Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exorbitant Stupidity

If you follow this line long enough, you get to deconstruction where a theorist would be looking for internal contractions or paradoxes that would essentially render the text meaningless. At the end of this line, you’re saying writing can’t mean anything because it’s internally inconsistent. So if you’re a writer going to college and learning these things, it puts a shiver of fear in you because it’s saying your attempt is due to fail.
–Jeffrey Eugenides, A ‘Marriage Plot’ Full Of Intellectual Angst : NPR

When I first heard this uninformed denigration of deconstruction and of Derrida, I didn’t know who Jeffrey Eugenides was. I did know, though, that he knew nothing about deconstruction or about Derrida. These words were barely uttered before I turned the radio dial. What a shame that NPR would broadcast and perpetuate such misinformed and essentially ignorant statements. These are factual errors, defamation.

Fuck stupid people. And yes, I mean stupid. Eugenides went to college, he claims, and yet he spouts such nonsense. Here he is at it again:
When I arrived at Brown, French theory was just washing up on American shores. Many of my English professors were distrustful of it. Another cohort in the English department was so smitten with Derrida and company that they finally decamped and created the Program in Semiotic Studies. To be an English major at the time was like being the child of divorcing parents. You loved both. I was attracted to the rigor of semiotic literary theory, especially in comparison with some of the vague pedagogy that constituted the by-then old New Criticism. I was persuaded that it was possible to examine the underlying structures of literature and, in a sense, anatomize the body of literature. At the same time, I wanted to be a writer. I resisted the idea that the author was dead. And I still believed, as I believe today, that it’s possible for a novel to transmit meaning, something that was being called into question by deconstruction.
–Jeffrey Eugenides, The Art of Fiction No. 215, The Paris Review

Eugenides isn't the only one, though. By far. To people who haven't read or understood Derrida, Derrida serves as the perfect straw man to their flawed comprehension of advanced phenomenological philosophy.

Here are a couple more stellar "insights" from people who claim to be scholars.
Caws may be to some extent informed by Jacques Derrida's deconstructionist notion of the unavoidable and fatal slippage that occurs between the signified and the signifier, resulting in multiple interpretations and the negation of all meaning, as well as the conceptions of Antonin Artaud, a French avant-garde poet, dramatist, essayist, and artist (also one of Derrida's influences) who was preoccupied with the limitations and inadequacy of language and rejected mimesis in theatrical work. Caws' conception and usage of slippage, however, celebrates the phenomenon and rather than conceiving of slippage as a negative event that pronounces the futility and impossibility of translation [Derrida], she embraces the slippage that occurs between the signifier and the signified and between one language and another.
–Shelby Vincent, Book Review of Surprised in Translation by Mary Ann Caws, Style, Vol. 41, No. 4, Winter 2007

Again: factual errors, defamation. And more recently,
Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result. I spent six months writing a long attack on academic post-structuralism for the classics journal Arion in 1991, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf" (reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact.
"The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia"

The fact that she classifies poststructuralism (which is often just a seriously flawed nickname for phenomenology and deconstruction) as a system of literary and social analysis demonstrates her ignorance of what it actually was/is: a methodology in philosophy that was heavily borrowed from by literary and sociological scholars. And seriously, stop with this bullshit: "it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known." Give me one citation. Just one. One. 1. Seriously: I am only asking for one citation in Derrida where he makes such a claim. I guess it also doesn't matter to Paglia that Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault all offer critiques of Saussure, who is considered a structuralist linguist. So much for even understanding the "post" part!

This entry would be far too long if I were to even just list the egregious errors in fact and logic, so I will leave with this offering: please, Jeffrey, Shelby, Camille, and their ilk, at the very least, read the following book. Of course, you may need to read 100 other books before you properly understand this one, but it'll be worth it. Don't give up!

The only other option would be to shut the fuck up. (Said with love.) ((Not really. Because seriously: you're embarrassing yourself.))

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