About Jonathan Goodwin
Jonathan Goodwin is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Posts by Jonathan Goodwin
Friday, April 22, 2005
The Chuck Klosterman Guide to Debating about Literary Theory
Readers of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs may remember Klosterman’s formula for being “relentlessly dynamic” in conversation:
When discussing any given issue, always do three things. First make an intellectual concession (this makes the listener feel comfortable). Next, make a completely incomprehensible--but remarkably specific--"cultural accusation” (this makes you insightful). Finally, end the dialogue by interjecting slang lexicon that does not necessarily exist (this makes you contemporary).
I decree that this formula is now the preferred method of debating the historicity of aestheticism, not to mention the aesthetics of historicism, here on the Valve. Here are some examples:
- We all recognize that the symptom has been etiolated in the fluorescence of postmodernity, but the neo-Delandians have embraced the liberality of “activism,” so we need to formalize this kickstand in the jimmy.
- Ever since Baudrillard’s commentary on Neo-Optics, the soteriologists have concluded that I.A. Richards believed falsely in the “brain,” but the network-centric umwelt wouldn’t fetch three shillings in today’s Slauson swap-meet.
- I can’t believe that people are still, after Evanston’s intervention in the historiography of the turn away from the theoretical turn, argufying that this mapping of post-materiality moves wouldn’t fetch sap from amber.
Try your own in the comments.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
I’m All about Hamann
As the kids say, and you should be too:
Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88) is, by any measure, an obscure figure, little known outside the exclusive circles of a certain very rarefied kind of scholarship, hardly read at all even in his native Germany, and perhaps truly understood by next to no one. And yet it would be difficult to exaggerate not only the immensity of his influence upon all the great European intellectual and cultural movements of his age, but his continued significance for philosophers and theologians. A friend (and antagonist) of Kant’s, an inspiration to Herder and Jacobi, read and admired by the likes of Goethe, Schelling, Jean Paul, and indeed Kierkegaard, he is the only figure to whom Hegel felt it necessary to devote a long monograph. Today, however, his importance is scarcely a rumor even to the very literate, and the best known book about him in English is a ghastly, feeble, and imbecile squib by one of the twentieth century’s most indefatigably fraudulent intellectuals, Isaiah Berlin. The young, gifted scholar John R. Betz, of Loyola College in Baltimore, is due soon to produce what promises to be the definitive appreciation of Hamann in English, which may go some small way towards reviving interest in this miraculous man; but, at present, he remains all but forgotten.
Going around the Room: Journal Culture
In the interests of continuing to get to know each other better, here are some questions about academic journals, particularly citation formats. Your answers will reveal crucial aspects of your personality and socialization, so be careful!
- Do you prefer Chicago or MLA? Why?
- Do you think there’s a recognizable cultural difference between Chicago-style and MLA journals? Describe.
- When you have to convert an article from one format to another, do you a) do it by hand (or have a research assistant do it by hand) b) use commercial software designed for the task or c) write your own complicated macro or short program to do it for you?
- Have you ever chosen a journal to submit to based solely on the fact that it required the same format you originally used to write the article?
- When reading a scholarly book or article, do you prefer footnotes or endnotes? Do you like your endnotes at the end of the chapter or the end of the book?
- What’s your position on discursive notes?
- Do you fill in your bibliography as you write, or do you add it later?
- What’s the longest you’ve ever waited on a decision from a journal?
- How do you feel about journals that use one-way blind reviewing (i.e., the reviewers know who you are, but you don’t know who they are)?
- Have you ever checked the MLA’s statistics on various journals’ self-reported acceptance rates? How did you feel about what you learned?
- How quickly do you turn around peer-reviews? If not very quickly, do you then still complain about the time it takes for your own articles to be reviewed? What does this all mean?
My own answers will follow shortly.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
The Critic as Stalker, or, The Spitting Devil’s Cabbage
Continue reading "The Critic as Stalker, or, The Spitting Devil’s Cabbage"
So we went down to the “boudoir” and Kirill went for the passes. We showed them to the sergeant, who handed us special outfits. Now they are handy things. Just dye them any other color than their original red, and any stalker would gladly pay 500 for one without blinking an eye. I swore a long time ago that one of these days I would figure out a way to swipe one. At first glance it didn’t seem like anything special, just an outfit like a diving suit with a bubble-top helmet with a visor. Not really like a diver’s--more like a jet pilot’s or an astronaut’s. It was light, comfortable, without binding anywhere, and you didn’t sweat in it. In a little suit like that you could go through fire, and gas couldn’t penetrate it. They say even a bullet couldn’t get through. Of course, fire and mustard gases and bullets are all earthly human things. Nothing like that exists in the Zone and there is no need to fear things like that in the Zone. And anyway, to tell the truth, people drop like flies in the special suits too. It’s another matter that maybe many many more woul die without the suits. The suits are 100 percent protection against the burning fluff, for example, and against the spitting devil’s cabbage...All right. (16)
Monday, April 11, 2005
I feel a special affinity for Matthew Kaiser’s “A History of ‘Ludicrous’" [NB: Project Muse link]. He makes the necessary connection between Hesse’s Magister Ludi and Ludacris (635-36), just as many of my students missed a recent discussion of the former because of apparent overexcitement caused by the latter. (And good for them, I wouldn’t normally say. Gaudemus igitur, u.s.w.) In tracing the unfortunate lexicographical history of the word, Kaiser suggests that “ludic” is not an exact synonym of the 17th C “ludicrous”: “A jargony neologism invented in the 1930s and 1940s by sociologists, psychologists, and animal behaviorists, among others, ‘ludic,’ in my view, smacks of the laboratory and the clinician’s office. ‘Ludic’ refuses to partake of the activity it describes, assessing it, instead, from afar, from the outside, from an expert vantage. From behind one-way mirrors and ethnographic lenses, scientists use the word to describe the frolic patterns of kittens and the dance steps of aboriginal toddlers. I use the word selectively--and with reservations” (656 n12). As this happy note shows, we need more ludicrosity (even ludicrism) in our criticism, though I won’t combine the words because I distrust that sort of thing and so should you.
If you haven’t read “Fact and Fiction in Hippopotamology” recently, you may not remember the case of J.J. Scheuchzer, “who in 1726 mistook the skull and vertebral column of a large salamander from the Miocene of Oeningen for the ’betrübten Beingerüst eines alten Sünders‘ (sad bony remains of an old human sinner) and figured the specimen as ‘Homo diluvii testis’ (the man who witnessed the Deluge)” (109). Assertion, emphatic and immune to reason, might not be the best foundation for a new critical practice; but we also can’t tell our salamanders from sinners. We tarry, and they burn. The paleocritical imagination classifies and connects. It explicates. Sometimes it judges. It can even be ludic--a synthetic bibliography of imaginary papers such as “Bored to Life: Eutychos and Two Versions of the Word” could still surprise you, but sneeringly. (Did Paul Auster rub his fingers together to describe Ficciones, the pity of ash?)
As a concluding prolegomenon to a general theory of ludicrosity, I ask the reader to consider Joshua Fost’s “Toward the Glass Bead Game - a Rhetorical Invention." He presents two islands, semantically webbed. Would sentences thus composed be necessarily ludicrous? If the word did “magically contain the ideas which speakers have used it to express” (Kaiser 656), would its ludicrosity manifest? I could see how this might be labelled as the worst sort of naive technodeterminism, complicit with crimes ghastly and as of yet unimaginable. It’s a real concern. I argued in my class that the purpose of the Glass Bead Game might very well be thought-control. Hell, it might be extant, the work of stupendous tulpas. How would we know? But the class, both present and absent, said nothing and thought of Ludacris.
Kaiser, Matthew. “A History of ‘Ludicrous.’” ELH. 71.3 (2004): 631-660.
Hooijer, Dirk Albert. “Fact and Fiction in Hippopotamology (Sampling the History of Scientific Error).” Osiris. 10 (1952): 109-116.