I didn’t expect the first proper entries on here to be quite so ponderous and dry. It is not what I intended for the blog. Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself explaining the existence of this blog, mainly to people who didn’t even ask. So perhaps I need to justify to myself why I am doing this.
Why Blog Part The First: Jargon.
I went to what might be called a ‘progressive’ institution to read for my MA. It’s a brilliant place to study if you’re interested in radical theory and working with people at the frontiers of critical theory whose work is internationally lauded. It’s horrendous if you have any interest in developing your own critical voice. I loved that the other students tended to be independent-minded and genuinely engaged with the world, but resent the parameters by which our critical voices were judged and limited. Why? Because, we were told, certain areas of critical thought are simply unfashionable. My reference for the PhD from that institution listed the avant garde thinkers I’d engaged with as though my PhD institution would demand that I’d read them. I was going Law! I still don’t even really understand what tort law is, but I’m certain the recommendation that I’d read some Brian Massumi was about as relevant as to whether or not I deserved funding as my ability to stand on my head.
The other thing I think I misjudged was how important jargon is. I used to mistakenly think that theorists used jargon because it helped them write with more precision; to communicate ideas with greater clarity. But then I discovered that every -ivity, -ative and -arity were defined differently by different theorists, who would quite often squabble over their meaning like school children and their texts are often full of veiled insults. Well, I fully intend to emulate the childishness all the way; it sounds like fun. But I don’t intend to emulate the way they write. Looking over my MA essays recently was cringeworthy. I can still see that the ideas are there, that I’ve managed to convey what I meant to the reader, more or less, but my writing is almost wilfully obscure, completely inaccessible and alien to anyone who hadn’t read the kind of theory we were taught. I remember a friend telling me proudly that after reading my work and other bits and pieces I sent him, the kind of language we used came to feel ‘natural’. A couple of friends contacted me after they read the first post saying that they were glad I was blogging, even if they didn’t think they’d understand it. Well, theory should not be inaccesible or obscure. Otherwise, it risks becomes insular and irrelevant.
So this blog is a kind of punch bag, something I can clumsily aim a fist at and miss if I need to. If you, dear reader, have stumbled across this blog and can’t for the life of you pick out what I’m on about, I’ve failed.
1. never use an obscure theoretical term without making a brief explanation of it;
2. never use a long and unnecessary word where a shorter one will do;
3. assuming knowledge often alienates. CLARIFY.
Hopefully, in the end, it’ll help me become a better writer.