Thursday, 09 March 2006

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Legitimately Freudianesque; or, Sometimes A Wolfe Is Just Your Mother The advisor sends me an email saying I should "respond" to this article. It contains the words "species" and "race" in the title and thus falls squarely within the purview of the chapter I'll be working on when I finish the current one. As I begin reading it I realize I don't know what the word "respond" really means. Does he want me to consider it seriously? Employ it as foil? Long years have led me to believe that I've been requested to rehearse the strong form of Cary Wolfe's argument on the local level and "respond" to it on the global. I should construct an uber-un-strawman and address it. Only "address" no more informs me of how I'm supposed to react to this article than "respond." Because Wolfe rebukes particular psychoanalytic arguments in predictably psychoanalytic ways, my initial response consisted of pure revulsion. The whole way in which any psychoanalytically-informed critic incorporates all anti-psychoanalytic thought back into a psychoanalytic framework disgusts me. By defining one's work as "anti-psychoanalytic" one begs to be re-incorporated, I understand that. But oftentimes the anti-psychoanalytic lable is applied by the psychoanalytic critic and not the non-psychoanalytic author. But I digress. My larger issue with the article is that it lack stakes. Such stakelesness points to my core objection to what Hoblo calls "Higher Eclectism." It's merely descriptive. It articulates a personal opinion in a philosophical language without any concern for the implications of such juxtapositions. So when Wolfe reduces 250 years of complex thought on the process of speciation into a human/other binary I simply want to spit. I understand that Wolfe creates that binary only to tear it down—but that's exactly what I mean by "stakelessness." Instead of rummaging through the archives and reading the actual debates on the human/animal distinction, Wolfe invents an anthropology. He's certainly correct to note that, among the laity, the assumption of human superioty reigned supreme long after special creation had been scientifically debunked. But wouldn't it be appropriate to establish that in the essay? Why the faux universalism which refuses to acknowledge the existence and contemporaneity of these debates? I understand that Wolfe claims these debates are ongoing—but why then does he remain firmly in the theoretical tradition? Would it not be enriched by homologous debates in the history and philosophy of science? Note that I'm not accusing him of redefining another discipline's problems in the language of his own. I see no evidence of meta-plagiarism. I do see evidence of arrogance. Of self-satisfaction in the superiority of his theoretical knowledge. Of a desire to enshrine the contingent in the pantheon of the universal. What annoys me is that the dynamic—a combination of Freudianism and relation to the category of the animal—he identifies at work in Hemingway seems fundamentally sound. I only wish it were identified as being the product of a particular historical moment in which everyone was Freudianesque.

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