. . . And a Footnote to French Theory

Stanley Fish tries again . . . and I think I take the view of this commentor.

I was interested to read Fish’s follow up, because something has been on my mind since the last time. Fish is going to end up with well over 1000 comments on his 2 essays, and not a small number of them will accuse Fish of being obfuscatory, using too much jargon, being self-indulgently complex. [The use of “jargon” as a perjorative term has really come to perplex me in post-graduate life. Why wouldn’t specialists use a specialized discourse?]

It is true, at times I had to stop and think through what Fish was saying. This was nothing, however, to reading David Hume, where after several readings I still wasn’t totally sure what he was saying. It was not a big help to read that modern philosophers are not sure either. In both cases, however, I felt (and feel) sure that it was worth the effort.

I also sympathize with Hume, Fish, Derrida, and anyone who attempts to use language to write about how language — or language-based cognition — works. The impulse is to get outside of language in order to speak about it, but of course there is no way to get outside of it. It’s not surprising to me, then, that their use of the language would look strange and break some rules. I’m willing to meet them halfway as a reader, because of the difficulty of their project.

Contrast this with something I read in my newspaper lately. A young woman was promoted to a prestigious and highly paid position in a major advertising/PR firm. You know, a company that specializes in communication. Here is an excerpt her description of her new position:

In this new agency role, I will utilize my interactive and strategic leadership experience to infuse new-world thinking into the agency culture — strengthening the overall processes of developing great creative ideas that are driven not only by consumer insight but also by the application of new, nontraditional ways to connect and engage with the audience. I will work with key clients as well as in the agency’s new business endeavors.

OK, give me Hume any day. I’m not meeting this one halfway. The first part of this reads like a parody of proactive, incentivizing cubicle culture. In fact, I was going to argue that French theory is a favorite punching bag of former college students (not without reason — I read academic articles every single day, so I know quite well how bad they can be), while this ridiculously puffed-up business-speak gets a pass, but then I remembered Dilbert. And the Simpsons. (“We’re talking about a totally outrageous paradigm!”)

Still, if Fish is moving into his second thousand comments, how many comments do you think this one got? 😉

Also, in the spirit of utilizing interactive experience, I dare you to write your own homeschooling-parent job description as if you were one of these grand poobahs of circumlocution. 50 points to the most convincing!



Filed under In the News, Oh Mother, Uncategorized

3 responses to “. . . And a Footnote to French Theory

  1. I laughed at the thought of your last exercise. I’m not even going to try. But I did read Orwell’s Politics of the English Language recently at Willa’s suggestion (she has a link, probably on her In A Spacious Place blog). And he makes some good points. Because at least some of what is being done in the name of post-modernism is just plain wrong. I had a head of department once who told me (with a straight face) “We’re beyond all that gender, race and class stuff now.” Well his white, middle-class, male mind might be beyond it…

  2. adsoofmelk

    See, given my job (English teacher), I find that much of my day is spent trying to counteract the “incentivizing” of discourse, as it were, and reintroduce the lovely notion of the simple, unpretentious noun. Besieged with “a lot” of “people” doing “stuff” to “things,” I long for capital letters and concrete diction in my students’ writing — and in my own and others’ as well.

    Okay, you want a homeschool mom’s job description:

    “Utilizing the paradigmatic ideology of individuation in a postcapitalist, postfeminist, postsocietal approach to didacticism, our epistemological odyssey embraces both theoretical mores and practical venues as we attempt — or occasionally attempt the act of attempting qua attempting — to cohere the disparate teleologies of our investigative explorations of previous notions of human interactions thoroughout time, the concrete operations of nonabstract numerical signs, the jouissance and bricolage of modern and ancient attempts to re-present reality, and finally, the interaction of living organisms within their environmental loci.”

  3. I’m so glad I came back to read the comments! But I’m a bit scared that I think I understand the last one :-\

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