The OF Blog: Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more

Was going to let the Zen Squirrel be the last word, but via a link to a link, I discovered this piece on Empty Criticism over at Ruthless Culture. There are many things that I could say (mostly positive) about Jonathan McCalmont's article, but this quote from a piece by Mark from K-Punk is what grabbed my attention:

“In many ways, the academic qua academic is the Troll par excellence. Postgraduate study has a propensity to breeds trolls; in the worst cases, the mode of nitpicking critique (and autocritique) required by academic training turns people into permanent trolls, trolls who troll themselves, who transform their inability to commit to any position into a virtue, a sign of their maturity (opposed, in their minds, to the allegedly infantile attachments of The Fan). But there is nothing more adolescent – in the worst way – than this posture of alleged detachment, this sneer from nowhere. For what it disavows is its own investments; an investment in always being at the edge of projects it can neither commit to nor entirely sever itself from – the worst kind of libidinal configuration, an appalling trap, an existential toxicity which ensures debilitation for all who come into contact with it (if only that in terms of time and energy wasted – the Troll above all wants to waste time, its libido involves a banal sadism, the dull malice of snatching people’s toys away from them).”

It is interesting (but not surprising, I guess) that some of the sharper criticism in these frequent internet tempests both emanates from and is directed toward those commentators who have some background in graduate school-level liberal arts programs. While I disagree with much of this piece, it is something worth considering when doing a self-evaluation: "Is the argument for the Argument, or for something else?" I'm not so far down the rabbit hole that I post, discuss, or debate just to do it without some underlying principle that I cherish. But there is something that does tempt me on occasion toward this pathless direction, so it's best for me to continue to be wary.

There is much more of interest in that post. Food for thought, even though my thoughts are running out at nearly 1 AM here. More later, although in the meantime I'll leave this for consideration:

What would constitute a "full" review?

So asks the gentleman who really needs to start writing reviews again, it seems.


Jonathan M said...

Funnily enough, that's the section that most resonated with me :-)

I agree you need to write reviews. I'm still waiting to read what you have to say about My Work Is Not Yet Done. I put my review of it up yesterday.

Mike said...

I saw a "Head Vs. Heart" argument in the quote. The more qualified you become to opine on something, the less likely you are to state a personal opinion. Should a review be based on the technical merits or on how it speaks to you? If you always maintain an emotional distance the only discussion and review revolves around the successes and failures of the author to follow standards.

Lsrry said...


I'll see what I can do in the near future. I remember being impressed with his structure and how the prose accentuated what was occurring around the provided descriptions. However, I'll have to re-read it before I could give a firmer response. Will read your review in the afternoon.


Yes, that's a real danger there. I like to think I interject just enough of myself to make most of my reviews into viable hybrids of the heart and mind, but sometimes that doesn't happen, unfortunately.

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