…at least according to this apparently famous 1993 essay by Chip Morningstar, linked from Ace. He pretty much covers the steps of writing like Judith Butler in order to inflate your ideas, such as they are. It’s all great fun and the disciples of Derrida deserve every bit of trivialization.
However, he says there’s a tiny tiny point.
The quality of the actual analysis of various literary works varies tremendously and must be judged on a case-by-case basis, but I find most of it highly questionable. Buried in the muck, however, are a set of important and interesting ideas: that in reading a work it is illuminating to consider the contrast between what is said and what is not said, between what is explicit and what is assumed, and that popular notions of truth and value depend to a disturbingly high degree on the reader’s credulity and willingness to accept the text’s own claims as to its validity.
Which would be fine if they could end the pretense that they’re doing something new, instead of something that’s been going on since the Greek Sophists (in fairness, Stanley Fish explicitly calls himself a modern sophist). Everything in Gorgias is a question of the validity of language, and the relationship of speech to reality. We get it: language is imprecise and carries assumptions.
One supposes that this is cyclical in nature: at a certain level, you have to start tearing language apart in order to say something that hasn’t been repeated a thousand million times. Of course, when you can have a web site randomly create a po-mo essay, it’s harder to claim that such musing are the result of towering intellects struggling with truth. But then again, since the author is “dead”, these randomly generated essays can have whatever meaning the interpreters assign to them. Jeff Goldstein, call your office.