December 15th, 2003

breaking bad

Made to fail

Good article in the guardian about academic writing. By which I mean bollocky bollocks.

Sometimes the system satirises itself. This is from the intro to an anthology of 'Theory'.

"Theory set out to produce texts that could not be processed successfully by the commonsensical assumptions that ordinary language puts into play.

OK, that might be a goal with some merit, one admits grudgingly. But the text must be capable of being processed in some way, so that the reader achieves something of worth from the effort of deconstructing it. However...

There are texts of theory that resist meaning so powerfully - say those of Lacan or Kristeva - that the very process of failing to comprehend the text is part of what it has to offer"

Hardy har har.

Producing a text is an act with a purpose. You can bend the supposed rules of language to better achieve that purpose. You can even fail to achieve your purpose. But if your purpose is for your reader to 'fail to comprehend' what you write, you have to ask yourself what social and emotional satisfaction you are gaining from the stimulation of failure.

Edits: Discussion of this article on crooked timber here

Another article on bad academic writing here. An excellent disentanglement of difficulty as in poetry and difficulty as in poor writing.