The Higher Drivel

“The predicament of any tropological analysis of narrative always lies in its own effaced and circuitous recourse to a metaphoric mode of apprehending its object; the rigidity and insistence of its taxonomies and the facility with which it relegates each vagabond utterance to a strict regimen of possible enunciative formations testifies to a constitutive faith that its own interpretive meta-language will approximate or comply with the linguistic form it examines.”

From p. 35 of the NYTimes book review 16 October’11

You could actually major in this stuff (Semiotics) at an Ivy League university (Brown) in the 80’s. According to the article, Semiotics was the third most popular humanities major there at the time.  One son got in in ’86, but (fortunately) didn’t go there.  Nonetheless he was quite interested in Semiotics, hence the name of this blog.  Fortunately the author of the above quote recovered and notes “I now spend more time learning from the insights of science than deconstructing its truth claims.”

What a gigantic waste of time.  Think what Brown could have done by abolishing the department and using the funds for chemistry or mathematics.  The writer tries to salvage something from the experience noting that ‘a striking number of semiotics students have gone on to influential careers in the media and the creative arts.’  Unfortunately this explains a lot about the current media and ‘the creative arts’.

Students were being conned then, and they’re being conned now.  It might not have mattered what you majored in 50+ years ago at an Ivy League university, the world seemed to want us regardless.   A friend majored in Near Eastern studies, was hired by a bank, never saw the MidEast and did quite well.  Not so today.  The waitress serving us last Wednesday at a local bar was a graduate of one of the seven sisters in 2010.  She majored in Sociology and Psychology, is in debt for > 20K for the experience and is unable to find better work.   It isn’t clear what such a major prepares you for other than what she’s doing.  Finding out the distribution of majors of the jobless 20 somethings participating in OWS would be interesting

For a taste of the semiotics world of the 80’s, Google Alan Sokal and read about the fun he had with such a journal — “Social Text”.  Should you  still have the stomach for such things read “The Higher Superstition” by Gross and Levitt, which goes into more detail about Derrida, Foucault and a host of (mostly French) philosophes and what they tried to pull off.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Curious Wavefunction  On October 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Have you read Sokal’s book “Fashionable Nonsense”? It’s eminently readable for its entertaining description of all kinds of postmodernist piffle that goes under the name of science.

  • luysii  On October 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Yes I did, that’s what Google Sokal was all about. Doing this will also pick up the back and forth about the hoax on Social Text. Etc. The Higher Superstition is also worth a read, as it goes into the Malarkey in more detail than I was able to take.

    The Humanities appear to have gone off the rails. This is nothing new. When I met my wife, we both agreed that we loved to read books until we got to college. R. P. Blackmur was very big back then, arguing that the truely creative individual was the critic, who could figure out what the poor benighted author was really trying to do.

  • David Rogers  On November 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Check out the chapters on Walter Benjamin and Jean-Paul Sartre in Clive James’ book “Cultural Amnesia” for brilliant deflating of these cultural forebears to postmodern balderdash.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: