Postmodernism as Gibberish
After 31 years at the bar I believe I am an expert on gibberish, being in a profession which takes great pride in being able to take relatively simple concepts and present them in an arcane gibberish which almost no one would read or write if they were not being paid to do so. However, I think the postmodernists have us beat, judging from this post by Oregon Muse at Ace of Spades:
Last week in the comments, Pave Low John proffered this craptacular sentence from a post-modern book he is required to read:
“This three-part phallogocentric negation and sublation of history can be grasped easily. Yet even such a sublation, of history as timing through the mediation of law–the vanishing moment of sequential human temporality into a catachresis named Time, is not the final hortatory instrument of the text.”
Yeesh. My spell-checker just had a nervous breakdown. Into this grotesquely viscous, near-inpenetrable morass of verbal diarrhea waded FenelonSpoke, after first donning a hazmat suit. She miraculously survived and brought back the following as a translation:
The way the penis (men) has/have kept women subjugated and silent by unjust laws is both very bad and very apparent, and this theme transcends history as it is portioned off into neat linear, sequential segments.
The question is, if that’s what she meant, then why didn’t she say it that way to begin with? My theory is that postmodern obfuscation is a device used by incompetent authors to disguise their dreadful writing. My other theory is that the academic disciplines that have been ruined by postmodernism (i.e. the “soft” “sciences”) have gotten all puffed up and full of themselves and think that they’re somehow Serious You Guys Legitimate if they produce reams of text couched in indecipherable jargon just like, for example, those geeky guys over in the math building, what with all their fancy-ass equations with squiggly lines, Greek letters and stuff that look so awesome because we don’t know what they’re saying. So you shouldn’t be able to read our stuff, either, but you can take our word for it, it’s Totally Super Cool.
But see, here’s the difference: the postmodernists got punk’d real bad back in 1996 by physicist Alan Sokal. He submitted his essay Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity to the peer-reviewed postmodernist journal Social Text, and they printed it. But hilarity ensued when Sokal admitted in another publication that it was a giant load of horse doots. As a hoax, he just strung together a bunch of gibberish using postmodernist lingo, and they bought it. But you couldn’t do this to a math journal (although I suppose you could try). They’d fact-check your butt back to square one and send you packing if you pulled something like Sokal did. As difficult as it can be, mathematics does make sense. I’m not sure that post-modernism does.
You morons might enjoy reading Chip Morningstar’s famous essay How To Deconstruct Almost Anything: My Postmodern Adventure, written in 1993 at the dawn of the internets. The gist of this piece is that the reason pomo analysis sounds like crap is that most of it is crap and this is because pomo crap is generated by pomo crap academics who’ve never had to talk to anyone other than other pomo crap academics, so they’ve developed this inbred little pomo crap language that’s all but unintelligible to anyone outside the pomo crap academic community. Actually, Morningstar’s phrasing was a lot more congenial than mine, but you get the idea. And he does say sometimes the pomo academics ask a worthwhile question, or try to get you to look at something in a way you perhaps wouldn’t have thought of yourself, so he doesn’t write them off completely. Like I just did.
And every time you reload this page, you get a new, randomly-generated postmodern essay.
Go here to read the rest. The post modern essay generator is a hoot! Go here to see a sample. This brings to mind an episode in the first volume of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, where a treaty of alliance is negotiated. The treaty is lengthy and filled with very baroque verbiage. One of the characters does a painstaking analysis of the treaty and learns that it means nothing, neither party to the treaty ultimately agreeing to do anything. Shakespeare’s phrase, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, came to my mind as I read that passage as a teen-ager. In regard to post-modernism I think much the same could be said.