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  • Carroll, Joseph C.
    Hi Aranye, That s an alluring prospect-uniting the constructive aspects of deconstruction with the empirically grounded evolutionary human sciences. If in that
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 18, 2009

    Hi Aranye,

     

                That's an alluring prospect—uniting the constructive aspects of deconstruction with the empirically grounded evolutionary human sciences. If in that union, the speculative insights of deconstruction were subordinated to the empirically grounded findings of evolutionary biology (or vice versa), I for one would be curious to know what few specific axioms could be formulated to summarize this consummation, most devoutly to be wished.

     

                Jeff, is this (attached) a sufficient approximation to the meta-critique you hypothetically invoke?  If not, how not?  If so, what next?

     

    Joe Carroll

     

    Supplement: for those who can't receive the attachment, or who might be interested but don't have time, I'll copy below a few paragraphs relevant to the question of some kind of conjunction between evolutionary and deconstructive literary study:

    ***********

     

    Where Are We, and How Did We Get Here?

     

    Before considering the three scenarios [continuation of the status quo; acceptance of literary Darwinism as just another school; and dominance of literary Darwinism in the humanities], I shall quickly describe the trajectory that brought us to our current state. Through the first two thirds of the twentieth century, most literary study operated under a shared set of beliefs and values extending back to the Victorian cultural theorists, particularly Matthew Arnold. Giving up on religion, the Victorians looked for existential “meaning” in two main areas: utopian social futures, and the arts, especially poetry. They thought the arts condensed the best wisdom of our collective humanity and also gained access to whatever amorphous spirituality was left over after deducting the historical validity of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and the immortality of the soul. One of the things left over in amorphous spirituality was the idea of a divinely ordered progression of history leading to some ultimate condition of social harmony and intellectual fulfillment. The arts, and especially poetry, would be the chief medium for recognizing and participating imaginatively in that blessed dispensation. However quaint such beliefs might now appear, until about 1980 they provided an overarching rationale for the two main kinds of study that occupied literary scholars: (1) hard-core scholarship—establishing texts, producing editions, collecting letters, writing biographies and literary histories; and (2) detailed interpretive analysis of individual texts and descriptive histories of literary traditions. Some of this work was animated by explicit invocations of Marxist, Freudian, Christian, or Jungian ideas, but most of it was eclectic, oriented to the common language and the common understanding. This whole phase can be designated the traditional humanistic paradigm.

    By the late seventies, signs of overproduction had become unmistakable. Most of the major projects in hard-core scholarship had been adequately completed. Critics interpreting single works were forced into ever more tenuous and improbable speculations. To publish interpretive commentary, one has to say something new, and most of what could reasonably be said at the level of common observation had already been said. The solution, of course, was to turn to European speculative philosophy, first structuralism, and then, almost immediately, “post-structuralism.” The structuralists, supposedly, had demonstrated that structure is autonomous, a matrix or primary source, transcending content, and the poststructuralists demonstrated, supposedly, that structures are not only autonomous but anarchic, chaotic, impossible to pin down, and impossible to escape. “There is no outside the text,” and the text itself is a house of mirrors—fun-house mirrors—signifiers generating signifiers, with no signified anywhere in sight to anchor the endless recession of distorted images.

    Deconstruction swept through departments of literature like flag-waving cadres of the French Revolution, galvanizing all the inhabitants, striking terror in some, provoking others into obstinate resistance, but in most exciting rapturous enthusiasm. The inferiority complex that had long dogged literature professors vis à vis the scientists, who actually got things done, suddenly gave way to an extraordinary hubris in which literature professors believed they had unique access to the ultimate nature of things. The world at large, exemplified, say, by Time magazine, was skeptical but intimidated, uncertain at first, but willing to acknowledge any new form of glamor that could command attention. For three or four years, the deconstructors played word games, discovered their inner verbal child, fashioned exquisitely ambiguous titles for theoretical articles, and, in their more sober moments, adopted postures of cosmic nihilism. To a watching world, all this ultimately seemed rather silly, but the main force at work undermining the deconstructive regime was internal. People go into literature not just to play games with words. Literature gives access to the most intimate and powerful aspects of experience. Deconstruction offered a general stance of radical subversion to all existing values, but it offered very little in the way of positive human content.

    Foucault provided the content. He absorbed deconstructive irrationalism and gladly assented to the transcendental status with which the deconstructionists had invested “Discourse,” but he also had real bones to pick with the Western cultural tradition. He did not just adopt radical subversion the way a teen-ager adopts insolence, as a style. He went after the meat of the matter, systematically critiquing ideas of sanity, criminality, and sexuality, disdaining all social norms as arbitrary manifestations of “Power.” This was a creed by which literary scholars could live, for three decades anyway, right up to the present time. It gave them a program and a stance: to re-read all texts as insidious machinations of political power. Theorists and critics who have adopted this stance have a mission in life: to serve as the conscience of their race. Their constituencies are the victims of oppression in traditional power structures: especially women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and colonial peoples.

    Three decades into the new postmodern hegemony, we are now also at least a decade into “the crisis in the humanities.” The subversive metaphysical and political fervor that fuelled the poststructuralist revolution has long since subsided into tired routine. The question that generated the revolution, “What next?” is being asked again, and with increasing desperation. In a recent essay on the parlous state of the humanities, Louis Menand professes himself willing to consider almost any possible option, only just not one particular option: “consilience,” that is, integrating literary study with the evolutionary human sciences. That option, he declares, would be “a bargain with the devil.”

     

               

     

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Aranye Fradenburg, Ph.D. [mailto:lfraden@...]
    Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 7:06 PM
    To: Jeff P. Turpin
    Cc: biopoet@yahoogroups.com; EvPsych; Cog Lit Assn; CogLit; Michael B é rub é; Carroll, Joseph C.
    Subject: sig

     

    I must say that I find your comments about deconstruction kind of

    bizarre, and wish we could go on to do new things with the companionship

    of things we have learned from in the past, instead of feeling we have

    to disavow everything. I think your strokes are overly broad, and your

    attempt to link poststructuralist rhetoric to the right wing is looney .

    My knowledge of Machiavelli doesn't comport well with the way you invoke

    his name below, and neither does my knowledge of deconstruction. I

    assume you have read Derrida's own writings on the academy and on the

    humanities within it, as well as his later work on responsibility,

    cosmopolitanism, friendship? His critique of the discourse of the human,

    insofar as it tries to separate "the human" from all other animals (I

    would have thought that might be somewhat respected by Darwinists; his

    claim is not that you can't tell the difference but that the specific

    ways these claims have been made by certain influential authors (e.g.

    Lacan) are much too dismissive of the links we /do /have.) I am sorry

    that Berube constructs hierarchies and values deconstruction over other

    approaches; Derrida really would take him apart for that. I'm more

    interested in the constructive points of contact between different

    critical approaches. Your response just keeps the foolishness going.

     

    Aranye Fradenburg, Ph.D.

    Director, Program in Literature

    and the Mind

    Department of English

    University of California , Santa Barbara

    Clinical Associate

    New Center for Psychoanalysis

    Los Angeles

    www.aranyefradenburg.com

     

     

    Jeff P. Turpin wrote:

    > I've finally gotten time to review the Bérubé post and attachment, and

    > it reminds me of a plaint I have harbored for some time. Someone in

    > the lit dar fold needs to pen a succinct and incisive critique (or

    > metacritique, per Bérubé) of criticism and the hierarchization of

    > critical schools. It seems to me that, in addition to this being a

    > potable review of Boyd's book, it is also a deft positioning and

    > stabilizing of Bérubé's position in the lit crit hierarchy. He

    > acknowledges the viability of adaptationist approaches, and expresses

    > hope that some aspects of 'evocriticism' will be more broadly accepted

    > but, with his dismissals of sociobiology and Just So stories, and

    > claim that Brian's results don't live up to his claims, keeps several

    > arrows in his quiver in case a larger hole appears in the lit dar

    > case, in which case he can rest solely on the latter position, and

    > agree with lit dar opponents. Again, this is not to say that the

    > article is simply self-serving, or to target Bérubé specifically. The

    > article is at points witty and incisive, and in my opinion worth

    > reading. However . . .

    > Bérubé extolls the virtues of deconstruction in both this and another

    > recent article in MLA's periodical, but one of the faults of

    > deconstruction has always been that it cuts with equal effect in

    > either direction. Among many other things poststructuralism was a

    > Machiavellian move (a successful one) to carve positions in academia

    > for the disenfranchised. The overall results of this move are moot,

    > with the new more egalitarian state of the discipline being arguably

    > positive, and the perpetuation of the means by which it was enacted

    > being perhaps one of the negatives (we should note that the current

    > anti-health care movement and other conservative initiatives are very

    > successfully employing poststructuralist rhetorical tactics, including

    > the avoidance of empirical testing, to have an outsized impact on

    > public opinion).

    > But metacritique and deconstruction combine to require us to analyze

    > the Machiavellian underpinnings of any critical essay, approach, or

    > school, including literary Darwinism. How does the criticism affect

    > (or effect) the position of the critic or school in the academic or

    > philosophical hierarchy? And how, as literary Darwinists, are we

    > serving self, along with a just cause, in our critical efforts? Or is

    > this play within the play best ignored . . . (and if someone has

    > already written the succinct and incisive metacrique, I extend my

    > apologies, plead my ignorance, and humbly request the citation). JT

    >  

    > Jeff P. Turpin, President

    > Turpin and Sons Inc.

    > Cultural Resource Management

    > 2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133

    > (512) 922-7826

    >  

    >     ----- Original Message -----

    >     *From:* William Benzon <mailto:bbenzon@...>

    >     *To:* Biopoetics <mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com> ; EvPsych

    >     <mailto:evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com> ; Cog Lit Assn

    >     <mailto:CogLAs@...> ; CogLit

    >     <mailto:coglit@yahoogroups.com>

    >     *Cc:* Brian Boyd <mailto:b.boyd@...> ; Joseph Carroll

    >     <mailto:jcarroll@...> ; Michael B é rub é <mailto:mfb12@...>

    >     *Sent:* Saturday, December 12, 2009 7:06 AM

    >     *Subject:* [biopoet] Bérubé review Boyd

    >  

    >  

    >     Bérubé on Boyd's Origin of Stories

    >  

    >     Michael Bérubé has now reviewed Brian Boyd's On the Origin of Stories:

    >     Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. His review is online at American

    >     Scientist:

    >  

    >     http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/the-plays-the-thing

    >     <http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/the-plays-the-thing>

    >  

    >     Discussions ongoing at:

    >  

    >     http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/while_i_was_grading_p

    >     <http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/while_i_was_grading_p>

    >     apers/

    >  

    >     and at:

    >  

    >     http://crookedtimber.org/2009/12/11/mind-games/

    >     <http://crookedtimber.org/2009/12/11/mind-games/>

    >  

    >     --

    >  

    >     William L. Benzon, Ph. D.

    >     708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A

    >     Jersey City , NJ 07302

    >     201 217-1010

    >  

    >     Mind-Culture Coevolution: http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/

    >     <http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/>

    >     The Valve (cultural blog): http://tinyurl.com/ormqg

    >     <http://tinyurl.com/ormqg>

    >     Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/stc4blues/

    >     <http://flickr.com/photos/stc4blues/>

    >     YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/STC4blues

    >     <http://www.youtube.com/user/STC4blues>

    >  

    >    

    >  

    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    >  

    > _______________________________________________

    > CogLAs mailing list

    > CogLAs@...

    > https://lists.purdue.edu/mailman/listinfo/coglas

    >  

  • Jeff P. Turpin
    Professor Fradenburg: I wanted to respond to your distress over my claim that current conservative right-wing politics utilizes tactics and rhetorical
    Message 2 of 2 , Dec 21, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      Professor Fradenburg:
      I wanted to respond to your distress over my claim that current
      conservative right-wing politics utilizes tactics and rhetorical strategies
      popularized by post-structuralism. Your use of the adjective “looney” and
      your rather out-sized response to my post are entertaining on one level, but
      also suggest that I pushed a button, and/or you are unaware of certain
      mainstream ideas. I’d like to clarify in order to ameliorate those and/ors.
      My claim was not, as W. Benzon suggested, birthed in a bar, but was an
      extension of a talk at a well-attended Saturday afternoon session at MLA
      2005, where the speaker cited several instances of right wing activists
      mimicking the rhetoric of modern critical theory. She was an avowed
      post-structuralist, addressing the choir, so to speak.
      The logical connections of her (and my) claim are very simple.
      Consider a few basic formulations of modern criticism: 1) There is no
      objective truth; or there is no discernible objective truth; or there are
      multiple, equivalent truths; or language cannot express truth; 2) There is
      no “real” history, but only the biased records of “the winners”; 3) all
      stories are contingent, no meaning is authoritative or “true.” Yes, these
      are simplistic renderings of critical theory, but they are the deployed
      version of post-structuralism that exists in editorial offices and
      classrooms (and bars) outside the ivy walls. These formulations have two
      things in common: first, they are wrong; second, they suspend or eliminate
      truth-testing or empirical verification. This last commonality is the
      element I referred to in my post.
      It is a short step from the assertion that there is no truth in the
      world, or that all stories are equivalently valid, to the glib advancement
      of statements like “the supposed facts of global warming were fabricated by
      liberal elite scientists” or “the healthcare plan sets up death panels.” In
      both cases truth-testing is suspended. If the dominant philosophers of the
      last half-century deny the possibility of truth, and equally privilege all
      interpretations, who, or what, can refute these claims? Again, these are
      crude extensions of the tools of modern theory, but on what basis can we
      argue against them? The only recourse is to facts or disavowed “truth.”
      Derrida et al opened Pandora’s box, and out leapt the Cretan Paradox as
      disciplinary or even national anthem. Here even your claim that I am looney
      is no more true or false than my toddler’s belief that I am the wisest man
      in the universe. And there is as little theoretical justification for your
      disputing my comments on the Bérubé review. If there is no discernible
      truth in the world, how can a statement be labeled false? If all stories
      are equivalent, how can one be more or less accurate?
      I can understand your distress when clumsy theorists like me want to
      get deconstruction back in the box, or address its negative results when it
      is cited by a high-status pundit, but I would ask you not to blame the
      messenger. I am only advancing very public claims made by much better minds
      than mine--claims advanced at MLA, in public view of the academic
      establishment. I cannot, however, understand your assertion that I am
      inciting or perpetuating divisiveness or dissent. Academics and critics who
      ignore deconstruction’s dark side do this. Academia is one of the most
      competitive status hierarchies in our culture. Evolutionary psychology
      tries to address and ameliorate this “foolishness,” against the conservative
      inertia of the academic establishment. I only called a spade a spade, while
      repeating Shakespeare’s claim that all humans are capable of selfishness.
      This last claim is simply axiomatic.


      Jeff P. Turpin, President
      Turpin and Sons Inc.
      Cultural Resource Management
      2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
      (512) 922-7826
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Aranye Fradenburg, Ph.D." <lfraden@...>
      To: "Jeff P. Turpin" <jpturpin@...>
      Cc: <biopoet@yahoogroups.com>; "EvPsych"
      <evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>; "Cog Lit Assn"
      <CogLAs@...>; "CogLit" <coglit@yahoogroups.com>; "Michael B é
      rub é" <mfb12@...>; "Joseph Carroll" <jcarroll@...>
      Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 7:05 PM
      Subject: sig


      >I must say that I find your comments about deconstruction kind of bizarre,
      >and wish we could go on to do new things with the companionship of things
      >we have learned from in the past, instead of feeling we have to disavow
      >everything. I think your strokes are overly broad, and your attempt to link
      >poststructuralist rhetoric to the right wing is looney . My knowledge of
      >Machiavelli doesn't comport well with the way you invoke his name below,
      >and neither does my knowledge of deconstruction. I assume you have read
      >Derrida's own writings on the academy and on the humanities within it, as
      >well as his later work on responsibility, cosmopolitanism, friendship? His
      >critique of the discourse of the human, insofar as it tries to separate
      >"the human" from all other animals (I would have thought that might be
      >somewhat respected by Darwinists; his claim is not that you can't tell the
      >difference but that the specific ways these claims have been made by
      >certain influential authors (e.g. Lacan) are much too dismissive of the
      >links we /do /have.) I am sorry that Berube constructs hierarchies and
      >values deconstruction over other approaches; Derrida really would take him
      >apart for that. I'm more interested in the constructive points of contact
      >between different critical approaches. Your response just keeps the
      >foolishness going.
      >
      > Aranye Fradenburg, Ph.D.
      > Director, Program in Literature
      > and the Mind
      > Department of English
      > University of California, Santa Barbara
      > Clinical Associate
      > New Center for Psychoanalysis
      > Los Angeles
      > www.aranyefradenburg.com
      >
      >
      > Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
      >> I've finally gotten time to review the Bérubé post and attachment, and it
      >> reminds me of a plaint I have harbored for some time. Someone in the lit
      >> dar fold needs to pen a succinct and incisive critique (or metacritique,
      >> per Bérubé) of criticism and the hierarchization of critical schools. It
      >> seems to me that, in addition to this being a potable review of Boyd's
      >> book, it is also a deft positioning and stabilizing of Bérubé's position
      >> in the lit crit hierarchy. He acknowledges the viability of adaptationist
      >> approaches, and expresses hope that some aspects of 'evocriticism' will
      >> be more broadly accepted but, with his dismissals of sociobiology and
      >> Just So stories, and claim that Brian's results don't live up to his
      >> claims, keeps several arrows in his quiver in case a larger hole appears
      >> in the lit dar case, in which case he can rest solely on the latter
      >> position, and agree with lit dar opponents. Again, this is not to say
      >> that the article is simply self-serving, or to target Bérubé
      >> specifically. The article is at points witty and incisive, and in my
      >> opinion worth reading. However . . .
      >> Bérubé extolls the virtues of deconstruction in both this and another
      >> recent article in MLA's periodical, but one of the faults of
      >> deconstruction has always been that it cuts with equal effect in either
      >> direction. Among many other things poststructuralism was a Machiavellian
      >> move (a successful one) to carve positions in academia for the
      >> disenfranchised. The overall results of this move are moot, with the new
      >> more egalitarian state of the discipline being arguably positive, and the
      >> perpetuation of the means by which it was enacted being perhaps one of
      >> the negatives (we should note that the current anti-health care movement
      >> and other conservative initiatives are very successfully employing
      >> poststructuralist rhetorical tactics, including the avoidance of
      >> empirical testing, to have an outsized impact on public opinion).
      >> But metacritique and deconstruction combine to require us to analyze the
      >> Machiavellian underpinnings of any critical essay, approach, or school,
      >> including literary Darwinism. How does the criticism affect (or effect)
      >> the position of the critic or school in the academic or philosophical
      >> hierarchy? And how, as literary Darwinists, are we serving self, along
      >> with a just cause, in our critical efforts? Or is this play within the
      >> play best ignored . . . (and if someone has already written the succinct
      >> and incisive metacrique, I extend my apologies, plead my ignorance, and
      >> humbly request the citation). JT
      >>
      >> Jeff P. Turpin, President
      >> Turpin and Sons Inc.
      >> Cultural Resource Management
      >> 2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
      >> (512) 922-7826
      >>
      >> ----- Original Message -----
      >> *From:* William Benzon <mailto:bbenzon@...>
      >> *To:* Biopoetics <mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com> ; EvPsych
      >> <mailto:evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com> ; Cog Lit Assn
      >> <mailto:CogLAs@...> ; CogLit
      >> <mailto:coglit@yahoogroups.com>
      >> *Cc:* Brian Boyd <mailto:b.boyd@...> ; Joseph Carroll
      >> <mailto:jcarroll@...> ; Michael B é rub é <mailto:mfb12@...>
      >> *Sent:* Saturday, December 12, 2009 7:06 AM
      >> *Subject:* [biopoet] Bérubé review Boyd
      >>
      >>
      >> Bérubé on Boyd's Origin of Stories
      >>
      >> Michael Bérubé has now reviewed Brian Boyd's On the Origin of
      >> Stories:
      >> Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. His review is online at American
      >> Scientist:
      >>
      >> http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/the-plays-the-thing
      >> <http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/the-plays-the-thing>
      >>
      >> Discussions ongoing at:
      >>
      >>
      >> http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/while_i_was_grading_p
      >>
      >> <http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/while_i_was_grading_p>
      >> apers/
      >>
      >> and at:
      >>
      >> http://crookedtimber.org/2009/12/11/mind-games/
      >> <http://crookedtimber.org/2009/12/11/mind-games/>
      >>
      >> --
      >>
      >> William L. Benzon, Ph. D.
      >> 708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
      >> Jersey City, NJ 07302
      >> 201 217-1010
      >>
      >> Mind-Culture Coevolution: http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/
      >> <http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/>
      >> The Valve (cultural blog): http://tinyurl.com/ormqg
      >> <http://tinyurl.com/ormqg>
      >> Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/stc4blues/
      >> <http://flickr.com/photos/stc4blues/>
      >> YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/STC4blues
      >> <http://www.youtube.com/user/STC4blues>
      >>
      >>
      >>
      >> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      >>
      >> _______________________________________________
      >> CogLAs mailing list
      >> CogLAs@...
      >> https://lists.purdue.edu/mailman/listinfo/coglas
      >>
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