Caveat Lector

Evidently this is supposed to be devastatingly witty. Alas, it leaves at least one reader completely undevastated. I guessed that the "article" was machine- generated somewhere around the middle of the first sentence, and was certain of it by the end of the second.

Sorry to have to break the news, but just because some academics refer to unfamiliar ideas or thinkers -- or use butt-ugly jargon to write gelatinous sentences -- it does not then follow that all of their work is necessarily a hodgepodge of random terms.

It is very popular to believe otherwise, of course. Not knowing anything about cultural theory is, in many cases, a point of great pride to the not-knower. The cost of being even a pluperfect ignoramus in such matters is minimal. Most of the time, in fact, the cost is nonexistent.

A certain impatience with contemporary litcritspeak is not (let's say) a thing kept well-hidden throughout the course of my career. But that impatience has been earned. I sit through plenty of conferences waiting to hear something that is not just triteness gussied up in polysyllables. This is a task I approach with all the enthusiasm of Job at discovering a new set of boils.

And yet there are indeed differences, I have discovered, not just between non-crap and crap, but between total crap and randomly generated strings of words. Strange to think this, but it is so. 
March 22, 2008 5:40 PM | | Comments (3)



Why so defensive about something clearly tongue-in-cheek? Like anything else, there's decent cultural criticism - I'm rather fond of Will Self and John Lanchester, myself - and rubbish; similarly, intellectual discourse. And not all of those who criticise such discourse are ignorant of it, though we may not have 'earned' it at conferences. Some of us, in fact, can actually read - and do.

But guess what? According to your bio, you're searching for a new word for 'intellectual'. I'm sure you've read Lewis Hyde. In his Trickster Makes the World you'll find quite a few.

Feeling disgust and boredom at a lazy jab at cultural theory is hardly the same as being "defensive."

What really put me off was not so much the abject witlessness of it, proper, as Frank Wilson pushing it so hard at his blog -- calling it "important," with the implication, I guess, that this would blow the lid off poststructuralism. It does nothing of the sort. (It is a good test of something though, per the lines indicated in my post.)

I read Hyde's book when it came out, and reviewed it, but do not see the point of application here.

I don't know, Scott. Back when it debuted in 1996, it was damn funny and only dated by ten years. Now that it's twelve more years obsolete, I think it even more apropos.*

*Of the state of the field.**

**In 1986.

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