Re: language: a plea for tolerance!

Steve Krause (krause@MIND.NET)
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 08:05:37 -0700

Sorry this is such a big message-- lots of quotes pasted in at the=

Tom Maddox wrote (in part):

>>And to simply dismiss "theory" as "gibberish," well, there's no=
>>response to that, now is there? I might as well say all poetry=
>>gibberish, or all tv is gibberish, or all politics is gibberish,=
etc., etc.
>I did nothing of the sort. I said, "I sometimes feel that all theory
>aspires to the condition of gibberish." A literary allusion, actually,=
>Pater's "All art aspires to the condition of music." A tiny joke,=
but with
>the point that it's not that all theory *is* gibberish but that=
it highly
>values the same (or *valorizes* it, as I might say without irony=
>brainworms had eaten my frontal lobes).

Well, okie-dokie. But then a little later in this post, I think=
dismissing "theory" outright. But I think we're basically in agreement
here, and the way I always look at this is 90% of everything is "crap"--
all the books, music, TV, etc. Precious few things are ultimately
"worthwhile." Of course, we have to have the "crap" to have the
"worthwhile" stuff, imho...
>>>I should also add that I will be teaching students who will not=
>>>grades, who are free to walk out of my class and take another,=
who can
>>>develop pretty much any kind of individual or group project they=
wish, and
>>>who will write self-evaluations and be evaluated by me in the=
>>>straightforward prose I can manage. I am concerned that they=
set and
>>>pursue their own goals within the very flexible limits of this=
>>>that they fulfill any agenda of mine--and this certainly could=
include the
>>>intense study of pomo-ismus in whatever form.
>>Hmmm... me thinks that the student who writes about Derrida might=
>In other words, I'm lying? What reason do you have for that implication?

I don't think you're lying Tom; I just think that students in this=
might say to themselves "Gosh, he doesn't like this stuff" and might=
themselves. I'm sure I have students who say "gosh, this new criticism
isn't going to go over with Krause," and they censor themselves.
>It washes just as well as your unsupported acceptance of "this stuff."=
>actually, I can, in a setting like this or any other, be as dismissive=
as I
>wish with or without specifics.

[example of "bad theory" cut-- I'd agree with you on that one, Tom]

>Which is very much the sort of thing that I have in mind. I can=
>such citations at will, but let me instead ask if you can bring=
>"beautiful" language from theory to demonstrate the wrongness of=
>"butt-ugly" claim.

Though I'm not entirely sure how far and how long we should carry=
this on,
nor am I sure that one can really appreciate the language of any=
with a few sentences here and there. But you catch me at home in=
morning, a time when I'm not really ready to be too productive (even=
I'm behind), and you also catch me with my diss still on my computer.=
let me do a little cutting and pasting from some of the things that=
really was happy to quote from, books and essays I found to be
"beautiful*" in some sense.

*(Imagine this as a footnote with the word "beautiful," the fine=
print, so
to speak.) Of course, your "beauty measure," like your mileage, will=
=46or me, these works and the passages from them were not only profound=
and well written; they were also quite useful in the argument I was=
in my diss, and, in that sense, elegant and "beautiful."

Sharon Crowley, _Methodical Memory_, on what she sees as the problems=

"Thus, for example, a modern thinker can quote Plato as a source=
for this
or that point of view, as though he spoke with perfect articulation=
to the
modern age, as though he inhabited an intellectual milieu so similar=
to the
present one that any difference existing between our age and his=
own are so
small to be negligible. In short, the modern worldview, in order=
privilege reason, must hypostasize human consciousness and, in doing=
collapse history into an eternal present (8)."

bell hooks, "Postmodern Blackness;" great essay, and here's a nice=
me thinks...

"The overall impact of postmodernism is that many other groups now=
with black folks a sense of deep alienation, despair, uncertainty,=
loss of
sense of grounding even if it is not informed by shared circumstance"=

Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux, _Postmodern Education_; This=
is one
of the ways they define postmodernism I found especially clear and=
for me:

Postmodernism views the subject as contradictory and multilayered,=
rejects the notion that individual consciousness and reason are the=
important determinants in shaping human history. It posits instead=
a faith
in forms of social transformation that understand the historical,
structural, and ideological limits that shape the possibility for
self-reflection and action. Postmodernism points to solidarity,=
and compassion as essential aspects of how we develop and understand=
capacities we have for experiencing the world and ourselves in a=
way. More specifically, postmodernism offers a series of referents=
rethinking how we are constituted as subjects within a rapidly changing=
of political, social, and cultural conditions (117).

Here's Derrida from "Differance" (as it appears in Kaumf's _Derrida
Reader_). I personally think it has an interesting poetic quality,
considering the subject matter-- wish I knew what it sounded like=
in the
original French...

What is written as diff=E9rance, then, will be the playing movement=
"produces"-by means of something that is not simply an activity-these
differences, these effects of difference. This does not mean that=
diff=E9rance that produces differences is somehow before them, in=
a simple
and unmodified-in-different-present. Diff=E9rance is the nonfull,=
structured and differentiating origin of differences. Thus, the=
origin no longer suits it. (64)

=46oucault is one of my favs-- I'd especially recommend "The Discourse=
Language." Here's a quote from _The Archaeology of Knowledge_, which=
clearer in some places than others (IMO), but which is filled with
beautiful and profound passages:

We must renounce all those themes whose function is to ensure the=
continuity of discourse and its secret presence to itself in the=
of a constantly recurring absence. We must be ready to receive every
moment of discourse in its sudden irruption; in that punctuality=
in which
it appears, and in the temporal dispersion that enables it to be=
known, forgotten, transformed, utterly erased . . . Discourse must=
not be
referred to the distant presence of the origin, but treated as and=
when it
occurs (25).

Baudrillard to me is a real hoot-- perhaps read best as a
poet/comic/performance artist as well as a theorist. I think _America_
(which I guess I'd call theory) is a pretty cool and "accessible"=
another example of "beauty;" this is from the beginning of _Simulacra=
Simulation_, which is the U. Mich. collection of essays:

Whereas representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting=
it as
a false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of
representation itself as simulacrum.
Such would be the successive phases of the image:
it is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality;
it masks the absence of a profound reality;
it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure=
simulacrum (6).

And I could probably go on, probably, just as I'm sure you could=
go on
finding some more "ugly" quotes. Like I said, I'm not sure "stacking=
these passages and seeing which pile is most weighty is very useful.=
But I
thought I'd go ahead and at least provide some examples of what I=
mean by
theory that seems "beautiful" to me.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Southern Oregon State=
1250 Siskiyou Blvd. * Ashland, OR 97520 * Office Phone: 541-552-6630
School e-mail: * Personal e-mail:
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