"Oh my lord, what a fly-specked pile of horse manure!"

What does this mean?

How do we articulate what we have learned in recent decades from a "cultural constructionism" of subjectivity and literary canons with aesthetic ecstasy (both the "old" and the "new" aestheticism)? Deleuze's and Derrida's notions of a "dissolved cogito" and "non-egological" consciousness in the context of aesthetic ecstasy. More generally, in what might life "after the subject" consist? A reevaluation of both the continuities and apparent standoff between phenomenology — Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Michel Henry — and poststructuralism. I.e., possible revisionary versions of the dominant account of French thought from existentialism to the present. For example, were the French poststructuralists really ever the "constructionists" (still less the "cultural" constructionists) they have been claimed to be? Distinguishing between constructionism's lasting contributions and its simultaneous unwitting complicity with the domination of all life-forms by global capitalism.

Camille Paglia is my heroine.

The professor who wrote this botched abortion of a paragraph, by the way, is Philip Wood, of Rice University.  I'll bet his film classes are a hoot.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. says

    It's my dumb-guy understanding that folks of Wood's ilk see incomprehensible word salads of jargon to be a sort of revolutionary act against the oppressive phallocentric language. Comprehensible prose is irretrievably laden with sociopolitical, cultural, and gender norms, you see. They can only be transcended through this moon-man babble.

    Of course, secret languages have always been a way to divide those who belong (among doctors and lawyers, for example) from those who do not — and to promote the notion that the speaker must be doing something that requires extraordinary expertise because it requires its own language. This particular slice of academia is merely more noticeably childish than most self-selected groups in that effort.

    Paglia I have mixed feelings about. But dig this passage:

    Polanski's low-budget, bleakly black and white "Knife in the Water" (1962) was the first foreign film I saw in my very first week of college in 1964. It made a stunning impact on me and completed my liberation from the perky tyrannies of the ubiquitous Doris Day, who ruled mainstream U.S. culture like a basilisk.

  2. Dan says

    That paragraph is a helpful tool for French majors looking to weed out potential nightmare classes. Maybe this guy's goal, which he seeks to achieve through his psychobabble, is to instill so much fear in students that nobody signs up for his class, thereby leaving him free to play PS3 and drink Yoohoo in his office all day.

  3. jpe says

    It's actually not that tricky. Phenomenologists (Sartre, Merleu-Ponty, etal) view experience as I-centered: there's an ego that experiences things, and we can only understand or correctly interpret texts (be they films or books) by reference to that. By contrast, post-structuralists are kinda obsessed with the "death of the author;" we make a mistake when we conflate the author and her intentions with her work.

    The class proceeds to tackle that split in fancy-pants philosophy.

    Not terribly complicated; you just have to read slowly and make recourse to Wikipedia if you don't know some of the names and/or concepts.

  4. Shkspr says

    How complicated could the class be if you don't even have to master the concept of subject-verb sentence construction to attend it?

  5. Sparkylong says

    Thank you, jpe. Your text was slightly less labyrinthine than was Woody's. I got the 'fancy-pants' part, though.

  6. says

    I spoke this language in film school when pandering to my professors and writing 8-page essays on why the Empire State Building is a phallic manifestation of man's desire to dominate women.

  7. Patrick says

    jpe, the first sentence was for effect. I realize sarcasm doesn't travel well through a typed medium, so on the offhand chance you were patronizing me, I'll suggest you try deconstructing an ERISA plan or a Fortune 500 company's CGL policy.

  8. Patrick says

    The text quoted, by the way, has a Gunning-Fog index score of 16.74. Linguistics, unlike French thought, is a science.

    Therefore, science proves that Professor Philip Wood of Rice University is a flatulent gas-bag.

  9. says

    I don't see what all the fuss is about. All Wood's really talking about is the nature/nurture duality of transgressional dynamics in a post-Derrida contexuality. Really, if you don't subsume the particularity of the ego as a conflationary redirection of what Husserl might have called the abridged portamanteau of id (representing, of course, basic drives: hunger, thirst, sex, tenure) and iota (a signifier for de minimus as well as 9) into a reductionality of desire: idiot.

    It's all pretty mainstream; you'd come to that conclusion taking a hike, or walking to the corner store, wouldn't you?

  10. says

    John in Houston's real complaint, I think, is that Wood's paragraph is way too jargony for a faculty web page. He's right there. All of the other faculty in the department just make a list of subjects they are interested in, while Wood seems to cut and paste from the course description of a graduate seminar he taught (the source code even includes a link to some MS Word XML on Wood's C: drive). Then Paglia turns it into an opportunity to complain about poststructuralism, which might be fine normally, but isn't quite right here. I know that beating up on 20th century Continental philosophy is Paglia's favorite pasttime, but it doesn't seem so wrong for a French department to spend a lot of time on French thought.

  11. Patrick says

    As my French only goes to high school level Cpl Lint, I'll observe that many English-speaking devotees of French thought are writing willfully obscure horseshit. The pointless verbosity and obscurity are unnecessary, as jpe illustrates above.

    If they wrote like jpe, I wouldn't have a problem with them. The jargon doesn't consist of necessary terms of art, nor does it describe concepts which cannot be meaningfully communicated without resort to standard English, as is the case with higher maths and physics. As Ken mentions above, any lawyer, engineer, accountant, or other professional could tell you that the man's "interests" page consists of purposefully obscure horseshit that could be as easily expressed in English understood by college sophomores, but isn't because that would remove the mystery.

    I've read and understood more obscure documents in the context of insurance litigation. Anyone who writes a document about easily understood concepts with a Fog index above 15 is either Immanuel Kant, or a bullshit artist.

  12. Old Geezer says

    Let me distill it down. Professor Woods choked while swallowing a Thesaurus and vomited up an article. It appears to be a chronic disease in Academia.

  13. Sparkylong says

    Conversations with genuine intellectuals are rare & I find them not only pleasant for their scarceness, but also due to the invariably down-to-earth manner in which they communicate complex concepts. For whatever reason, consistently I have found that those persons of whom I have been privately shocked to learn are graduate-degreed, suddenly morph their speech pattern into incomprehensible jargon the moment they learn that I am a physician. Soon, they bleed dry their arsenal of polysyllables & are forced back into their previous banter, which was more akin 6th grade than graduate school.

    As with these numb nuts, I think that I would find Wood to be tedious & far from enlightened.

  14. Base of the Pillar says

    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
    -A guy who knew complex things