Preparing a seminar on the limits of academic writing to be conducted as part of this year’s department seminar series. Organizing some materials and interviews on the Sokal and the Sokal Squared Hoaxes to begin the session with. Going back also to Jonathan Culler and Kevin Lamb’s edited volume: Just Being Difficult? Academic Writing in the Public Arena. Will probably include a couple of ideas from the chapters by Spivak and Butler.
In the Spivak chapter I find this passage I underlined back in 2003. No Twitter back then.
And then there is the book. One has to accept the fact that the book is an archaic form now, and we want to keep it residual, rich in wonderful vocabulary. Given the way modes of communication are operating now, the book has to have a different contract with its reader, one that acknowledges that reading, as I said, is transactional. A book is not the functioning of democracy, nor is it the textuality of classroom teaching; the book is a different kind of negotiable instrument. If one wants something that comes more easily, then it is not to the book that one will turn on, and so we must give the book its due.
A book is an impacted thing. Either you have that contract with the reader, or the reader has that contract with you—or it won’t work. And the humanities are trivialized; the idea of taking time to learn—which is different even from knowing—is being trivialized into just information-command, until even that is no longer pertinent. So, therefore, let us at least, if we are going to engage in that archaic activity, let us insist it be what it can be—that instrument that goes at a slower speed in a world where speed seems to be of essence. That’s what the book is. It is archaic, must remain residual, can become alternative and oppositional because it is a defective form—a virtual enclave in which people can think.