Re: unusual language [postmodernism]

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Wed, 9 Oct 1996 16:54:03 -0400

On Wed, 9 Oct 1996, Eric Crump wrote:

> Yeah, Anthony. Inasmuch as there *are* primary texts any more, the Strip
> is as good as they come.
> I'm glad Cindy questioned the 'primary-secondary' ranking-relationship
> between texts, because as that relationship is traditionally read,
> 'primary' is more important than 'secondary'. You don't really *know* a
> subject (so goes common wisdom) unless you've read the primary authors,
> the thinkers who thunk things up.

I'd like to put in a word for authors, and by extension, authority and the
primacy of some texts, even texts that as they are written know they will
be deconstructed. This also goes to the matter of jargon and
institutions. We're trained to know the most frequently cited texts, texts
that provide the grouding, or slippage in this case, for the ability to
understand and critique texts, culture, ourselves, the original texts in
the field (as opposed to primary, if you like).

Not all thoughts are worth reading or repeating. Not everyone who praises
Derrida and practices deconstruction does it as well as Derrida did. We
just had a Tuesday Cafe where we contributed reading lists--some would say
must reads.

So there are primary texts--writers who are more important to read than
others in a given field, with given discourse conventions, in a given
time, and given place. That these givens may all ultimately arbitrary and
subjective and deconstructable doesn't do much to mitigate the force they
exert on graduate students learning a field, preparing for oral exams,
writting dissertations, or professionals getting published, doing research
and teaching, getting tenure and promotion.

We kid ourselves, I think, if we think that by deconstructing or pomo-ing
something, and showing it's ultimate, perhaps, flimsy understructures,
that those things are dispensed with. One of Beth's comments on the
original post was about using such high-jargoned academic theoretical
tropes to talk about every day things and places. For all the talk and
analysis that goes on, not much will change in those places, unless you
ascribe to trickle down academomics.

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344