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Fish on decon

Post #1153 • April 7, 2008, 4:37 PM • 19 Comments

Required reading for those of us called upon to deal with this sort of thing from Stanley Fish:

The world, and you, will go on pretty much in the same old way. ... This is not the conclusion that would be reached either by French theory’s detractors or by those American academics who embraced it. For both what was important about French theory in America was its political implications, and one of Cusset’s main contentions — and here I completely agree with him — is that it doesn’t have any. When a deconstructive analysis interrogates an apparent unity — a poem, a manifesto, a sermon, a procedure, an agenda — and discovers, as it always will, that its surface coherence is achieved by the suppression of questions it must not ask if it is to maintain the fiction of its self-identity, the result is not the discovery of an anomaly, of a deviance from a norm that can be banished or corrected; for no structure built by man (which means no structure) could be otherwise.

The disease contains the cure, perhaps.

Comment

1.

Jack

April 7, 2008, 5:17 PM

"what was important about French theory in America was its political implications"

Oh, this makes lots of sense.

Like asking random members of Congress for their views on art and taking them as gospel. The results were certainly quite predictable. Bunch of worthless, puffed-up windbags.

2.

opie

April 7, 2008, 6:05 PM

The political implications were the scorn suffered by and lowered job opportunity for those who would not buy into the lunacy.

The best way to respond to "French Theory" is to respond as they do to a grave threat: "I give up".

3.

Marc Country

April 7, 2008, 6:14 PM

I prefer to call it, "Freedom Theory"...

4.

Jack

April 7, 2008, 6:44 PM

It's quite amazing that arrant nonsense can be not only tolerated but actually promoted, quite aggressively, and even more or less imposed as "The Truth" or "The Way." It speaks very poorly of humankind, at least certain segments of it, and the phenomenon is at best highly embarrassing.

5.

ahab

April 7, 2008, 9:45 PM

410 comments. Go Fish.

6.

wwc

April 8, 2008, 6:09 AM

Here's a great one from those comments:

------------

#23.April 7th,20085:14 am

Well,I’m a painter. And if I can describe in words what the painting is all about, it’s probably a weak piece of art.

— Posted by Lou

7.

Eric

April 8, 2008, 6:45 AM

Don't expect the ghosts of POMOism to disappear any time soon. They are firmly entrenched in academia and popular culture. Fish points that out early on in his essay. Sokol and Fish have done a great job of dismantling the doctrines of POMOism. Now what?

8.

opie

April 8, 2008, 7:01 AM

In its more rundimentary forms it is as entrenched in academia as are ancient rituals in church. Ecery student, without exception, feels constrained to mutter something about gender or identity or some pathetic sociological minicrutch. Their art is bad enough; they shouldn't be further encourged to diminish it all the more..

9.

Jack

April 8, 2008, 9:01 AM

Scorn and derision, merciless and unrelenting--it's all too richly deserved. Works for me.

10.

Eric

April 8, 2008, 7:01 PM

Those things are good Jack. But I wonder what the next critical tool widget will be, or be like.

11.

ahab

April 8, 2008, 8:42 PM

Even though I bore of it quickly I admit I find this stuff somewhat intriguing.

Fish's article is based upon a soon to be released English translation of a French book, about which Derrida himself says: "In such a difficult genre, full of traps and obstacles, French Theory is a success and a remarkable book in every respect: it is fair, balanced, and informed. I am sure this book will become the reference on both sides of the Atlantic."

His endorsement (assuming it too's been translated correctly) causes me simultaneously to want and want not to read Cusset's book.

12.

opie

April 9, 2008, 4:03 AM

Of course he likes it. One way or the other, it adds to the perceived importance of Derrida. These guys fear obscurity much more than criticism.

13.

Jack

April 9, 2008, 5:38 AM

Isn't Derrida dead?

14.

Eric

April 9, 2008, 5:51 AM

Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74
Published: October 10, 2004

Jacques Derrida, who was imprisoned by his own language, believed that as long as he didn't use the word 'death', the concept wouldn't be there. Although he tried to assign a new meaning to the word 'death', he was unable to bring new meanings to existing words, especially the word 'death', and his hope to shape society in a more pleasing way utterly failed when he died on October 8, 2004.

15.

Franklin

April 9, 2008, 6:17 AM

The Onion ran a headline that read:

Jacques Derrida "dies"

16.

Eric

April 9, 2008, 7:03 AM

And I thought I was being so original. I love The Onion. Oops I fogot. There is no such thing as originality.

17.

ahab

April 9, 2008, 7:17 AM

The book was published in French prior to his death. "Says" s/b "said".

18.

Jack

April 9, 2008, 7:41 AM

Regardless of "French Theory," what have the French done for us lately, visual art-wise? I can't think of any major French art star, not even a contrived or manufactured one, for quite some time. But maybe I'm just blocking.

It occurs to me that this "French theory" racket may have something in common with Charles de Gaulle's delusions of continued French grandeur/glory/whatever. Maybe it's something in those baguettes.

19.

Jack

April 9, 2008, 7:52 AM

"I am sure this book will become the reference on both sides of the Atlantic"

Translation (I mean, deconstruction):

French theory, of which I am obviously the supreme exponent, has found a suitably acquiescent and/or gullible and/or opportunistic exponent-apologist. This book meets an urgent need to uphold, "validate" and promote our theories to an even wider herd of sheep and/or wolves in sheep's clothing. One can never win over enough idiots. "More" really is more.

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