Tracy Brown (tbrown@ACPUB.DUKE.EDU)
Mon, 4 Apr 1994 14:17:08 -0400

I'd like to respond to Cliff Sloane's and James Carrier's comments on the
message I posted to the list on Saturday. James Carrier asked why I
bothered to introduce the question of linear argument into the discussion
of opaque prose in academic literature. I introduced it because I thought
that this was a discussion list. While the point I wanted to make is
certainly tangential to the main discussion that has been going on in the
list for the last week, it is related. I wasn't aware that discussants had
to stick to the main point, and only the main point, in their posts to the

James Carrier also asked me if I had never read a book that had been
needlessly opaque. To be honest, most of the people I have read that I
would characterize as being opaque (such as Foucault), I don't believe are
doing it intentionally. The only person that I would characterize in
this way is Althusser. Those who like to jump through mental hoops for
no reason ought to read *For Marx*. Cliff Sloane pointed out in his
response to my post that there is a difference between how an argument
gets constructed and a writer intentionally making an argument difficult
to understand. Of course there is (did I imply that there
wasn't?). He also insisted we question why. I think many people on this list
have already answered that question: people do it because either they
can't write, or it's an ego boost to construct an argument that readers
have to struggle through. In fact, academic reputations are built upon how
difficult one can make arguments (apparently moreso in France than in the
U.S. which might account for Althusser's writing).

Which brings me to my last point. I thought that James Carrier's comments
to me were rude (frankly). I think -- after being on this list for
three months -- that a lot of posturing goes on right here. Now, I am not
saying that that was why Carrier was rude to me. But, I have noticed a
certain level of competativeness among the people on this list that I
don't think is necessary. Before we criticize other academics for having large
egos, we ought to look at ourselves.
Tracy Brown