Rhetoric was a calisthenics of manhood.
[I]n accordance with the way gender roles were constituted by their society, manhood was not a state to be definitively and irrefutably achieved, but something always under construction and constantly open to scrutiny, adults needed to keep practicing the arts that made them men. Rhetoric was a calisthenics of manhood. This is easier for us to grasp if we remember that the art of self-presentation through rhetoric entailed much more than mastery of words: physical control of one’s voice, carriage, facial expression, and gesture, control of one’s emotions under conditions of competitive stress—in a word, all the arts of deportment necessary in a face-to-face society where one’s adequacy as a man was always under suspicion and one’s performance was constantly being judged.
Maud Gleason in Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome, p. xxii
Writing that cannot end
It is writing that cannot end itself and is continually outside itself like a thing among things. An enormity without proportion, it is the very scratching sound we hear, from somewhere, when we write these things.
From Radical Passivity: Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben by Thomas Carl Wall, p. 28
As if one’s power to read had become defective
We would merely want to note that in the image, in the narrative, in the other person—as it were, “in parenthesis” (or in quotation marks) or, if you prefer, under erasure (because the parentheses are invisible and cannot be admitted into the narrative proper, yet introduce into the story an element that is felt without being acknowledged, like an aphonic voice that says “keep me in mind but do not think about me”)—one enters a maze of rumor and innuendo as if one’s power to read, to see, and to tell had become defective, aorist, metamorphosed, and supererogatory.
From Radical Passivity: Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben by Thomas Carl Wall, p. 12
This is a pretty weird book: which means I’m interested.
I think we have a common cause here, but I also think theory can be an end in itself. There is value in reading even difficult writing for its own sake, and in asking students to read together. Difficult writing not only invites teaching about the context that has made it so difficult (i.e. gender performativity, the jargon of philosophy, and how credibility accrues in academic disciplines), but it also invites readers to experience struggle, failure, and reading without the comfort of identification/relatability. For some students (yes, even undergraduates), such an encounter with theory can be life-altering. I wouldn’t reduce the sounding of that call to enhancing whatever we ultimately mean when we distinguish theory from “practice.”
Yes, I am listening
One knows not where one is going, where each step of each written word will take one, but one writes, one takes the step beyond, in an attitude, one might say, of gratitude, friendship, and ultimate hospitality. That is, writing is basically, originarily even, just a response: a “yes.” A “yes, I am listening.” A double yes, indeed. “Yes, yes.” It is a welcoming gesture, even if nothing is said.
From what I’m reading: Michelle Ballif’s “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography” in RSQ's special issue on Untimely Historiographies, 254.
Union of Theoretical Grammarians in Cambridge. B.S. Meniscus Films, Ltd. Documentary cast; 35 mm.; 26 minutes; color; silent w/ heavy use of computerized distortion in facial close-ups. Documentary and closed-caption interviews with participants in the public Steven Pinker—Avril Incandenza debate on the political implications of prescriptive grammar during the infamous Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts convention credited with helping incite the M.I.T. language riots of B.S. 1997. UNRELEASED DUE TO LITIGATION
Chipotle put a Steven Pinker quote on my lunch bag. Never forget that even Steven Pinker is Infinite Jest.
From “Is History Ever Timely?” by Hans Kellner in RSQ's special issue on “Untimely Historiographies.”
baked into the cake of our postmodern intellectual life
Trigger warnings as metadata. Love this.
I’m gonna go off-brand for a sec and go negative, but, for me, one of the biggest takeaways from that Halberstam trigger-warning thing is that there is a qualitative difference between thinking as a negative response and thinking as a productive act. The piece reads like a flinch.
In the end, what tremblebot has to say in these two sentences is probably all I can finally say about JH’s essay on trigger warnings. And it makes me think about the flinch as a gesture of thinking (or not), and the speed of thinking, of what is called thinking.
The question as a modality of reception
Having upheld, throughout an almost thirty-year course of inquiry, he irreducible privilege of the questioning attitude, having written that questioning (Fragen) was the piety (Frömmigkeit) of thought, Heidegger at least had to complicate this axiom. First by recalling that the piety should from the start have been understood as the docility of listening, thus making the question, before anything else, into a modality of reception, a trusting attention to what gives itself to be understood rather than—or prior to—the enterprising, inquisitorial activity of a request or inquest.
Jacques Derrida, “A Number of Yes,” 127