A Little Light Reading

If you are interested in literary criticism and have wondered what all the “theory” fuss was about way back when, try Stanley Fish’s latest in the NYT. If I ruled the world, everyone would read and comprehend the following passage. (Which, I concede, probably makes more sense if you read the whole piece.)

No normative conclusion — this is bad, this must be overthrown — can legitimately be drawn from the fact that something is discovered to be socially constructed; for by the logic of deconstructive thought everything is; which doesn’t mean that a social construction cannot be criticized, only that it cannot be criticized for being one.

Criticizing something because it is socially constructed (and thus making the political turn) is what Judith Butler and Joan Scott are in danger of doing when they explain that deconstruction “is not strictly speaking a position, but rather a critical interrogation of the exclusionary operations by which ‘positions’ are established.” But those “exclusionary operations” could be held culpable only if they were out of the ordinary, if waiting around the next corner of analysis was a position that was genuinely inclusive.

Yes. Exactly. Thank you.

Also, I want to share with you the happy news that “Daily caffeine ‘protects brain.’

Coffee may cut the risk of dementia by blocking the damage cholesterol can inflict on the body, research suggests.

Mmm, think I’ll go make another cup!

Also, if the early arrival of Easter did not give you time to reflect on the possibilities of Peeps dioramas, and if you have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, enjoy the Peep Show.

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6 Comments

Filed under Does This Look Funny?, In the News, Oh Mother

6 responses to “A Little Light Reading

  1. Thanks. I agree. I’ve not read a lot of Butler (makes my head hurt) but one thing that annoyed me about one piece of hers I read was her reluctance to pin her identity down for at least the duration of the article. Too much hedging. I wanted to shout at her that it was okay, we wouldn’t hold her to any identity claim she made if she would just sit still until she made her point. But then I often thought this probably said something about my theoretical naivité.

  2. I read it. A problem I had is that I was not a philosophy major so I didn’t “get” a lot of the history behind deconstructionist or rationalist thinking.

    I think I understand what he is saying. It would be interesting to have a conversation about this. (as opposed to just posting a comment).

    are you thinking about this in regards to the current presidential campaign or something else?

  3. So I looked up Judith Butler and Joan Scott and I see we are talking about gender.

    I do wish I could sit down and talk and drink coffee with some people who cared to discuss these things.

    Are all social constructs created equal? Are any less reasonable than any other? Does it have to be all or nothing? Perhaps a deconstructionist would say so.

    p.s. the comments after Fish’s post are funny!

  4. I think gender is a place where the “social construct” critique is really ham-handed. For example, as the mother of girls I really grow weary of armchair sociologists talking about social constructs of gender as if there were some more authentic, non-social way of being a girl to be found after all the social constructs are cleared away. This is a simplified example, but one that we live with pretty closely.

    I mentioned that I have been working a lot on philosophy lately in my work, so much of it at the point when that position of the rational subject gets formed then poked and prodded. Honestly, the commentary on Hume’s Treatise is one of the hardest things I have ever had to read! It’s so interesting to look at epistemology as well as ethics/social values and how they relate to each other from the “other end” of the Enlightenment.

  5. That article reminds me of why my brief stint in academia was so brief: so many dogs chasing their tails. And I agree heartily with you about the ‘social constructedness of gender’ topic. It always struck me that half these people had either never been around children, or had never paid attention to their own.

    I’d like to see a game show called “What’s Your Epistemology?”

  6. Hear hear re gender-as-social-construct. Though isn’t the point really that there ISN’T any one authentic thing to be got at once the social constructs are cleared away? Because if there were, then you would have something normative (bad bad bad) . . . Of course I haven’t read Butler or Scott, but I thought that this was the gist of the whole deconstructionist project, broadly speaking.

    Well, it’s been a long time since grad school, and now I remember why I’m not still there.

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