[Maybe it would be better not to retrieve this from the hungry mice, but then maybe it does document something of the reasons why I left what my crafty friend Sooz calls ‘the toxic swamp’ that is Melbourne University. Its was written in 1990, the year before I departed for points north].
The Ten Errors of (academic) Convenience.
1) It is best not to think, or at least think nothing new.
2) Follow the prevailing wind, repeat instructions, learn the quoted quotations by heart.
3) Replicate ‘the’ technique, master a single universally applicable theoretical frame.
4) Avoid theory, scoff at theory, go ‘beyond’ theory.
5) Read the ‘latest’ authors first, read someone else new as soon as you discover that the ‘latest’ authors have been read by others.
5a) Read secondary material as a preference (if you must read primary texts, just skim. Better yet, skim the reviews).
6) Publish everything (after ‘hypertextuality’ you should always send your shopping list to some advanced literary journal? Real bright sparks will send your neighbour’s list in their name, after all, authorship is thrift).
7) Get a bank loan to buy a house on the basis of your ‘career’ as a critic. Ha! Show the bank manager your theoretical credentials and the prospectus which sets out how long your chosen and memorized theoretical perspective is expected to remain in fashion. Negotiate an excellent fixed term interest cap on this basis.
8) Avoid having to state your own position by all means necessary. Present your theory as the theory you might hold if you didn’t already see the (as yet unmentioned) flaws. If caught out, remember there are no more grand theories. Call it literary. Be a multiple self.
8a) Admit especially to no specific political position ever, but always allow it to be assumed that you do hold one (and one that is broadly left, liberal, retail). If pressured present two popular but contrary positions, arguing against the obvious objections to this that it is only the phallocentric, eurocentric, logocentric nostalgia for unity, presence and reason that proclaims the invalidation of contraity and the impossibility of peeling both ways. If you are then accused of dualism, condemn the simplistic binary fixations of western metaphysics and celebrate multiplicity, heteroglossia and the pursuit of the marginal. Politics will soon dissolve into the vortex of jargon – but never use the vortex metaphor unless you’re a ‘heavy’ intellectual and French, and dead.
9) Counter all cynicisms with witticisms, and all witticisms with the scathing weapons of cynicism.
9a) Avoid specialization – generalists are superior and they never need to know details.
10) Reject with anger any suggestion that criticism, especially literary criticism, is parasitic. Such accusations offer perfect opportunities for critical review. (see # 6).
11) Label rather than criticize – labels are more ambivalent. Never commit yourself to the necessity of trying to justify an argument with reason, you’ll just look silly.
11a) Make a caricature out of any approach that looks convincing (that is, if you didn’t think of it first, which would be a stupid risky thing to do anyway).
11b) Puns on names are good – like ‘Derridada’ or ‘Giggles-Giddens’. Use obtuse metaphors to dismiss anything significant you dont understand, i.e., “the inpenetrable jungles of structuralism”, the “shibboleth of deconstruction”.
11c) Respond to all criticisms by pouncing on any sentence/phrase/word which you can use to betray your attacker’s basic conceptual naivety – use this to avoid addressing any criticism of your own naivety.
11d) Criticize no-one in power, except where your victim remains anonymous (as in this criticism).
11e) Sacrifice it all for promotion, no worries.
11f) Lists are in again, enumerate.
Because it has become so fashionable to find other ways to pre-sent texts, because everyone can now follow these new conventions (!), because the conventions and symposia of scholarship remain inordinately dull, even as we applaud our tired old innovations, because I can, because you don’t care. Perhaps because the distinctions between irony, humour, cynicism and critique remain vague and blurred, because I really (?) don’t know why I write therefore I read therfore I… Because I like to see my unnamed and insufficiently understood anger set out neatly in all its confused confusion, because I still hope you’ll take it well, I wonder how you’ll take it, I don’t really ( ) care. How – will – you – re – act – to – this – ((do all these diacritical non-letter keys of the keyboard give you the shits too?)) – because I agree with you there is no clear point, no clear light, and why not? (Because of the essential dysfunctional logic of capital economics?). Because its like hopscotch, which I’ve never played but I appreciate the complexity, because it is so, because it could easily be otherwise. Because it covers up something I’d rather avoid, postpone, not write (why write?). Because there is no continuity here, now, none – no cause, be – cause, be brave. Because I like the slit slit slit of rhyming slangs, because of discord, wholesale, planned or accidental. For all this and more, for all of us, for all. Echo – because it sounds and returns (hollow, as from the hills). Because we’ve got it all right here, all right here, all night.