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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...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Still More Classic Style

Clarissa, reviewing Laclau, writes this:
More often than not, it felt to me that Laclau was talking to people he considers to be deeply unintelligent and unaware of the most basic tenets of political theory. He does it in the kind of language, though, that would prevent these ignoramuses from following his line of reasoning.

This observation, from a very funny review, struck me because it describes the exact opposite of the stance of the "classic style" toward the reader. The classic writer assumes that the reader is competent and intelligent, more or less the equal of the writer herself. If not actually an equal yet, someone potentially so. Condescension is out. On the other hand, the classic writer never adopts a special language or jargon to speak only to the initiated. So Laclau's prose misses in both directions, both under- and over-estimating the reader. Here is the sample Clarissa uses to illustrate this:
The complexes which we call 'discursive or hegemonic formations', which articulate differential and equivalential logics, would be unintelligible without the affective component. . . We can conclude that any social whole results from an indissociable articulation between signifying and affective dimensions

2 comments:

Clarissa said...

And here I thought that nobody even read my review since there are no comments. :-)

Andrew Shields said...

First, cut out all the talk about talking about things:

"Discursive or hegemonic formations articulate differential and equivalential logics; they would be unintelligible without the affective component. That is, any social whole results from an indissociable articulation between signifying and affective dimensions."

Then reduce the overload of phrases that would be compound words in German and only use jargon where necessary:

"Discourse and hegemony express differences and equalities; they would be unintelligible without affect. That is, any social whole results from the inseparability of meaning and emotion."

But this can't save such prose. The only thing to do is devastate it, as Clarissa did:

"Communities are bound together not just by reason but also by emotions. Well, duh."