful of what he endorses. The prospect of such an
abolition, at least in the United States, becomes more appetizing by
the minute.

This is a lot like the attacks on "theory" that you find on Crooked Timber, the Valve, and in certain musty corners of American academia in general. Theory is written badly, the bad writing serves no purpose, it’s elitist but inelegant, self-promotional, etc… We learn that by "1980, Althusser had been exposed as the utter fraud he later confessed himself to be," and that Raymond Williams is an "exploded figure… wrongly credited as the pioneer of cultural studies." News to me, on both counts.

But the one thing we don’t find is an actual approach to the contents, arguments, assertions of the works themselves. Hitchens botches his closest attempt, when he misunderstands the place of Bodies that Matter in the course of Judith Butler’s work:

So the dancer and the dance are not the same after all. But does one
really require a new language or theory to disprove the claim — made
by whom, incidentally? — that gender is a mere role, or only a costume
for that role?

Well, the answer is Butler herself – Bodies that Matter is a refinement or clarification of her previous work… Gender Trouble, which asks the question "What… foundation categories of identity – the binary of sex, gender, and the body – can be shown as productions that create the effect of the natural, the original, and the inevitable." The refinement is to ensure that we hear both the "create" and the "effect" in that sentence.

Anyway, whatever. Too late for Hitchens now. But do wonder how he felt when his own boundaries were so devastingly transgressed by Galloway’s less than unconscious humor:

Before the hearing
began, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow even had some scorn
left over to bestow generously upon the pro-war writer Christopher
Hitchens. "You’re a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay," Mr
Galloway in formed him. "Your hands are shaking. You badly need another
drink," he added later, ignoring Mr Hitchens’s questions and staring
intently ahead. "And you’re a drink-soaked …" Eventually Mr Hitchens
gave up. "You’re a real thug, aren’t you?" he hissed, stalking away.

Boo hoo, Mr. Contrarian.

Written by adswithoutproducts

May 23, 2005 at 12:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized