Abstract for an unpublishable theory

1. Literary criticism, by definition, is the discipline of texts.

2. But a discipline, by definition, is an inquiry into certain subject-matters.

3. Moreover, subject-matters, by definition, are just what texts yield.

4. And texts, by definition, are just what yield subject-matters.

5. Therefore, a discipline of texts (tout court) becomes a discipline of subject-matters (tout court).

6. This is incoherent.

7. Literary criticism—the discipline of texts—must first of all figure out what its own proper subject-matters are.

8. These must be just those subject-matters that are generated when text itself is treated as a subject-matter.

9. This dialectic cannot be managed a posteriori, on a basis of the work that critics do; but only a priori, on the basis of what it is to inquire into texts.

10. The set of literary subject-matters must be both rich enough, and restricted enough, to support normal disciplinarity.

11. The subject-matters of criticism are all the sub-functions of what makes text text: namely, the property of being-about subject-matters.

12. After analysis, the subject-matters of criticism are revealed to be: mimesis; decorum; nature; understanding; tradition; interpretation; dialogue; and love.

We [we ack {we ack (we ack

Just learned that the English department at Laurier U will now put the “we acknowledge” Indigenist armband text on every single course outline. My question to them is: When will you start taking this gesture truly seriously? Obviously the acknowledge-armband should go, not just on every outline, but on every part of it; on every line; within every word. The armband itself should have an armband (and an armband in that armband, and so on). Profs, staff and students of the Laurier U English Department should get the “we acknowldge” text tattoed on painful parts of their bodies, which they should then conventionally and constantly expose, while also intoning the text (interrupting ony to intone it, and so on). Maybe then–just maybe–the Laurier U English department could begin to dare to think that it might just possibly dream of mitigating the colonialist damage that it does by existing. A modest proposal.

Caledonia: Know Hope

I have in the past on this blog written some stuff about the insanity of Firster (radical idigenist) politics in Canada. Since then I have mostly moved my political commentary to twitter, and reserved this blog for literary-phenomenological commentary (it’s kind of a performance art thing: I’m trying to see how *few* readers a blog can actually get). Nonetheless, today I have discovered a blog written by somebody from within the Six Nations community at Caledonia, ON, but *outside* the terrorist perspective that has taken over that community.See


I had always thought–assumed, suspected, hoped–that the very *first* and most important victims of the thugs that have brought such pain on Caledonia and shame on our country were the individual members of the local FNs themselves–the people who are NEVER interviewed or considered by our media or politicians, who simply follow the Left-fascist line that “First Nations” are embodied in their media-recognized leaders and/or sympathizers! But I really didn’t have, and still don’t, the time or expertise to try to make my suspicions good. Grateful, accordingly, to deyoyonwatheh for telling it–incredibly bravely and smartly–like it is. May perspectives like that be a window into the actual shape of the future for this country.

Phenomenological question of the day: Invisible blind spot?

Google Glass, researchers have reported, creates a (physical, optical, literal) blind spot on the right-hand side of a wearer’s peripheral vision. I guess this is where that tiny frame-chunk is situated.

A very nice example, I would say (following Gadamer), of technological Umwelt (surroundings) being substituted for, and denuding, phenomenological Welt (world). Peripheral vision is a pretty neat, liminal, mercurial capacity that we all have and know how to deploy, just by virtue of our being the creatures that we are. We don’t really know how to know how to use our peripheral vision, precisely because it is just at the edge–it defines the edge–of our capacities in this area. And yet, use it, and know how to use it, we do. Glass, willy-nilly, makes all this evident–precisely by monkeywrenching our liminal capacity. Only in having no more peripheral vision do we say damn I’m supposed to have that strange thing, peripheral vision. At the same time, our Glass-mediated vision, sans peripherality, is supposed to be “better” than vision as such. And this because of the wondrous functionalities of Glass.

Anyway, Google will say–as technology ALWAYS says!–we can fix this problem. We can just tweak the camera to capture the right-side peripheral area, streaming those images constantly back to the right-hand periphery of each wearer’s visual field. Trust us. You won’t even notice the difference.

Let’s say they’re right.

Is there still a difference?

It’s the mind and the world, stupid

Just read another bullshit article about how the internet means students don’t have to learn anything anymore. This seems to me the profound pedagogic, cognitive, and even epistemological fallacy of our time: that information access means information process. In other words–as I have been told by our school principal–the more “content” is just “available” (by which one mostly means online) the less one needs to learn. Cause after all, it’s all “right there,” just a click or a touch away, already. Rather, one needs to “learn how to learn,” or “participate in a community of learners,” or “master the right learning style” or whatever BS eduspeak buzz-phrase is in the air that week. A whole set of errors! For learning, knowledge acquisition, is by definition *extended*: that is, about something, directed toward some stuff in the world. This goes for “learning how to learn” too–it’s just that the stuff one gives learners under such a regime is reflexive and anemic, resulting in their predictable boredom and distaste, *especially* (this is almost the worst of it) if they are keen students! What is more: A book, too, makes information (if we are to use that word) available, right there. Ditto an utterance; ditto any data-set whatsoever. But the mere *presence-to-hand* of this potential knowledge does not mean its acquisition as real knowledge! Rather, one has to process it–open the book, read, puzzle, learn! How in the name of Pete does the mere *quantitative expansion of informational sites* magically negate the imperative toward cognitive work? It is as if one said that the British Library presented less of a learning imperative than a single copy of Cole’s Notes! ABSURD!

climate change coda

1. Science is (as far as we currently know) a sub-routine demarcated and defined by the Earth-system.
2. Climate science is, effectively, the science of the entire Earth-system.
3. Therefore, climate science is the science of the system that itself constitutes the very possibility of science. Climate science is science science.

Reflections on climate change

I’m not a climate-change sceptic. But I am, to some extent, a science-sceptic.
This position, strange though it may be, allows me to ask: What, among all other factors, has persistently weakened the climate change case over the last 20-30 years, giving fuel and comfort to dyed-in-the-wool C-C deniers?
Two things, it seems to me:
(1) The compulsive invocation of scientific authority as a means of epistemic silencing. As in “the science is settled”–a remark that always seems to imply, in Bill Maher fashion, a silently-added “you moron.” The problem is that the climate-change science has been “settled,” over and over again, for decades now, and always with the same public performance of scientific authority within our culture. Doubters, who are supposed to be silenced once-and-for-all by each performance, are precisely empowered when it has to be reiterated. “You shut us up 10/15/20 years ago,” they can, correctly, say; “and in exactly the same terms. If the science wasn’t really settled then, why should we believe it’s settled now?” The epistemological serenity of climate-change science ends up looking like its ideological stupidity.
(2) The rush to apocalypse as an interpretative trope for the data. The story is never just “system x has undergone alteration y.” It is, rather, “system x is heading for an inevitable conclusion of alteration y in total breakdown z.” And when? Always, “soon.” It seems that climate-change scientists cannot resist making predictions of this kind; the internet is littered with mocking lists of the ones that have failed to come true. I suspect that we are dealing here with a hermeneutic tendency of modern natural science that goes very deep–which is why practicing scientists, in their unreflexive innocence, helplessly follow it. When it gets them into trouble, all they can do is repeat the trope once more–and/or, fall back on repeated invocations of their cultural authority (see (1)).
It would be much better for climate-change policy, and thus, for the world, if we could get some clarity on the historical and phenomenogical reasons for both (1) and (2).
A good starting-place might be in early-modern Paracelsianism and Neoplatonism, and in the emergence of modern natural science precisely and explicitly as an end-times knowledge.
Hey, somebody should write a book about that. Might be timely. Helpful, even.
But probably before that can happen all the humanities departments will be writing-centres for climate-change students.