Saturday, 24 August 2013

Getting Down to Details

Some analysis is so abstract it reads like a foreign language, though its words bear no relationship to ordinary usage, and there is no dictionary to help us decode them.  It is part of a modern trend; the academy detaching itself from the reality it is supposed to investigate by devising its own concepts that only its adepts can understand, creating a self-insulated world free from the layman’s intrusion.i   We see this particularly in departments of literature where many academics no longer have any interest in the books they study.  Thus novels, whose meaning lies in their overall unity, are too often used simply as data mines; the original material broken up, smashed into pieces, the rubble then fed onto conveyor belts, from which trucks take them to the university… where they are turned into citations which prove pre-existent theories that are copied wholesale from secondary sources; themselves abstracted from their original disciplines (such as Freud from psychology, Marx from political economy and de Saussure from linguistics).ii  Decontextualised, these theories are inevitably simplified and distorted, and domesticated - they are no longer part of a battlefield of contested ideas (inside their home countries the fighting would be fierce) but are turned into hallowed ground, on which ecumenical cathedrals are built, their walls decorated with the trinkets picked up on the pilgrims’ travels.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dear Mr Albert…

Poor Verso!  Lucky for them life isn’t as simple as black and white.  Although it is admirable that you wish to take sides, and openly admit it.  And surely few can disagree with your demands for good reasoning and clear prose?  Ha!  Humans: if only we were perfect!  But let us agree that we should all strive towards the ideal…  Even then there are problems with your argument, which though generally sound is too narrow to be wholly convincing.  The result is that your article is polemical - you fail to adequately see, to properly understand, the opponent you so strongly criticise -, and so it will convince only those who already share your views; which may have been the intention.  For the rest of us: having turned off the main highway we find ourselves in a little suburban cul-de-sac; we look around, sigh, and swing the car back to the main road, where we continue on our trip....