Re: racists, fascists,

Christopher Pound (pound@IS.RICE.EDU)
Thu, 7 Apr 1994 19:31:28 -0500

> Some of us go even a step further and take the position that if
> an author does not care enough about the reader to edit his/her stuff to make
> a clear path through the complexity, then I (we) don't care about what he/she
> has to say.

There's a populist sentiment here that I really have to take issue with.
No one on either side of the "clarity" fence has proposed that writing is
ever an easy thing to master, but I have to ask: why is reading all that
different? You seem to think that anything, once written, should be
readable by anyone to whom it is interesting. Personally, I don't agree.

Nietzsche wrote as, and asked to be read as, an etymologist. He didn't
expect (or even want, but he's an extreme case) to be understood by anyone
who couldn't mull over the philological dimensions of his texts, and believe
me that if such a skill is available to you, he, Derrida, Heidegger, and so
on are a big thrill to read. And, trust me once more, if those authors are
part of your daily reading, Foucault and Bourdieu aren't just clear, they're
transparent (and just plain dull, IMHO :).

If you don't like reading that way, you may not get the full effect, but
no problem, the arguments are still somewhat available to you in books like
Vincent Leitch's _Deconstructive Criticism_ or Michael Holquist's _Dialogism_
or those dozens of other Routledge books on influential theorists. If you
really think Derrida is nothing but a useless obscurantist around whom an
academic industry has been built, don't you think that synopses of his work
would have, by now, demonstrated that he didn't really have anything to say?
I mean, isn't that what seems to have happened to Talcott Parsons?

In any case, I can think of dozens of different reading strategies, reading
practices, and theories of reading, many of which suggest that there is
more to reading than just understanding an author's words or arguments (a
good 'reader' that deals primarily with these problems is _Critical Theory
since 1965_ and/or _Critical Theory since Plato_; but Kittler's _Discourse
Networks 1800/1900_ is a whole lot more fun to read :-). So, maybe you
shouldn't imagine you're done learning how to read when you graduate from
high school, or college, or graduate school, or whenever. After all, when
will you be done learning how to write?

Christopher Pound ( | They think they are Parisians, but
Department of Anthropology, Rice U. | they are nothing. -- Pierre Bourdieu