Re: language: a plea for tolerance!

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 23:09:49 -0400

On Sun, 13 Oct 1996, Tom Maddox wrote:
> >reading him.
> I have my own troubles with Faulkner from time to time, but I would
> maintain that his writing differs from the stuff I alluded to. It has
> beauty, and even when I wish he would just untie that fucking *knot* for
> Christ's sake, I'm aware of the power of his language. Look back at my
> paragraph above, and you'll see that I'm referring to specific uses of
> language that I find "ugly, pretentious, and deluded," and I'll stay with
> that assertion. These are judgment calls, matters of esthetics perhaps.

. . .and matters of ethics perhaps. I'll stay with my call for
tolerance :)

> My allusion to
> Wittgenstein was more than passing fancy; I put considerable stock in using
> ordinary language to examine theoretically complex issues. Likewise my
> reference to the phenomenology of the writing and reading experiences--I
> want to work with the immediate sensations. And from there, whatever
> theory building takes place can do so by reference to that groundwork, not
> to perverse incarnations of Heidegger or Freud.

If you read the post I wrote re: theory and conversation, you saw that my
affinities are with starting from the primitive stuff and working out
from there as well! I just think there are some people who work better
the other direction, from theory in, and as long as they're willing to
converse, I'm okay with the difference of approach. That's where I
stand on that one. I mainly object to unapproachability and

I would also stay with my assertion that phenomenology gets pretty complex
and arcane pretty fast, it just does so in the direction of psychology
rather than cultural studies (i.e., existentialism). Complex and
difficult theory gets into the picture one way or another, at one point of
the process or another, it seems to me, if a conversation goes on long

> >If stuff is
> >useful to us in our own theory-building, then somehow the difficulty of it
> >is sort of fun. This ties back to stuff Eric and others have said about
> >the central fact of educational life as we've known it being coercion!
> I don't follow you here. I understand the coercion well enough, but I do
> not see how that ties to difficulty for its own sake.

In relation to coercion, I was only thinking that if so many of us hadn't
felt coerced to struggle with the pomo theorists (and writers who wanted
to further than kind of work), maybe we wouldn't be so bothered by them!
I'm just wondering whether finding them "intentionally difficult" rather
than "involved in trying to state some complex and reflexive things about
language and culture" is more a matter of having been coerced into
thinking we all *should* find their work useful. Maybe their work
just isn't useful to your projects -- but that doesn't make their work
intentionally difficult, ugly, etc. I've been often very frustrated by
trying to read Lacan for example, so I don't do much of that reading --
until I have a project going which could really benefit from Lacan.
Then I read what I need to read, and I don't feel frustrated. Instead,
I feel glad that Lacan did what he did, however difficult and however
little I might be able to understand.