Thursday, 04 May 2006

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Why Deaf Men Are Breast Men [Two posts written while Typepad writhed: "Get Your Pretty Tired Act!" and "I Don't Speak Neanderthal, But . . ."] Tonight I want to talk to you about staring at women's breasts. I do it all the time. I'll be standing there talking to a woman only to be stricken by the sudden and irresistible urge to stare at her breasts. She'll register her discomfort by pulling her lapels close or yanking her plunging neckline chin-high. Then she'll become intensely interested in objects in the general vicinity of her feet. But I won't let that deter me. I'll continue to stare at her breasts until she won't be able to take it anymore and informs me in tones of suppressed outrage that she had some important elsewhere to be fifteen minutes ago. Then she'll never talk to me again. Such is the experience of the deaf man in America today. When the eyes of a hearing man break contact and wander south, the obvious conclusion is the correct one: he is staring at her breasts and she is justifiably uncomfortable. When a deaf man who relies on verbal cues and lip-reading to converse lets his eyes drift south of his conversant's, he stops at her lips. (You can tell because if he didn't—that is, if he actually stared at her breasts—he would have no clue how to answer whatever it is she would have said to him while he indulged in some "covert" sexism.) Why mention this in the one forum this commonplace of deaf life will never make anyone uncomfortable? Because I've acquired another rude habit: Talking to people while wearing headphones. People who know me—for example, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Siegel—won't bat an eye when I talk to them with my headphones on because they'll know that I'm reading their lips and not paying attention to the music. They'll know that I'm so invested in the conversation that I've forgotten that I have the headphones on and have merely neglected to remove them. But other people—for example, the inimitable Gay Talese—will look at me horrified as I chat with Barry without removing my headphones. His eyes will rebel against the solipsistic impertinence of youth culture he detects in my actions. I register his discomfort but, blinded by reputation and desperately trying to impress him, I won't understand what it is I've said that so offends him. I'll rifle my brain for the offensive statement the entire walk home and come up empty. Only later that night, as I force myself to stop thinking about the events of the day, will I realize what I've done. And then? So much for sleep.
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The Position; or, We Can All Go Home, Now... [Soon to be X-posted at the Valve. Would've been already but I didn't want to bump this beauty from its deserved position of prominence.] . . . that Stanley’s figured it out. Don’t get me wrong: I love reading Fish with a passion equal in intensity to the vehemence with which I disagree with him. But how can any intellectual brawler dislike a man whose very titles “betray” aggressive condescension? “Wrong Again,” opines the title of Fish’s 1973 article in the Texas Law Review. Still don’t understand? Stanley will say it again “One More Time” (CI 6.4). Is it any wonder the likes of Walter Davis suffer from an acute “Fear of Fish” (CI 10.2)? (If you think this fear related to his stature, a smiling Fish will enumerate the reasons “Why No One’s Afraid of Wolfgang Iser” [Diacritics 11.1].) I don’t mean to suggest that his prose never misfires. For example, the regular appearance of “my italics” in his parenthetical citations demonstrate—in direct opposition to the rationale behind the quotations themselves—how manipulative Fish is. Fortunately, his manipulation quickly becomes visual, what with every other word of the other fellow’s prose being italicized. That said, his 1972 omnibus review of “Recent Studies in the English Renaissance” is the only viscerally enjoyable example of the genre I’ve ever read. His deliciously causidical prose is worth its weight in bandwidth: I suspect that every writer of these omnibus reviews is at some point tempted to call for a moratorium. Of course, such a call would go unheeded, and in its place I would like to urge a more realizable course of action: publishers and those who advise publishers should be made more aware of their responsibility to a reader’s time and money. They should not, for instance, be a party to the making of a book like Burton Weber’s The Construction of Paradise Lost (Souther Illinois). First of all, I am nowhere cited. But then neither are John Shawcross, Dennis Burden, Jon Lawry, Michael Wilding, John Reesing, Irene Samuel (Dante and Milton), A.B. Giamatti, Wayne Shumaker, Davis Harding, John Steadman, John Peter, Christopher Ricks, Arthur Barker, Northrop Frye, Anne Ferry, Frank Kermode, Bernard Bergonzi, Thomas Greene, Patrick Murray, Douglas Knight, Roy Daniels, Louis Martz, James Simms, and Thomas Kranidas, to name only a few. The reasons for these omissions (and others) is simple: Weber’s bibliography stops in 1962 even though his preface was written in December of 1970. This is disturbing on its face; it is even more disturbing in the context of his intention, which is nothing less than to resolve the points of issue in the Milton controversy. As everyone knows, however, that controversy did not end in 1962, and since 1962 the focus of the debate has shifted away fom the narrow polarization which dictates the shape of Weber’s arguments. I do not know why he ignores a decade of criticism, but even in the context of things as they were in 1962 his is a very weak book...

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