Subsidized Illiteracy

This morning I came across this hilarious parody of academic “prose”:

It is tracing the elision of the vantage of death, the Divine vantage, under the gaze of critique that concerns these notes. If critique, in its totalizing ambit, is that which seeks to resolve, rehabilitate, and repair its object while it separates itself from its object, then critique must invariably meet the problem of its own limit. Hence critique must always be primordially self-critique. Critique takes the form of a decision, one that inaugurates an order of separation oriented around an anxiety of the limit. This threshold is both temporal—past from present, for the sake of a…This threshold is both temporal—past from present, for the sake of a ‘critical’ future—and spatial—'here’ from ‘there’. 

In this sense, critique is linked indelibly to crisis; that is, to an exceptional time which demands an exceptional resolution. Krisis, in its Greek etymology, marks a turning point, one that inaugurates an order of separation between death and life itself. The proximity of death and life is a problem of the limit, of interiority and exteriority, one that threatens discontinuity. Critique resolves its anxiety around the problem of discontinuity only by eliding it from its perspective; in this way, it guarantees continuity of world (bare life), its time (chronological time), and its place (infinite space).

Most of my readers will wish to know on what humor website did I find this priceless gem of illiteracy and misinformation?  The answer, alas, is, which posts actual academic papers.  This exercise in idiocy was written by one Aaron Eldridge, a graduate student in “sociocultural anthropology” at Berkeley.

I was struck how in the very beginning the young man manages to concoct a completely nonsensical sentence made up of mixed metaphors.  To "trace" is to sketch out, often on a non-durable material.  A “vantage” is a gain or benefit or superior position. “Elision” refers literally to the suppression of a vowel by a preceding vowel, particularly in verse.  

How, you will ask, can a superior position concern notes, much less how death can be a superior position, and still less how the superior position of death can have a vowel suppressed, unless, perhaps, he wants to invent the word “dath”?

Without wishing to beat a dead horse, I wonder where he got the notion that krisis—which in Greek means an act of judging or discernment—meant “a turning point.”

I only wish I could sigh and say, “That’s just California, where the taxpayers are forced to subsidize the rotting of young minds.  Here in Illinois, no graduate student at the University of Illinois would ever write anything so childishly stupid.”  Alas, such is not the case.  This murder of English and logic is being practiced by academics throughout the 50 states.  It results in a professor, testifying in the Senate, who has to ask what the word “exculpatory” means.  It results in hundreds of thousands of self-styled intellectuals who ridicule a successful businessman-turned-President who has that particle of common sense they will never have.

An acquaintance of mine won a National Book Award and sometimes attended the annual celebrations.  On year, the audience was informed that they were going to be addressed by that elusive novelist Thomas Pynchon.  A shabby academic came to the podium and talked gibberish without anyone, apparently, realizing that it was Prof. Irwin Corey, "the world's foremost authority," who used to do his parody of academic gobbledy-gook on Johnny Carson.   My acquaintance only got the joke, because the comedian was a friend of his family.

These people, including the poor Ford woman, will never hit a lick in the real world, content, as they are, to go on chasing two-horned unicorns and eliding the vantages of death.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina