Friday, July 22, 2011

Descent Into Mindlessness


When last seen on the topic, I was engaged in a short debate at a post at the literary hipster site HTML Giant when my hapless opponents quickly scampered for cover. Though the post received 233 comments-- most in a day or two before I jumped in-- said post was quickly taken down from the site's list of "Popular Posts." HTML Giant is as committed to free and open debate as is the rest of the literary establishment-- which means, not very committed to it at all.

The subject of the debate was the embrace by today's so-called literary intellectuals of nonsense.

Later, at HTML Giant came another post which proved my points. Here:

Andrew James Weatherhead gives his self-referential take on a post at another hipster site, Montevidayo. The post he celebrates, "Influence=Deformation Zone," by aptly named Joyelle McSweeney, is loaded with Academy Speak. "Gender," "patrilineage," "heterosexist," "reproductive futurism," "linear notions of temporality," and so on. Joyelle McSweeney is clearly a person unable to think other than in the code words she ingested in the university.

Would anyone who'd not been through university indoctrination think and speak in this manner?

What passes for ideas from her, is a rejection of reality. Joyelle scorns "reproductive futurism," apparently not understanding that every living organism on this planet reproduces itself-- all life is reproduction; nature is reproduction-- without reproduction there is no future. As "sexist," oppressive, etc., as reproduction is, there's no way to do away with it and have any existence.

For those who live in a world of nonsense it doesn't matter.

The next step is to reject the law of causation: "that what comes before causes what comes after." Causation is not only an inescapable part of our world, and likely of the entire universe, but it's also the essential foundation of the tale; the story. The fundamental basis and justification for what's become known as literature.

What happens next? McSweeney, Weatherhead, and their ilk don't want to know.

It's part of a philosophy of intentional ignorance. Which explains a lot. Our programmed intellectuals have been trained not to notice much of anything, even when it concerns themselves. So, college students compile enormous personal debts, the cost of education continually rises, all the while campuses expand around them, gleaming new buildings on all sides, purchases of more real estate by the institutions, pushing out, in many cases, such as at U of Penn and Columbia, long-time ethnic neighborhoods. Our intellectuals who are paying so much for the privilege of becoming intellectuals can make no connection. No links acceptable. After all, that would be to accept causation, patrilineage, etc., and that won't do.

This is called, in layman's terms, being a sucker.

Much the same can be said about the current debt crisis, about which their generation will become, necessarily, the Bag Holders. (Boomers are only beginning to retire. Americans are living longer than ever. The demographics are inescapable. But-- do our young intellectuals really want to live in the real world? No signs of it.)

Andrew James Weatherhead applauds Joyelle McSweeney's rejection of "traditional ideas lineage." How far do they wish to take that? Will they reject sentences? The alphabet? Language?

"Influence should be open to be whatever you want it to be--"

Yet when you examine their stated influences, they're always influences approved by the literary establishment at that particular point of time, from Agamben to Sebald to Robbe-Grillet to Roberto Bolano. (Bolano was ignored by U.S. intellectuals until he died and one of the major book conglomerates began publishing and hyping his work. Our herd of pseudo-intellectuals quickly got in line.)

An American writers group, the Underground Literary Alliance-- whose literary influences came from an entirely different source-- found throughout its existence that U.S. literature's pseudo-intellectuals weren't at all as open as they pretend. The ULA instead was the target of their attacks, including from leading lit-hipster figures and leading lit-hipster pseudo-intellectual publications like The Believer. The ULA's activist campaign began in 2001 with a full-page article in the Village Voice titled "Start Making Sense." Pseudo-Intellectuals may be open to many things. Making sense is scarcely one of them.

What literary hipsters, especially of the pseudo-intellectual variety, are about is pose. The pose is all.

Joyelle McSweeny calls for thinking outside structures and strictures. Yet, McSweeney made sure to acquire her proper hierarchical degrees from the proper linear educational system, from giant institutions which, um, are structures which set down a great many strictures, including about literature. So did Andrew James Weatherhead, no doubt. As did likely most if not all of the entire lit-hipster crowd.

Are they intellectual frauds?

They appear to be pets of the current literary system, following, in linear fashion, all the rules, step-by-step. They exist within a cage yet assure themselves that they're free. The actual structure and production of literature, from overpriced writing programs to government/non-profit funding to the giant book conglomerates isn't a concern. This multi-layered system isn't addressed. It's hardly looked at. When you have the sense of an ant, such a notion is incomprehensible.

Joyelle's much-applauded essay, which starts from a point of nonsense, can go in only one direction, linear or not. It devolves into incomprehensible jargon:

"I use a term for this mutagenic zone; stealing a phrase from the Swedish poet Aase Berg, I call it the deformation zone. Translation is the ultimate manifestation of Art’s deformation zone, for entering yourself in Art’s mutagenic properties, for being entered and altered and destroyed, if necessary, by Art’s rogatives. Translation is anachronistic, it happens in real time and across time; it happensbackwards; it changes he who takes and he who gives; no boundaries can stand up to this innundation; everything is rendered a membrane by translation. Translation is bio-identical to Art’s influence, spreads and eats and leaks more tets, more Art. It makes too many versions, breeds new hybrid languages, and obscures priority. . . ."

And so on. It reads like the scrawl of a severely brain-damaged person.

Situation hopeless.

(NOTE: Joyelle McSweeney has a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard, a graduate degree from Oxford University, and an MFA from Iowa. She teaches English at Notre Dame University. Andrew Weatherhead is an MFA student at the New School.)

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