body

If I’m entirely honest,
and you say I must be
I want to stay with you all afternoon evening, night and tomorrow
pressed into you so tightly that we don’t know whose belly made what sound, whose heart it is that is thumping like that
until I don’t know if the sweat on my chest is yours or mine or ours.

- Yrsa Daley-Ward

“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.

— Sylvia Plath

"Donald Bogle’s seminal history of African-Americans in film, “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks,” starts like this: “In the beginning, there was an Uncle Tom. A former mechanic photographed him in a motion picture that ran no longer than 12 minutes. And a new dimension was added to American movies… . Uncle Tom himself. He was the American movies’ first black character.” Thus the fraught, complex and sometimes heartbreaking relationship between blacks, whites and moviemaking began."
Review of ‘O, Africa!’ by Andrew Lewis Conn

"Donald Bogle’s seminal history of African-Americans in film, “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks,” starts like this: “In the beginning, there was an Uncle Tom. A former mechanic photographed him in a motion picture that ran no longer than 12 minutes. And a new dimension was added to American movies… . Uncle Tom himself. He was the American movies’ first black character.” Thus the fraught, complex and sometimes heartbreaking relationship between blacks, whites and moviemaking began."

Review of ‘O, Africa!’ by Andrew Lewis Conn

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 
"Goya imagines himself asleep amidst his drawing tools, his reason dulled by slumber and bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The work includes owls that may be symbols of folly and bats symbolising ignorance. The artist’s nightmare reflected his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed in the Los Caprichos  (a series of sketches) as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.
The full epigraph reads; “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 

"Goya imagines himself asleep amidst his drawing tools, his reason dulled by slumber and bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The work includes owls that may be symbols of folly and bats symbolising ignorance. The artist’s nightmare reflected his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed in the Los Caprichos  (a series of sketches) as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.

The full epigraph reads; “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

Musings on: Academic Jargon

While working on my thesis, I recalled someone posting a link to useful academic jargon and searched for same. The first link I came across was The Virtual Academic, its a random sentence generator, quite amusing. Then I noted that the use of academic jargon is quite a hot topic, some dude Nichlas Krisoff wrote an article in The New York TimesProfessors, We Need You! where he rants about academics who write impenetrable prose intelligible only to each other instead of talking in language ‘the masses’ can understand and sharing their knowledge with them. I am starting to think about PhD POAs, so I was quite interested to read this:

"A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away…

A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.”

I chuckled because I had in fact been looking for some gobbledygook to assist in phrasing a particularly difficult notion I had been trying to word, but then I thought about it seriously and felt kind of deflated by this.

Its difficult enough to construct academic text, but its also difficult talking about it to people dismissive of academic efforts. I always want to rage against people (often friends) who belittle hard work by like placing my effort on the ridiculous ivory tower associated with academia i.e. friends who are interested in my thesis topic but dont want to read it because they believe its too highfalutin. UGH how rude?

Then I read up some more on this sort of rank anti-intellectualism.

I really liked Joshua Rothman’s response to Kristof in his essay Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?:

"Academic writing is a fraught and mysterious thing. If you’re an academic in a writerly discipline, such as history, English, philosophy, or political science, the most important part of your work—practically and spiritually—is writing. Many academics think of themselves, correctly, as writers. And yet a successful piece of academic prose is rarely judged so by “ordinary” standards. Ordinary writing—the kind you read for fun—seeks to delight (and, sometimes, to delight and instruct). Academic writing has a more ambiguous mission. It’s supposed to be dry but also clever; faceless but also persuasive; clear but also completist. Its deepest ambiguity has to do with audience. Academic prose is, ideally, impersonal, written by one disinterested mind for other equally disinterested minds. But, because it’s intended for a very small audience of hyper-knowledgable, mutually acquainted specialists, it’s actually among the most personal writing there is. If journalists sound friendly, that’s because they’re writing for strangers. With academics, it’s the reverse."

And then Annie Paul describes a cool conversation with Stuart Hall (look him up, whatta G!) about the anti-intellectual climate in Jamaica (make that, the world over) that insists everything should be couched in “accessible” language and that somehow unless masses of people can appreciate what you’re saying you’re being obfuscatory (Switch to the world of sports for a minute and you’ll realise how absurd this demand is. Should Jamaica ask Usain Bolt to run slower because most people there can’t keep up with him?). Here is what Hall had to say on the question about the demand for “accessible language” in academia.

SH: …this is a particular danger in the humanities and the social sciences because their materials are either a literary work or philosophical work or music or in the social sciences its about human life. Nobody would tell you that you don’t need concepts in mathematics or in physics. Nobody would tell you that. And speaking of jargon, mathematical jargon, mathematical symbols—you need to understand  them to follow—in the sciences everybody accepts that you have to learn the language in order to understand what is being said. But in the humanities and social sciences they somehow think it’s just ordinary life, common sense will take you through it and so this leads to a kind of provincialism, everything must be accessible. It’s also a kind of populism.  Do it this way then the masses will come to us. A misplaced populism. Of course one should respect the people and one should conduct the translation of serious intellectual work into terms that ordinary people can understand. Of course, that is what teaching is about, that’s what pedagogy is about.  Gramsci says pedagogy is intrinsic to the duty of the intellectual, to make themselves understood to the widest possible audience but only when they themselves understand something.

AP: It’s also the task of informed journalists, their task is to make these ideas accessible, but its not the task of the intellectual necessarily…

SH: Of course it isn’t , of course not, it’s not the job of intellectuals and then they’re often not very good at making it widely understood so I do recognise that there is a trap of theoreticism to be avoided but I think that work cannot be seriously done without the benefit of theory and concepts.

AMEN!!!

Getting a feel for what other people have to say about what they say and how best to say it, made me feel so much better. I enjoy theories and concepts and big words as much as I enjoy talking about them. I now feel calmly excited about making my academic endeavours accessible where they are expected not to be. And this investigation of academic lambasts simultaneously put me onto some super impressive jargon. Now to juice it up some so that my pals are unaware of complexity in the text because they’ve been seduced by how I’ve coloured the concepts!

#gamefaceon