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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Montrum in Fronte, Monstrum in Animo

Posted by John Holbo on 03/26/06 at 10:26 AM

Adam Kotsko has composed a most amusing, mock-Zizekian assault on my cherished category of ‘Higher Eclecticism’. The premises are all wrong but the conclusion happens to be right. In the spirit of generosity, let me accentuate the positive: “John Holbo thus becomes, paradoxically, the most faithful of all adherents of the Higher Eclecticism, precisely through his (apparent) betrayal of literary study into the hands of quantitative methods.” Well, OK, so it all goes terribly wrong after the ‘precisely’. Nothing Zizekian has ever been precise, nor is that a conceivable state of affairs. But the suspicion that my assaults on the Higher Eclecticism are due to anxiety of influence and/or narcissism of small differences is, I think, substantially correct. In my defense I make this point in the conclusion of the latest version of my mock-Platonic dialogue (available on request). But that isn’t much defense. What can I say? I’m a decadent romantic at heart.

So this shot hits my battleship. But the rest is clean misses. But I think he did that for verisimilitude. Such a kidder he is. (Lest any of you others hold my confession against Scott K., who is defending my honor, I refer you again to the fact that Adam’s premise set is a deplorable mess.)


Comments

I see a lot of assertions in this post, but not an arguement.

Perhaps you could provide some proof?

I actually think that Adam’s premise set is a deplorable mess because the conept of Higher Ecleticism is a deplorable mess (in fact, that was his very point). So can’t one say that nothing Holbonian has been precise?

I was really suprised, no, shocked! - that Scott Eric Kaufman was the one who decided to defend your honour.

By on 03/26/06 at 12:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Anthony, I’ve been meaning to mention this to you for some time. ‘Argument’ - not ‘arguement’. That said, yes of course one can say that ‘nothing Holbonian has been precise.’ That’s such a delicious sentence that I’m going to try to find some use for it myself, if only to make Belle snorkle her coffee. It has an almost Tolstoyan ‘vanity, all is vanity’ pathos, if I can manage timing and delivery just right.

Holbonic
Holbovian
Holbonian
Holbodacious
Holboyan
Holboesque

Not much to work with.

I once got a letter addressed to John Blowhole. I really should have saved it.

Why were you shocked when Scott defended me, if I may ask?

By John Holbo on 03/26/06 at 12:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Why were you shocked when Scott defended me, if I may ask?”

I was being sarcastic.

“Anthony, I’ve been meaning to mention this to you for some time. ‘Argument’ - not ‘arguement’.”

Ah, yes, my poor pre-collegiate education and lack of motivation to teach myself shows again. Though I would say most of these theory discussions resemble something more like ‘arguement’ than argument. But, then, I’m decadent.

At least your last name isn’t Smith.

By on 03/26/06 at 12:42 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Your majesty my name is Smith/The lordliest name to conjure with.” - W. Empson

Don’t be so hard on yourself, sir.

As to the sarcasm, I should have suspected you might sink to such depths. I never touch the stuff.

The technical term for what we are up to now is likewise Empsonian. Not ‘arguement’ but ‘argufying’ - ‘the sort of arguing one does in everyday life. A not very dignified way of getting one’s way.’ I believe it is actually a regionalism in the American South, although that wasn’t Empson’s region. So I really can’t say.

By John Holbo on 03/26/06 at 12:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

poor pre-collegiate education and lack of motivation to teach myself

There is something richly cozy about the aw-shucks, High Church, levels-of-abstraction discussion here at the Valve, like Robert Walpole bowing and scraping, saying no matter what he does, “ever your most humble servant.” An acquired taste, like head cheese.

By on 03/26/06 at 01:28 PM | Permanent link to this comment

My eclecticism is way higher than Holbo’s. I call it The Highest Eclecticism, or sometimes “Eclecticism-Plus!”.

By John Emerson on 03/26/06 at 02:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I propose: Holbo-y

There’s a British TV hospital-drama-thingy, a poor man-and-woman’s ER, called ‘Holby City’. I daresay google would turn it up.

I envisage ‘Holbo City’ as a vast sprawling cyberpunk metropolis, in which the la-bas lower depths are monotonously populated with an eclectic set of lumpenproles, but, in a delicious irony, the higher levels are populated only by a cloned elite and are not eclectic in the least.

My second choice would be ‘Dr Wholbo’, the madcap adventures through time and space of an eccentric genius and his gorgeous pouting assistant.  But I’m probably getting tiresome here.  Not sarcastic, though.  Never sarcastic.

By Adam Roberts on 03/27/06 at 06:22 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John E., Perhaps “Eclecticism Prime”?

In all fairness, the two starting points of my dialectic have not been used to characterize the Higher Eclecticism within the same post, but they have both been used to characterize it.

By Adam Kotsko on 03/27/06 at 10:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Eclecticissimo!

By John Emerson on 03/27/06 at 10:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’d like to add to this, as I want to champion Middle Eclecticism, but I have a plane to catch.

[/jk]

By Kenneth Rufo on 03/27/06 at 06:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam R., I AM the False Maria of literary studies, trying to replace the good eclecticism of Theory with my own analytic simulacrum. (Well, I suppose technically that makes me Rotwang, or maybe Feder Federsonson, or whatever the dad’s name is.) I am imagining the opening scene in which the theory working trudge towards the elevators, exhibiting a rote, rigid sort of self-expressive performative energy.

Adam, since you asked, I’ll just say what I think is wrong with your theses.

1. “The Higher Eclecticism relies too heavily on arguments from various authorities that are contradictory among themselves, and thus is incoherent and non-serious.”

The point would be, rather, that it doesn’t rely on arguments at all. That is, there are too few actual arguments offered, but strong hints are dropped that an argument is to be found somewhere. That’s not really the same thing. Armstrong is an example, if you need one. Sometimes I call this ‘emanant critique’ - a rhetorical style generating the sense that there are powerful arguments offstage, generating powerful energy on behalf of what the author is claiming.

2. “Higher Eclecticists are romantics who resent the patient work of scholarship; thus they do not draw on each other’s results; everyone is always starting from scratch, such that they end up getting nowhere.”

It just occured to me that we need to start riffing on Marvel’s High Evolutionary. I am the High Eclectionary! But never mind that. It’s rather important that my thesis isn’t one about ressentiment. That’s a very specific and rather dire charge. I don’t think it is in fact correct in this case, so I don’t think I would ever make it. Also, the idea isn’t to set criticism on a rational, progressive scientific basis. The idea is to come to grips with the fact that romantic energy is being poured into rationalist forms, with resulting deformations to both. (See Ray’s post.)

That’s enough for a comment box. You post really was very funny, and you are exactly right in seeing me as probably overeager to play the ‘outsider wants to beat them at their own game’ game. This is a way in which I get to play the game while disavowing it.

By John Holbo on 03/27/06 at 08:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That second Adam is K., obviously.

By John Holbo on 03/27/06 at 08:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I must say John, since reading Armstrong I have a much clearer idea of what you mean by higher eclecticism, not that you haven’t made it clear, but I grasped it better in this instance..

By on 03/27/06 at 11:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Thank you for noticing, Laura.

By John Holbo on 03/27/06 at 11:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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