Thursday, 17 August 2006

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What's Cooking? Now that this dreadful cold—somehow acquired in a crisp Southern California August—has loosened its thick fingers from my throat, I'm in the mood to blog again. Work, too. I spent today revising the chapter I'd planned on finishing before my unfortunate appointment with the ass-end of a felon's Honda Civic. (Despite not having been convicted, I can still call him a felon, as he committed the felony he would have been convicted of had the police been able to find him.) Not the heady intellectual waters I thought I'd have charted by now, but not nothing—quite a lot, actually, considering what's been thrown at me these past two years. All of which is mere preface to the meat of this post. Meat which, serial punster I am, is very much about meat. You see, back when I was in high school, I converted to ethical vegetarianism. Being the serious sort (and an athlete), I quickly decided my ethical vegetarianism needed to be taken to the next level. So I gave veganism 110% for the better part of two years. Were it not for a beautiful woman and a Louisiana concoction called a "deep-fried 'grilled'-cheese sandwich"—the irony is duly noted, but in the South, if it ain't boiled blisteringly spicy or deep-fried, it ain't fit for consumption—I might very well be the same annoyingly proselytizing gink I was then. Tainted by the power of cheese and general allure of dairy, eventually my ethical objections sloughed away and I considered eating meat again. Well, that and an article in The New England Journal of Medicine arguing that people who ate red meat and chicken but no fish developed Alzheimer's-like symptoms. I didn't eat red meat or chicken, but I also didn't eat fish, which meant that I'd start suffering from Alzheimer's-like symptoms any day now. I started eating fish. Even convinced a few other people to. (So maybe I'm not not the annoyingly proselytizing gink I was then.) Considering what 99.99% of the population ate, I was a god amongst nutritionists. Guzzling green tea, inhaling everything soy, eating fresh fish, working out four times a week—you know, the kind of guy everyone loves to loathe. Like Granny, I was positive I'd bought myself a couple extra decades on this mortal coil before anyone demanded I shuffle off ... then the test came back positive and it turned out I didn't. All those years of "healthy" living turned out not to be so healthy. How did I respond? I ditched vegetarianism. In stages. I began with a little chicken. Sharing a table with General Tso again was a life-altering experience. Still, it was months before I graduated to pork, and I have yet to matriculate in the School of Red Meat. (I tried a few weeks back but failed "disastrously." That is a euphemism for what you think it is.) All of which brings me to tonight's quiz: What did Scott prepare for dinner tonight? A. Smothered Pork Chops B. Pan Fried Pork...
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Oh Yes, I Put the "Der" in Derridean A few months back, I wrote a long post about why I don't "do theory" anymore. In it, I identified what initially drew me to theory-doing: There's something about modernist literature which lends itself to and/or is consonant with continental philosophy. Joyce, Proust, Woolf, &c. attract people who study Lacan, Deleuze, Derrida, &c. That's what I said. What followed that statement, however, had little to do with it. I tied my intellectual development to my progress to and through graduate school, moving from one charismatic professor to another, adopting and discarding perspective after perspective until I became who I am. As CR pointed out, my development seemed "a bit overdetermined." At the time, I wanted to reply that the overdetermination was a function of the narrative, or that I would consider charismatic those with whom I was already inclined to agree. Both responses seemed inadequate. The first because you can always blame the narrator for his narrative, which he could have, but chose not to, narrate differently; the second, because I adopted and discarded with proselytical glee. I think I have an answer now: In a conversation elsewhere about the relation of thinkers to their adjectives, I mentioned a crack Derrida made about feeling "insufficiently Derridean." Possessive pronouns aside, his legacy would not be his, nor would it relate to the body of his thought. Neither would it belong to other philosophers. It would be the property of English professors; so much so, he mused, that the adjective "Derridean" didn't even refer to him. It was an abbreviation for "The Yale Derrideans" (Paul De Man, J. Hillis Miller and Geoffrey Hartman). I remember thinking the obvious question—"What does the 'Derridean' in 'The Yale Derrideans' refer to?"—and being struck by the profundity of the obvious answer: "Not Derrida." Not the man, his words, his thought, or anything he could control, but the tradition he inspired. As traditions are wont to evolve, that means his name could be attached to thought which bore little resemblance to his own. (Which is why he could be "insufficiently Derridean" in the first place.) While there are many possible referents for "Derridean," the only viable one is "what people who describe their work as 'Derridean' do." The connection is incidental, not inherent. Certainly not essential. "Derridean" means what it means because Derrida was embraced by English departments in the United States at a particular historical moment. In retrospect, you can muster a convincing explanation for how it came to mean what it means. But only in retrospect. And only for "Derridean." You can't generalize from its adoption how, for example, English departments in the States at a different historical moment adjectivized a different thinker. I didn't think this at the time. Back then, I banged my head bloody against walls of theoretical necessity: There (bang!) must (bang!) be (bang!) some (bang!) essential (bang!) connection (bang!) between (bang!) thinkers (bang!) and (bang!) their (bang!) adjectives (bang!). Head pounding, hair blowzy, I decided to drop the issue and...

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