Dasein, Red Elephant.

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Literary Theory category.

Oscar Wilde and Greek Love

I am uneasingly alarmed by the ratio of straight to gay men in the creative industry. As a young bisexual female fed on disgustingly Asian values seeped with messages of  filial piety and self-less procreation,bringing home the dude who’s gonna make Ma proud seems somewhat like a task.
Oscar Wilde, the great Victorian poet and playwright, notoriously known for his appetite for young renters and his highly volatile relationship with Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, wrote in De Profundis ‘ I am a born Antimonian. I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not for laws.’  According to ‘The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde’ by Neil McKenna, the Antimonians were ‘ a sixteenth century sect of dissenters who believed they were God’s chosen people, the elect, predestined for salvation, and consequently they were not bound by conventional moral laws’.
The term ‘Greek Love’ was also coined by Wilde with reference to male-to-male romantic(and sexual) bonding practiced in Ancient Greece. Legend has it that Ganymede, a beautiful Trojan prince was abducted and anally-raped by the god Zeus and then kept as his catamite.
Indeed, it is hardly surprising  that a man with seemingly divine brilliance like Wilde  should also covet ‘divine’ pleasures.
Pederastic bigot in some delusional bubble of grandeur?
Does it mean that, according to Wilde’s gospel of ‘The Love that dare not speak its name’, the majority of heterosexuals(Unchosens) are damned to  sordid, mundane existences since their tastes and habits are less than ‘evolved’?
Is that why I’ve never met a guy who wants to jump my skinnies and knows his art history at the same time?
I guess i’ll stick to Andre Raffalovich’s theory- that a hetereosexual’s destiny is to make babies whereas a homosexual should channel his sexual angst and abnormalities to nobler pursuits like Art!!!
As always,  i’ll  go like ‘bummerz..’ whenever i’m stalking out some cute gay artist/musician/model’s facebook profile…..


Derrida’s Paradigm


Remarks on Deconstruction and Pragmatism

Jacques Derrida

First, I would like to say, even if this shocks certain amongst you and even if I myself took my head in my hands when Richard Rorty said that I was sentimental and that I believed in happiness, I think that he's right. This is something very complicated that I would like to come back to later, but I am very grateful to Richard Rorty for having dared to say something very close to my heart and which is essential to what I am trying to do. Even if it appears very provocative to say it and even if I began by protesting, I think that I was wrong. I am very sentimental and I believe in happiness; and I believe that this has an altogether determinant place in my work. There are so many rich and complex matters to which to respond and I cannot, in improvising, respond to all that has been said. I have the choice between several possibilities and I am going to choose the following: I am going to offer some introductory general remarks after which I will try to respond to some of the questions posed by Simon Critchley, Ernesto Laclau and Richard Rorty.

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Rorty on Deconstruction-Pragmatism


Remarks on Deconstruction and Pragmatism

Richard Rorty

Derrida is read, by conservative know-nothings in the United States and Britain, as a frivolous and cynical despiser of common sense and traditional democratic values. Many of my colleagues in the Anglophone philosophical community support this reading, and attempt to excommunicate Derrida from the philosophical profession.

Derrida is read by his fans in American departments of literature, on the other hand, as the philosopher who has transformed our notions of language and the self. They think of him as having demonstrated the truth of certain important propositions, propositions the recognition of which undermines our traditional ways of understanding ourselves, and understanding the books we read. They also take him to have given us a method-the deconstructive method-of reading texts: a method which helps us see what these texts are really about, what is really going on in them.

I find both these ways of reading Derrida equally dubious, and I shall discuss them in turn.

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Deconstruction vs. Pragmatism


I've been reading Deconstruction and Pragmatism, a collection of essays by Chantal Mouffe, Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida Ernest Laclau and Simon Critchley. This is an excellent book for several reasons, primarily because it examines the relationship that deconstructivist and pragmatist theories have on the foundations of rationalist democracy, a topic that I'm fascinated with. In many aspects, both Derrida and Rorty's work undermine the dominant rationalist approach that underlies most academic and political infrastructures.

Mouffe writes:

Derrida and Rorty are at one in refusing Habermas's claim that there exists a necessary link between universalism, rationalism and modern democracy and that constitutional democracy represents a moment in the unfolding of reason, linked to the emergence of universalist forms of law and morality. They both deny the availability of an Archimedean point-such as Reason-that could guarantee the possibility of a mode of argumentation that would have transcended its particular conditions of enunciation.

Nevertheless, their critique of rationalism and universalism does not prevent them being strongly committed to the defence of the political side of the Enlightenment, the democratic project. Their disagreement with Habermas is not political but theoretical. They share his engagement with democratic politics but they consider that democracy does not need philosophical foundations and that it is not through rational grounding that its institutions could be made secure.

The book suggests, through the critical contributions of each author in a roundtable symposium, that it is possible to theoretically develop and outline a non-foundationalist concept about the issue of democracy.

Rorty and Derrida have both very interesting and genial essays, both of which I haven't seen before on the internet. I'll put them up in the next few posts. 🙂

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Las Vegas, America. Intellectuals.


Just had to post this when I saw it. Francis Fukuyama meets with Bernard Henry-Levi and complains about Henry-Levi's impression of Las Vegas in Levi's recent book American Vertigo. This is a fun discussion to read.. other topics of discussion include views on American vices, neoconservatives, religion and the role of public intellectuals in future.

Fukuyama explains the birth and true meaning of Las Vegas:

The best piece explaining the ethos of Las Vegas (and the American West more generally,) is a short essay by Joan Didion entitled "7000 Romaine, Los Angeles." In it, she explains that Howard Hughes founded modern Las Vegas in 1967 because he, a reclusive insomniac, couldn't find a place to buy a cheeseburger in L.A. at three o'clock in the morning—so he created a whole city to cater to that need. It had nothing to do with sin or sex, but rather the perpetual American desire to reinvent oneself in a place where conventional expectations don't apply.


In case anyone is interested, Joan Didion's essay comes from her book Slouching in Bethlehem. Although I haven't read the book, Im pretty sure the title of the book came from a Joni Mitchell song title and has something to do with this Yeats poem.

Elephant Links: Malamud, Rorty and Po-mo

Superflat Monogram (detail), Takashi Murakami (2003)

Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, Malamud, who died in 1986, was part of a triumvirate of American Jewish writers who dominated the national literature in the 50's and 60's. Malamud won the Pulitzer Prize and two National Book Awards. In works like "The Assistant", "The Magic Barrel" and "The Fixer" he borrowed from myth and folklore and transformed the stories of ordinary Jewish lives into moral fables.

(tags: reviews)

An interesting post over at Posthegemony talks about Douglas Oliver's Diagram Poems. In a radio interview from 1999, Douglas Oliver commented on the separation between mainstream and experimental poetry: “If you write poetry from a different point of view, you run the risk of falling in the gutter."

(tags: blogs)

An January 2006 article by Rorty that was published in vol.3 of Kritikos, an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image. This short piece from Rorty is written in his usual, accesible style and is definetly worth a quick read.

(tags: theory)

A nice little page that clearly delineates the distinctions and differences between modernity and post modernism. This site is primarily dedicated towards socio-cultural dimension of postmodernism, through the theories of Baudrillard, Jameson, Benjamin and Lyotard.

(tags: theory)

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Music Criticism as Literary Art


redelephant: I have been thinking a lot about music criticism lately. How does one begin to criticize something as intangible as a piece of music? One could do it chronologically and technically, from the beginning to end. Plough through that symphony or pop album, inserting comments on the use of a specific instrument or musical technique. Whether it is counter-point or cacophony, the overall tone of the music review (more so than the literary review) is overwhelmingly subjective or personal. The reviewer has a built up vocabulary of musical knowledge, accumulated through a discriminating appreciation of sounds. Like Seamus Heaney’s ubiquitous Irish bog, these sonic layers gradually come to form a mush of musical history, one that automatically and unconsciously defines a music piece as excellent or flawed.

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The Three Ages of Derrida

Interview with Jacques Derrida

What's the most widely held misconception about you and your work?

That I'm a skeptical nihilist who doesn't believe in anything, who thinks nothing has meaning, and text has no meaning. That's stupid and utterly wrong, and only people who haven't read me say this. It's a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it's difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we're enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the deconstruction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language. Anyone who reads my work with attention understands that I insist on affirmation and faith, and that I'm full of respect for the texts I read.

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New Criticism: A Primer


New Criticism is a type of formalist literary criticism that reached its height during the 1940-50s, receiving its name from John Crowe Ransom’s 1941 book The New Criticism. New Critics treat a work of literature as if it were a self-contained, self-referential object and do not believe in interpreting texts based on the author’s stated or imagined intentions, reader responses/feelings or historical/biographical context. Widely influential, New Criticism’s reading of texts became standard in American college and even high school curricula through the 1960s and well into the 1970s..

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Derrida Speaks


Ah Derrida, bel espirit and alchemist of obscurity. Can we ever understand you?

Several years ago, I first came across Jacques Derrida's iconoclastic theories through Of Grammatology, a scathing critique of descriptivist theories of language which contests the widely held view that written word's main purpose was to serve as an representation of verbalized speech. The main problem of this view was that speech was then seen to be closer to the logos (Greek word for cosmic law/rationality) of truth or meaning. This led to logocentrism, which stresses that speech and not writing was more central to the understanding and formation of language..

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