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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...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bland and Spicy revisited

Here is a post in which I compared two styles.

Let us now consider the relevance of this ability to the current state of modern pluralistic democracies surrounded by a powerful global marketplace. First of all, we can report that, even if we were just aiming at economic success, leading corporate executives understand very well the importance of creating a corporate culture in which critical voices are not silenced, a culture of both individuality and accountability

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Now picture one kind of “bad” student. This child is obsessive, inflexible, a bad listener. Prone to daydreaming, preferring her own company, idiosyncratic in her tastes, she is a solitary, possibly discontented child. In one way, she is a classroom problem, with disorders of attention or attachment. She is also an eccentric; an artist; perhaps a “genius”; in any case, an economic burden, a proto-elitist, with the capacity for generative unhappiness. One might go so far as to call her a natural humanities major.

Notice the difference in the use of adjectives. The second and to my mind better passage uses just as many adjectives, but uses them better. They are unexpected, startling, statistically improbable (generative unhappiness). Nussbaum, the kind of defender the humanities could do without, thinks exclusively in "collocations," so we have "current state," "modern pluralistics democracies," "corporate "culture," "powerful global marketplace," "leading corporate executives," "economic success," or "critical voices."

There is nothing wrong with such collocations, but to use seven of them in two sentences betrays an unhumanistic mind. She is not thinking in and with her prose, but letting the language speak her.

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