November 06, 2003

Delogocentrize This

Norman Geras points out this post on Butterflies and Wheels, which serves up a few fingers of some high grade, top shelf academic gibberish from a recent essay by frequent Dutton Prize honoree Robyn Wiegman.

This bit is about Forrest Gump:

If social construction has been used to de-essentialize the racially minoritized subject - to wrestle subjectivity from its oversaturation, indeed reduction to embodiment - then whiteness studies evinces the anxiety of embodiment on the other side of racial power hierarchies, an anxiety that is in itself the consequence of counterhegemonic race discourses that have put pressure not just on what but on how the white body means.

To paraphrase (loosely) B&W's Ophelia, there may be something wrong with you if you're not giggling right now. Of course, there are those who maintain that the problem disappears once you realize that bad writing is actually good. Theory is hard, and all those status quos aren't going to question themselves, you know. God bless 'em, and grant me the strength to become one with them, I say. Now if I could only figure out what, not to mention how, the good bad writing means, I'll be all set.

Posted by Dr. Frank at November 6, 2003 07:14 AM | TrackBack

Speaking of Forrest Gump, my favorite piece of overdone, "it must be good because it's complicated," writing comes from the always embarassing staff at Certainly far from the realm of academia, but hilarious in the fact that he's trying to emulate that very style.

"Pitchfork wanted to hate the latest phase of this one-man three-way: Eminem's been pulling a train on his alter egos so long that our minds should have wandered away from his pasty glower and onto less predictable prisms. The fawning of every mainstream presswad only fueled our dissentience. Yet here his scrappy ass smirks from our year-end roundup, as we're caught in the flow of his arch-parody/manifesto. Eminem's pathological self-spotlighting teetered on the line dividing logorrhea from a talking cure. His no-brow lunges forced his listeners to superimpose highbrow notions on his shoulders: Is he a chiaroscurist, obsessed with the play of the light and the dark, in terms of spirit, tone, and complexion? Is he a lost Kafka character, whose two compulsions are to build idols of himself and then tear them down? Is he not one of us, but the king of us? The Eminem Show wasn't quite the powerhouse of his Fork-ignored Marshall Mathers LP, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we said it wasn't further proof that he's got this rap game beat. --William Bowers"

At least this reviewer didn't bring up "racial power hierarchies," but he did bring me to laugh.

Posted by: Brent Elliott at November 6, 2003 10:04 AM

I would say the phrase "racially minoritized subject" alone makes one giggle.

Posted by: JB at November 6, 2003 04:20 PM

As an English-PhD-program-drop-out, reading this excerpt makes me wince and thank the Powers that Be that I left academia. American universities hire and promote based on scholarship (for literary studies, that means writing), not teaching, and since the value of scholarship is determined by other academics, you get a closed loop: English grad school doesn't really teach you how to teach, it teaches you how to impress English professors. So the "thieves cant" of lit crit develops and becomes more and more baroque. In the end, it's not really important if "outsiders" understand any of it.

Posted by: Nick at November 12, 2003 07:28 PM
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