Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jargonized Murk

Some nuggets regarding the subject of postmodernism and writing, surely a blast from the distant nineties when anyone could sound like a language philosopher around the time clock . It's my vanity to think that this is writing of some heft other than the volume of words; honestly, what I like was learning the art of conversation drift, that is, starting at one point with one idea, maybe two, and then letting the words drive through whatever neighborhood they felt like. It's my vanity here, but then again, it's my blog. Sometimes I just like to "hear myself write", as Duncan Shepard has remarked of Quintin Tarentino's dialogue.

"Isn’t ‘deconstruction’ an attempt to apply scientific principles to the analysis of language and what it implies? There is a lot of science-envy among the critics in the arts and humanities, and they’ve seemed to have latched on to the extrapolated language of anthropology and linguistics in order to keep their jobs. There is an effort, in the mission of literature departments, to continue to prove that there is stuff of quantifiable worth to be extracted from the study of novels and poems, and that they are in some way adding to the body of knowledge. Post-modernism, as a style, as an artistic impulse, as a habit of mind and gesture inevitable in an image-saturated time has cut-up, bricolage, pastiche, parody, and other sorts of archival hooliganism at its heart, and that the artist (writer) should use the images at hand, whatever their source, and give them free play and transgress boundaries, the notion remains that the impulse is, in fact, pre-modern, about ritual and mystery. The universe shrunk down to symbolic particulars that have a power to establish order in things that ultimately are not quantifiable by science or argument. Writing and literature are all veils, I would think: if anyone could get ‘IT’ with a piece of work, we would have to assume the writer and his audience are satisfied, sated, and are disinclined to hear the story again. But there is always another wrinkle to relate, another nuance to discover, another veil to be taken away.

This echoes Barthes’ idea of writing/writing as being an erotic function; that the end that one gets to at the end of the tale is not the point of the quest but the quest itself. The unveiling of language; the constant reassimilation that names for things are made to undergo as the nature of the material world defies literary form; it is the imagination that needs to work within the waking sphere, not the world that needs to fit within its contours. We find with reading that writers we care about themselves could care less about what kind they are supposed to be according to literary archivists; thus they will have stylistic extremes that venture into another camp away from what common knowledge dictates is their ‘native’ style or manner. Is Gravity’s Rainbow any less a work of ‘Magical Realism’ than what we’ve seen in Garcia Marquez or Borges? Is Nabokov’s work Pale Fire less postmodern than say Mulligan Stew?

It becomes a definitively moot point; irresolvable and subject to an unending detour that circles around the precise meaning of finally inconsequential terms. Imagination is a trait that will use any manner or style suitable for a writer’s project at hand and it ought not be surprising or upsetting that many writers assigned roles by career-making PhD candidates simply do what they need to do in order to get their work done. This gives us fascinating paradoxes: Norman Mailer by temperament a romantic existentialist who might have been in the late 19th century is one who took postmodern strategies to render his work. The range of his assumed styles and experimentation creates specific problems with literary historians who might be eager to be done with his books and his name. Somewhere so far as criticism has gone in the last half-century, a link was made with other discourses which made much of literary study something of a gawky laughing stock: not historians not scientists not psychologists not philosophers. The gamiest of theory wonks could prate on and onward on fields not their own keeping tenuous connections between their specialty fictional accounts of experience and real-time bathos and tragedy obscured with an ever-deepening reservoir of jargonized murk.

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