Who Still Speaks This Language?

[The back page (subscriber-only) of the August 19, 2015, TLS ends with a piece of snark whose humor is cheap and obvious but which I can’t resist anyway:]

Incomprehensibility lives! Barbara Vinken writes in German, but Aarnoud Rommens and Susan L. Solomon have translated her book Flaubert Postsecular: Modernity crossed out into English. So they claim. They must know of a remote tribe hiding in an inaccessible university that still speaks this language:

The work of the text is to literalize the signifiers of the first encounter, dismantling the ideal as an idol. In this literalization, the idolatrous deception of the first moment becomes readable. The ideal will reveal itself to be an idol. Step by step, the ideal is pursued by a devouring doppelganger, tearing apart all transcendence. This de-idealization follows the path of reification, or, to invoke Augustine, the path of carnalization of the spiritual. Rhetorically, this is effected through literalization. A Sentimental Education does little more than elaborate the progressive literalization of the Annunciation.

Little more? Oh dear, it tells a story. Help us locate the last remaining speakers of this lesser used language. Flaubert Postsecular is published by Stanford University Press.

Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of Douglas Hofstadter, but one of his columns, on the subject of nonsense, sticks in my mind. He quotes from a 1975 issue of a periodical called Art-Language:

    Dionysus gets a job. (Re: language has got a hold on U. S.) (It’s a Whorfian conspiracy!)

    This is hopeless manque ontological alienation which is still dealing with ideas about ‘discovery’ as a function of a metaphysics of categories. Only for researchers is the failure of a modal logic industry to ‘catch-my-experience’—the birth of tragedy.

    Going-on in A-L indexed (somehow) is a thing-in-and-for-(dynamically) itself. That we never catch up with the NaturKulturLogik has little to do with the ‘actualizing’ sets of the frozen dialogue … and it’s not just a ledger; our problems with set-theoretical axiomata are embedded into our praxis as more than just historical antecedents … more than nomological permissibility … more than selective filtration. We still don’t recognize ourselves as very fundamental history producers.

    The possibility of a defence of a set, as with ‘a decision’, is an index-margin of a prima facie ersatz principle for action (!). (There is no workable distinction between oratio recta and oratio obliqua.) All we are left with is a deontic Drang. Think of that as a chain strength possibility of what, eventually, comes out as a product (epistemic conditions?) and the product is not a Frankfurt-ish packing-it-all-in ….

    A slogan (?) might be thought of as a free-form comprised of multiple structural features occurring in a (partially) given, or negotiable, unit relative to others. That is, the slogan is a unit in one sense or another. In. going-on (ideologically, perhaps), a slogan is a unitary filler-for-and-of that stretch of surf < surf which is in a BxS position … But there is the critical issue of that ‘filler’ as a reified function of the pusillanimous tittle-tattle of authenticity in its ellipticality (as a Das Volk holism) … (e.g.) ‘the Fox’ material, passim, falls into that trap in dealing with its cultural space as a wantonly dialectical ‘region’ approaching the solution to ‘the negation of essence’ (of homo sapiens, art or what?).

  2. Looking at the Stanford U.P. web page for the book (“a model of scholarly research with far-reaching political implications”) I see that “imaginary” is used as a substantive (Flaubert’s imaginary), always a warning sign of a particular kind of jargon. If I’m not mistaken, the use of “imaginary” as a countable noun (different imaginaries, the social imaginary, the media imaginary etc.) comes from Lacan and l’imaginaire of French “theory”. Interestingly, in my French-English dictionary the term “fuite dans l’imaginaire” is translated “flight from reality”.

  3. Do people say “manque ontological alienation” not “ontological alienation manqué?
    Is it English? Do they say “mank”?
    This makes me feel very stupid, but not very sorry that I am stupid.

  4. With regard to “manque ontological alienation” as opposed to “ontological alienation manqué”, could this be an example of progressive anglicisation of French theory? I’m pretty sure that twenty-five years ago the subtitle of this book would have been “Modernity sous rature” rather than “Modernity crossed out”, for example.

  5. Example from Flaubert Postsecular actually made sense. It is a peculiar way of expressing ideas, but the thought is there and we can decipher it.

    Hofstadter’s example is a product of mental illness, I am afraid.

  6. Well, look at all those ellipses: Hofstadter only selected the most striking phrases to quote. The entire passage might contain a recognizable idea, however eventually expressed.

  7. Flaubert Postsecular is written in a rare dialect believed to have originated in the Limoges region in the early 16th century. Example:

    “We transfretate the Sequan at the dilucul and crepuscul; we deambulate by the compites and quadrives of the urb; we despumate the Latial verbocination; and, like verisimilary amorabons, we captat the benevolence of the omnijugal, omniform and omnigenal feminine sex. Upon certain diecules we invisat the lupanares, and in a venerian ecstasy inculcate our veretres into the penitissime recesses of the pudends of these amicabilissim meretricules. Then do we cauponisate in the meritory taberns of the Pineapple, the Castle, the Magdalene, and the Mule, goodly vervecine spatules perforaminated with petrocile.”

    Speakers are now confined to the humanities departments of Western universities. Its survival is only guaranteed by generous research grants and the need to bump up word counts and keep impressionable undergraduates in thrall.

  8. This is hopeless manque ontological alienation which is still dealing with ideas about ‘discovery’ as a function of a metaphysics of categories. Only for researchers is the failure of a modal logic industry to ‘catch-my-experience’—the birth of tragedy.

    Это безнадежное несостоявшееся онтологическое отчуждение, которое все еще обращается с идеями об ‘открытии’ как с функцией метафизики категорий. Только для исследователей это провал области модальной логики в “подхвате-моего-опыта’-рождение трагедии.

    No, it’s still doesn’t make any sense.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    aib: f I’m not mistaken, the use of “imaginary” as a countable noun (different imaginaries, the social imaginary, the media imaginary etc.) comes from Lacan and l’imaginaire of French “theory”

    I am not familiar with the use of “imaginary” as a noun in English, and indeed it may come from Lacan (who has never been on my reading list), but the French noun “l’imaginaire” is older than the “theory”. I have encountered it many times in the context of discussions of literature.

  10. marie-lucie, yes, “l’imaginaire” is older, but as far as I know, the noun “imaginary” in English, as used in contexts such as the translation of the Vinken book, comes specifically from French poststructuralist theory. I think Henry Corbin also talks about “imaginaries”, but in a metaphysical sense.

  11. Translation theorist Lawrence Venuti, who gets mentioned here from time to time, had a case study on the Englishing of Corbin’s l’imaginaire.

  12. axiomata are embedded in our praxis

    The Carry-On Gang live!

  13. No, there is no ‘typo’ in my comment.

  14. “You got your axiomata on our praxis!”
    “You got your praxis on our axiomata!”

  15. Trond Engen says:

    Get your praxis off my axiomata, you rascals!

  16. Not to mention phalanx on our funny bone.

    And no, there is no ‘typo’ there either.

    Let the groans begin!

  17. Carry on carrying-on!

    In other words, keep it up!

  18. “Its survival is only guaranteed by generous research grants and the need to bump up word counts and keep impressionable undergraduates in thrall.”

    Some impressionable undergraduates. Other impressionable undergraduates recoil in horror and wonder if there’s still time to drop the course.

  19. Grants, counts, undergrads… You, guys are still thinking in modal logic. Didn’t you get that it is manque? Everything has to be ‘catch-my-experience’.

  20. It is “manqué”, not “manque”. I copied the text from the OCRed version on archive.org, which had omitted the accent, and I failed to correct it. Sorry if it created any misunderstanding.

  21. I thought it was just a frenchified spelling of manky.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Manky is related, says Wikipedia.

  23. Trond Engen says:

    The chimpanzee is a hominine manqué.

  24. Surely a monkey manqué.

  25. Trond Engen says:

    Well, I’m taking the pan-hominine viewpoint.

  26. Or a macaque

  27. Wuddaya know.

  28. Jim (another one) says:

    ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves….

  29. “Its survival is only guaranteed by generous research grants and the need to bump up word counts and keep impressionable undergraduates in thrall.”

    No, no. It is mainly used to prevent computer algorithms from detecting plagiarism. The only alternative is to generate as many new acronyms as possible (ToGAMaNAAP).

  30. Darwinian man, though well-behaved / At best is only a monkey shaved.

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