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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some Common Mistakes

A few problems I've come upon recently in reviewing articles.

(1) Vague humanist language: "issues facing humankind"; "the human condition"; "dilemmas of life." Over-enthusiastic, gushing belletristic rhetoric about how wonderful this particular poet is.

(2) Close reading that is painstaking, fussy, plodding, but not really deep; belaboring the obvious. I like to distinguish between close reading and deep reading.

(3) No critical voice; excessive dependence on what the sources say. Citing sources for obvious points of common knowledge, or choosing banal quotes from other critics. A lack of critical authority.

(4) A theoretical framework that doesn't add anything: the reading would be the same in the absence of the framework. Wikipedia-like summaries of theoretical ideas. Citing Foucault for Foucault's most cliché idea about power.

(5) Bad writing by (someone I presume to be) a non-native speaker of English. The person should have checked their writing with a native speaker who is also a good writer.

(6) Citing dictionary definitions of common words. (Always a bush-league move. Very high-school.)

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