This blog is officially back in effect.
I have decided, after careful consideration, that the New York Times has only ever published two basic articles about cultural theory, from which an almost unending series of variations are possible. Op-Ed pieces authored by Stanley Fish do not count.
1. “Theory is stupid.” This article debunks cultural theory by purporting to demonstrate that theory a) is stupid, b) is pompous, c) leads to silly paper titles at the Modern Language Association or d) is a sham or otherwise is a sign of the excesses of academics, who aren’t real intellectuals like hard-headed, clear thinking journalists.
2. “Theory is dead.” This article argues that while theory was once important in the humanities and some social sciences, the good people are all dead, their American acolytes have run out of ideas, and that young scholars are back to “serious scholarship” where people really study stuff and ground their claims more carefully.
You can also have a mix-and-match arrangement. When the Sokal Affair broke, for instance, the NYTimes claimed that the hoax demonstrated that theory was a) a sham and b) dead.
I only say this because Derrida has led to a flurry of newspaper articles. The best example of #1 so far is Jonathan Kandell’s asinine front-page obit. The best example of #2 appeared yesterday and is entitled “Theory of Everything, RIP.” What does it all mean? Commenting on the Sokal Affair (back when it happened), Bruce Williams at the University of Illinois said it best: these people represent the last professional class fraction who believe — or are required by occupational norm to act as if they believe — in naieve empiricism. I like that explanation, though I have no idea if it’s true. Best I’ve heard yet.
It was 40 hours in 4 days on the tenure file, and I don’t mean finishing up unfinished articles. It’s just a bear to assemble, though it might have been easier to do if I’d been more organized (some stuff was at home, some stuff at the office; guess sthat happens when you move). Still, it makes a sufficiently loud sound when you drop it. I’m not celebrating yet*, as once the departmental committee has a look, they can ask for changes. Even if they don’t, there’s another nine copies to make and place between dividers in 3-ring binders. It’s like arts-and-crafts class, only the stakes are higher.
Tomorrow, in addition to class prep and marking (as they say up here), I intend to get a little academic writing done. It’s about time!
* My friend Greg Dimitriadis (who is no doubt reading this — name check!) used to give me crap about celebrating every little accomplishment. I’d send off a paper to a journal for review and say “let’s go get a drink” and he’d be all like “what’s the big deal?” apparently not realizing that it is merely a pretext to socialize.
I’m starting to get interested in this footnote function. Do other people put footnotes in their blogs? Has anyone written an xhtml routine to insert footnotes into a blog? this could be cool.