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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

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

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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Friday, April 21, 2006

On The Origin of Academic Jargon, Part II

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 04/21/06 at 12:26 AM

Of academics I obtained twenty-six kinds who speak of "deterritorialization" without fear of fructuous or vegetal reprisal.  Seeing this gradation of thought in one large but intimately related group of scholars, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of thought in an isolated department, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.  Mr. Gould observed that subsequent to one scholar uttering the phrase "phallogocentritheatricality," his compatriots brooded for days over the Butlerian intervention into the Cixousian supplement of the Derridean "text."   Although they were supremely frustrated by their inability to crack this nut, their consternation afforded Mr. Gould and I an opportunity to note the disharmony among the various scholarly species. 

The most curious fact is the perfect differentiation in the mind of each critic.  Of sub-group Astructatornis, lately brought from French confines, the eight species can often be seen entering the thorniest of vines and removing from them nuts of the aforementioned sort.  Astructatornis then examine the nut and determine it both the cause of their hunger and of their satisfaction.  If their earnest and searching cogitation fails, the nut will be turned over to their sexually dimorphic, booby-infatuated associates.  The vampiric Zizicornis feed off the blood of boobies.  They will stare at the nut for some time before determining it neither booby nor sublimated surrogate and therefore unimportant.  Unwilling to be induced to undertake the office of Butlerian nut-cracker, Zizicornis defer to the bald-headed tyrant-catcher Mr. Waterhouse christened Powapowacornis (after its unique but ultimately repetitive song).   They sing their signature hymnal then depart in anger at the nut’s inability to understand that its very nuttiness is constituted by its presence on the beach, amidst these illustrious examples of adaptive radiation.  Excluded from Powapowacornis‘ august company are the desanguiated boobies asleep on the beach.

The sleeping boobies dream.  They dream of an island on which none but boobies alight and of another on which the scholars fail to crack nuts in the company of other scholars.  For generations each exists in utter isolation.  When by force of accident the scholars venture into unfamiliar environs the indigenous response is of unequivocal hostility. 


Comments

I’ll be sure to let the ecology department at DePaul know that what they’re doing is wrong. Thanks so much.

BTW, a Russian theologian in 1909 was talking about social darwinism. I don’t know if that’s relevant, but I figure you ought to start talking to other disciplines, like Russian Orthodox Theosophy, for your thesis. Or, by all means, please countinue to make up funny posts about how funny this shit is.

By on 04/21/06 at 09:47 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott, your utter non-contribution, twice now, makes me sad. 

I would have thought it’d be better to say nothing, than this.  (Hey, you know Spivak is watching, right...maybe that’ll help?)

A pity, as this was supposed to be some kind of serious conversation, and close engagement with a text.  Y’all have certainly made it clear you can’t be bothered.  I guess we’ll leave it to History on High, to draw the necessary conclusions.

By Matt on 04/21/06 at 12:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt, my inability to engage in the Spivak event is entirely related to the post above, which, you’ll note, is entirely concerned with my dissertation chapter.  As is everything else I’ve written this week.  My decision not to participate, then, is a measure of respect for Spivak, whose work I would not be able to engage with in the seriousness it deserves while desperately trying to finish off a dissertation chapter.  One simply cannot think seriously all day, then sit down at night to relax with some supremely serious thought. 

As for this, yes, it is silly, but gently so I thought.  It also contains a germ of serious thought; namely, that the difficulty of academic prose is a product of its isolation, just as the evolution of finch beaks is a product of their geographical isolation.  Re-reading it, I realize those unfamiliar with the source text may have read some of those passages in a way I didn’t intend.  I’ve edited the stuff that could be easily misread.  (This, though, is the point I made above, re: being in a very particular, dissertation-type head-space.)

Finally, I thought that since I saved the most forceful of the gentle mockery for myself and my theoretical approach, people’d see my point.  Perhaps they just hate finches?

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 04/21/06 at 12:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Perhaps they just hate finches?

Quite true.  On the other hand, they love boobies.

By on 04/21/06 at 02:46 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Haha, good parody, hope you didn’t put too much effort in it, why didn’t you let a cat walk on your keyboard?

By on 04/21/06 at 03:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The sleeping boobies dream.  They dream of an island on which none but boobies alight and of another on which the scholars fail to crack nuts in the company of other scholars.  For generations each exists in utter isolation.  When by force of accident the scholars venture into unfamiliar environs the indigenous response is of unequivocal hostility.

So you’ve seen Elton John’s Vegas show?

By nnyhav on 04/21/06 at 05:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott, oh well. 

I can be short, you know.

By Matt on 04/21/06 at 06:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Contributions can also be short, you know.

By Matt on 04/21/06 at 06:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I do, Matt, I do.  But even short, they need to be substantive, and I didn’t think I could produce a satisfactorily substantive post about Spivak this week.  (Especially since there’s a good chance I’ll pass her in the hall in the next couple of weeks.  Given that she’d see my name here, and that she knows it from previous encounters, and that we share a hallway this quarter, I think saying nothing preferable to a necessarily cursory examination of her work.  So yes, my non-participation is as related to general intellectual insecurities as it is to the amount of work I’ve had to do on my dissertation this week.  But still, the desire not to wing it is a sign of respect, no?)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 04/21/06 at 11:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It also contains a germ of serious thought; namely, that the difficulty of academic prose is a product of its isolation, just as the evolution of finch beaks is a product of their geographical isolation.

Aha. That’s what I was waiting for. I have to admit I myself wasn’t quite getting what you were up to (even though I was credited with inspiring it!).

The nice thing about this is that it can go both as a critique of jargon and as a kind of explanation of situations where it might be useful. Things may or may not go anywhere but the only thing to do is to let speciation go ahead and happen—and see.

For Matt and Anthony Paul Smith in the first two comments I would say this: guys, chill out. Your posture of seriousness is a bit much considering these are blogs here—not exactly Tel Quel

By Amardeep Singh on 04/21/06 at 11:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Long Sunday is sponsored by Tel Quel you know...(and forget Derrida, Kristeva is really where it’s at!)

Just vaguely disappointed, is all.  (I admit to hoping that Amardeep would bridge the gap a little bit.) No need to tell anyone to chill, I don’t think.  Desires not to wing it being certainly understandable, we agreed to read a text together last month, and one of you has, sort of.  And there have been responses.  So thanks for that.

By Matt on 04/22/06 at 01:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

(I admit to hoping that Amardeep would bridge the gap a little bit.)

That is what my argument on theory/blogging was trying to do. Not many people responded to the idea I proposed, unfortunately. Perhaps it was just a preposterous idea, or perhaps I didn’t explain it clearly enough.

I was stymied by these two essays in particular because I really am not much interested in Marxist theory, and I disagree with her perspective on globalization at a pretty fundamental level. I am more interested in the way she translates Derrida, though perhaps “Ghostwriting” isn’t the best place for that.

By Amardeep Singh on 04/23/06 at 09:13 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I was thrown off by your (Amardeep’s) essay on theory/blogging because the type of blogger that you analogized to is a type that I find disagreeable.  I didn’t understand that you might be telling people to relax, basically.

Perhaps people didn’t like Scott’s bit because it concerns differentiation.  There has been a lot of text recently about the unimportance of disciplinary boundaries.  I wonder if the appeal to the disciplinary effect of the panopticon is a sort of substitute boundary-defining device?

By on 04/23/06 at 09:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Perhaps what this event has proven more than anything is that those who like “this kind of thing” like it, and those who don’t, don’t.  De gustibus...

The Long Sunday side of the Spivakposium would seem to illustrate that it is possible to want to talk about Spivak and to do so; the Valve side, Amardeep excepted, would seem to illustrate that it is similarly possible not to want to talk about Spivak and not to do so (or, in John’s case, not to want to talk about it and to do so nonetheless).  The question we might ask (always cognizant of the danger of false trichotomies) is whether (a) the difference between the two sides is simply a brute given, or whether (b) a text like Spivak’s is inherently structured so as to attract some and annoy others, or indeed whether (c) one should have been writing parodies of Darwin the whole time.

(Dichotomy and lobotomy—etymologically related?)

By Adam Kotsko on 04/23/06 at 06:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I agree with Adam.  In so far as the point of the symposium (and for me, at least, it was far from the whole point) was to identify a text that could be read in common by people from a number of distinct constituencies, what’s interesting is the limits to the resulting commonality.

What I think has been most valuable (to use a loaded term in this context :)) is the discussions that have been articulated with people such as pomegrenade, carlos rojas, whispering dave, and Steven Shaviro, who are as univested as I am in any Valve/Long Sunday division, and who if you like constitute a third ("out")side.  That’s where I see the success of the symposium.

So a commonality has been found; it is just not where we searched for it.  There’s surely some kind of lesson there about contingency or aleatoriness.

By Jon on 04/23/06 at 09:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

In my defense, I had planned on finishing my chapter much earlier and devoting a day to re-reading and thinking about the essay.  I even had the perfect example of authorial oneupsmanship: I was going to quote one of her annotations in my copy of Empire.  But, to quote Richard Butler, life got in the way--first this terrible thing, then no progress on the dissertation from the 8th to the 18th--here to here--then John arrived from Singapore and we’ve been preparing, furiously and desperately, John’s pitch to the Institute for the Future of the Book people.  So I don’t want to make excuses, but...you know, actually, I do want to make excuses, because I don’t want my desire to do the work justice mistaken for some larger statement about the nature of the debate and/or debators.  I could’ve stuck with the quick look-over, quote something someone else had said about it, then slapped it up; but I’d rather have engaged it seriously, which is something I had neither the time nor the energy to do.  I still may respond globally to some of the issues raised after I’ve had a chance to re-read the articles and put some serious thought into a reponse.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 04/23/06 at 09:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott Eric Kaufman, of course, illustrates that it is possible to want to write about Spivak and not do so.

By Adam Kotsko on 04/23/06 at 11:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh, and I bear nobody any grudge for not having the time to write a blog post.  It’s a condition with which I identify and sympathize.

As I think I’ve said now more than once, as far as I’m concerned this blog stuff should basically be a matter of something like fun--perhaps sometimes serious fun, but fun none the less.

By Jon on 04/24/06 at 12:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’ve often likened it to ping pong in the basement.  Of course, I would destroy all of you so thoroughly at ping pong that it probably wouldn’t be fun.

By Adam Kotsko on 04/24/06 at 11:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, you reckon?  You haven’t seen my forehand loop, or my unreturnable backhand topspin serve.

By Jon on 04/24/06 at 01:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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