Quotulatiousness

December 29, 2017

QotD: Post-structuralism

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Another problem in 1970s academe was a job recession in the humanities that arose just as deconstruction and post-structuralism arrived from Europe. The deconstructionist trend started when J. Hillis Miller moved from Johns Hopkins University to Yale and began bringing Jacques Derrida over from France for regular visits. The Derrida and Lacan fad was followed by the cult of Michel Foucault, who remains a deity in the humanities but whom I regard as a derivative game-player whose theories make no sense whatever about any period preceding the Enlightenment. The first time I witnessed a continental theorist discoursing with professors at a Yale event, I said in exasperation to a fellow student, “They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.” It is absurd that that elitist theoretical style, with its opaque and contorted jargon, was ever considered Leftist, as it still is. Authentic Leftism is populist, with a brutal directness of speech.

Post-structuralism, in asserting that language forms reality, is a reactionary reversal of the authentic revolutionary spirit of the 1960s, when the arts had turned toward a radical liberation of the body and a re-engagement with the sensory realm. By treating language as the definitive force in the world — a foolish thesis that could easily be refuted by the dance, music, or visual arts majors in my classes — post-structuralism set the groundwork for the present campus impasse where offensive language is conflated with material injury and alleged to have a magical power to create reality. Furthermore, post-structuralism treats history as a false narrative and encourages a random, fragmented, impressionistic approach that has given students a fancy technique but little actual knowledge of history itself.

Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech”, Heat Street, 2016-05-09.

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