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From The World Of Academia

I am the happy camper on account of our colloquium yesterday. Usually, colloquium is massively dull. And this one sure didn't look interesting. It was on opera, and I've never been real keen on opera. The speaker was Martha Feldman from the University of Chicago, and she turned out to be just absolutely fascinating. Her talk was called "Opera, Festivity and Time," and it was about the function of opera in expressing and regulating the social order during festival/carnival/solstice times in 18th-century Italy. I have rarely been as fascinated by a colloquium as I was by this one.

In other news, I have decided that I am not now and never will be a postmodernist. I've been struggling valiantly through Fred Moten's In The Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. I'm 179 pages into a 250-page book, and I still have no idea what Moten is talking about. It's deceptive; it looks like it's written in English (which is my native language, and I'm pretty good at reading it), but then you start looking at it, and you encounter passages like this:

"He wants to transform the ensemble and its performance into an internally fragmented reenactment of an originary and tragic encounter that would parallel the dramatic content of recordings that animate his trajectory throughout the early sixties as a set of trasitions prefatory to an impossible return. Baraka's black and Heideggerian nationalism comes as response to European technicity's violent forgetting of spirit and origin. The thing is that the music, which would manifest the interinanimation of race, spirit, origin, and freedom along with the exemplary revolutionary ethics of the objectifying encounter with otherness (which is supposed to reverse the direction of fit both between lord and bondsman and within the im/possible consciousness of the bondsman alone), obliterates the ethical, ontological, and epistemological conceptual apparatuses upon which the manifestation of these complexes depends." (Moten 2003: 130 - 131)

It's almost funny. The whole book reads like this. This is why I haven't figured out what it's about yet. It's like I'm trying to read Urdu. I just don't get it. Do we have any lit crit people in the audience who want to take a crack at it?

I think I prefer writing that is clear and tries to communicate its ideas as simply as possible. I will keep this book as an object lesson in how not to write. And if I ever start writing like Fred Moten, or using the phrase "dominant-hegemonic cultural paradigm" with anything less than full irony, you have my permission to kidnap me and force me to listen to La forza del destino no less than seventeen times.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
dawtheminstrel
Apr. 10th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
This made me just howl! I'm sad to say it sounds familiar. Also my brain locked up by the second line. Nononononono. Not going to read that.
frenchpony
Apr. 10th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC)
Well, if your brain locked up, then I don't feel half so dumb, Maybe I'll be able to get through another chunk tonight. Or maybe I'll just watch a movie. Bets?
dot_o_choillmor
Apr. 10th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
LOL. Sometimes I still really miss college, and I've had the odd thought of doing a Phd - and then I read something like that...

Hope you enjoyed the movie ;-)
frenchpony
Apr. 10th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC)
I look at it more like this: I'll struggle through it and get the Ph.D., and then I can write as simply as I like, and I don't have to read stuff like this ever again if I don't want to. Fortunately, while I'm still in school and required to read it, I have the gift of being able to look like I understood it. I'm not a postmodernist, but I play one in class.
saadiira
Apr. 10th, 2005 10:43 pm (UTC)
ROFL. It reminds me of the postings in Elitistasshats. lol.

Indeed, this is most certainly how not to convey a message. I am actually all for the usage of 'big' words in literature, but this is frankly something else entirely.

I read the entire sample, I have a degree in English. I'm still not entirely certain of what the guy was crapping on about. I frankly lost interest after about the first sentence and a half in even trying to figure it out. :D

-Dira-
frenchpony
Apr. 10th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. What is this Elitistasshats of which you speak, and do I need to stalk it carrying a large board with a nail in, late at night?

You couldn't understand it either? I know I'm not stupid. And I know you're not stupid, and Dot's not stupid, and Daw's not stupid. So, if none of us could understand it, I think that what we have here is a failure on the part of the author. That makes me feel a little better.

I slogged through another forty pages today. I think it wandered off into a discussion of castration, and memory versus photography, then brought Marvin Gaye into the mix just for the music. And I encountered another new word: invagination. No, I have no idea what "invagination" means, and Moten does not explain.
meggins
Apr. 11th, 2005 02:20 am (UTC)
I'm with Saadiira. I have a degree in English--even taught it once--and I've read some convoluted stuff, but this was nigh well incomprehensible. On the other hand, enough of that kind of thing and my insomnia might be cured. Something that is invaginated is enclosed or sheathed, or it is something that has been folded so that the outside becomes the inside. Invagination is the process of doing this. I know this only because I just looked it up in my three-volume dictionary.
frenchpony
Apr. 11th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC)
Well, between you, me, and the rest of the gang, we seem to be 0 for 5 on the understanding-Fred-Moten thing. I think we've got a winner for the 2005 Academic Gibberish Awards!

Thanks for the tip on "invagination." (I considered looking it up, but I wasn't sure if it was a real word or not, and I couldn't bring myself to care quite that much.) I hope someone asks about it in class so I can tell them and earn my points for the day.
saadiira
Apr. 11th, 2005 10:13 am (UTC)
"I think we've got a winner for the 2005 Academic Gibberish Awards!"

Here, here!
saadiira
Apr. 11th, 2005 10:13 am (UTC)
I think it actually died. I've not seen a new post since I joined it so as to lurk. Some of the arguments just made me shake my head, and giggle like mad...Though, perhaps it wouldn't be completely out of line to keep the board handy! It wasn't so much incomprehensible, honestly, for the most part, as esoteric and ridiculous, but still...

THIS is just unreal. I feel like I've fallen in a vat of dissasociated multisyllabic words, and can't get out!

-Dira-
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