So many points to make. So little desire to organize.
I had completed half a post last night in response to this by Jodi Dean:
The Right promises a transgressive thrill of racism, sexism, nationalism: enjoy excluding! enjoy 'returning' to the true values, the true text, before it was corrupted by all these women and ethnically identified or figured people, when it was really English and American literature.
The point would have been that she psychologizes the reasons people must not "do Theory." "You don't read Zizek," I would have had her say, "you must be a closet conservative and crass careerists enraged by your inability to master these difficult works. What other explanation could there be?" I would have then followed with a list of my complaints that would've demonstrated the reason she didn't read any of the articles on which she presumably based her diagnosis is that she already knew what everyone would say (even though she didn't) and already knew why they would say it (even though she doesn't) and that the only way she could continue to write, think and do Theory is if she ignored the fact that legitimate complaints about its usage and purview exist.
Then she had to go be polite and reasonable in her response, so I'm not going to write it in the same way Cicero avoided calling attention Quintus' philanderings by informing everyone that he intended avoiding the topic of Quintus' philanderings. Actually, I'm not going to not write it that way either. I'm going to write it as an example of why I think debates about Theory are so often side-tracked: everyone believes everyone else is intellectually dishonest to the limited extent people so deeply stupid can be intellectually dishonest. I know, I know, I'm not breaking new ground here. Here's the thing:
I think we're right. All of us. I think we are all intellectually dishonest (to ourselves and others) and deeply stupid when it comes to thinking about Theory. Consider this comment to Jodi's post:
Excellent post, and far more gracious than I would have been if I had time to read the related posts, I'm sure. I just have no patience for graduate students, and especially professors, who profess their desire, or anti-desire, for ignorance. Why get into the profession, why claim to profess, if one doesn't want to challenge one's thought, one's way of being? Why not just do the authentic thing, and become a bureaucrat?
This is one intellectually dishonest, deeply stupid comment. Its author--who no doubt considers himself as open-minded as critical thinkers come--assumes that anyone who would question the self-evident importance of Theory desires, er, anti-desires ignorance. (Wouldn't an "anti-desire for ignorance" be a desire for knowledge? Nevermind.) Although this professing machine has yet to answer Jodi's latest comment, I wonder how he'll react to this statement:
Yet, I am against Deleuze and Deleuzian approaches in a nearly visceral way. They make me crazy--and I think my reaction is nonsense, nevertheless I fully accept and embrace it. I hate the reductive ontology; I hate the failure to acknowledge antagonism; I hate the rejection of the unconscious; and I really, really hate the way the theory operates as an apologia for global capital.
Is she airing a legitimate set of concerns about the substance and implications of Deleuzian thought? No! She's professing an anti-desire for ignorance! How does Jodi's confession differ from Holbo's admission that he believes philosophy took a wrong turn around 1965 and that he wants this beast he calls Theory killed or at the very least vigorously sterilized? It doesn't. They've excluded different intellectual traditions from their sphere of legitimate scholarship, but neither of them are being anti-intellectual. They're both being selectively intellectual, and contrary to Jodi's claim that her anti-Deleuzian sentiments are "nonsense," they both have logical and compelling reasons behind their selections.
So why is everyone so jumpy? Because there are sides and teams.
But there's more. These teams are comprised of the most ignorant, pompous, pretentious blowhards each side can muster.
Since the sides only ever see the other team, they both assume the team's a reasonable representation of the side. And since we see the teams play more frequently than we visit the other side, that specious assumption's reinforced. For example, when I hear some anonymous genius accuse me of intellectual laziness and collusion with dark conservative forces, being the deeply stupid person I earlier confessed to being, I assume that player not only represents the other players on the team but entire other side. Why do I do this?
Because I'm deeply stupid. But not alone.
This is all by elliptical way of responding to Matt's desire to hear me speak more on the burden of proof and where it ought to be placed. The burden of proof should always belong to the party of who asserts the validity, legitimacy or importance of a school of thought. Prove to me why I should read Zizek and I will read Zizek. Prove to me why I should read Lacan and I will read Lacan. I believe that should be the ideal purpose of an anthology. It should meet some basic evidentiary standards. A selection should hint that the burden of proof will be met without itself meeting it. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism avoids the whole issue of the burden of proof by asserting that the selections meet this burden instead of arguing that they do. More on this tomorrow.