Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Efficient use of the full stop

Tonight I read this sentence:

"We will try to determine the law which compels us (by way of example and taking into account a general remodeling of theoretical discourse which has recently been rearticulating the fields of philosophy, science, literature, etc.) to apply the name 'writing' to that which critiques, deconstructs, wrenches apart the traditional, hierarchical opposition between writing and speech, between writing and the (idealist, spiritualist, phonocentrist: first and foremost logocentric) system of all of what is customarily opposed to writing; to apply the name 'work' or 'practice' to that which disorganizes the philosophical opposition praxis/theoria and can no longer by sublated according to the process of Hegelian negativity; to apply the name 'unconscious' to that which can never have been the symmetrical negative or the potential reservoir of 'consciousness'; to apply the name 'matter' to that which lies outside all classical oppositions and which, provided one takes into account certain theoretical achievements and a certain philosophical deconstruction belonging to a not so distant time, should no longer be able to assume any reassuring form: neither that of a referent (at least if conceived as a real thing or cause, anterior and exterior to the system of general textuality), nor that of presence in any of its modes (meaning, essence, existence–whether objective or subjective; form, i.e. appearance, content, substance, etc.; sensible presence or intelligible presence), nor that of a fundamental or totalizing principle, nor even of a last instance: in short, the classical system's 'outside' can no longer take the form of the sort of extra-text which would arrest the concatenation of writing (i.e. that movement which situates every signified as a differential trace) and for which I had proposed the concept of 'transcendental signified'."

Exactly.

23 comments:

TimT said...

I disagree!

alexis said...

Yeah, a lot of people take issue with that point he makes round about the fourth semi-colon.

blue_haired_jennifer said...

HELP HELP I'M DROWNING IN DERRIDA

'Derrida-death' is a viable coroner's term for the deaths of academics who appear to have been deconstructed.

alexis said...

Ach, Jennifer, I like to mispronounce his surname as "Derider", but that's mostly just to disguise the fact that mon Français, c'est ne pas bien. It took almost an hour to read, that sentence, and by the time I got to "provided one takes into account certain theoretical achievements and a certain philosophical deconstruction belonging to a not so distant time" I was almost rending my hair. Why can't he just name the certain theoretical achievements and the certain philosophical deconstruction and, for that matter, pinpoint the "not so distant time"? I mean, I know he's sceptical about the ability of words to refer to things, but surely he could just pretend for a moment. He could even name the certain theoretical achievement in quotation marks, to signal the name's insufficiency. I wouldn't mind that at all.

There was a charitable moment, somewhere in there, when I hoped that his inscrutability was meant to be mimetic of his argument, but I think not - except that he has to fossick around, trying and failing to find words that mean what he wants them to mean and nothing else.

At least - six pages into Disseminations - no one can say that I didn't try.

Miss Eagle said...

Now, let's get down to tin-tax with the f/stop, LH. JD has clearly overused not only words but the semi-colon and underutilised the f/astop. But, I ask you LH, does brief blogging and rapid reporting in newspapers encourage over-use of the aforesaid stop? Or is there some sort of social distinction - academics and mile long sentences over here and bloggers and reporters with short, sharp snappy sentences over there?

Blessings and bliss

TimT said...

Not that this has something to do with anything, but maybe we should start a campaign to have street signs replaced with punctuation signs.

So, the STOP sign would be replaced by a simple period (.). The GO SLOW sign could be replaced by a semi-colon (;). The SPEED HUMP symbol, replaced by a colon (:). Instead of BRIDGE AHEAD, we could have a hyphen (-). The size of the bridge would be indicated by the weight of the hyphen, eg, (--), or (---).

SPEED UP would be a plus sign (+), SLOW DOWN a minus (-). And so on.

It might cause confusion on the roads, but it would do wonders for punctuation!

alexis said...

Dear Miss E,

Let's just be perfectly clear about this - I am not - no, never, never, never, never - celebrating the sinuous entanglements of the Derridaean sentence. Then again, I suppose his punctuation serves his purposes, which (call me cynical, and allowing for translation) seem obfuscatory indeed.

In my recent peregrinations round the English paragraph, I haven't noticed what I'd call an excessive use of the full stop. I don't mind a short sentence. I don't mind a long one. It's all about whether the length or shortth workth with what the sentence is trying to do. I do like a sentence to have a verb in it, though. Call me old fashioned. (Actually, call me absolutely ossified.) On the other hand, there are persons out there who do a very nice sentence fragment, verbless, and garnished with full stop. Maybe they're trying to suggest that the world doesn't always dispose itself in the form of action and experience, that sometimes things just are (in, ahem, the non-verbal sense of "just are").

Um (which is a verb, obviously). Does that help?

Yours,

Lexicon.

alexis said...

Tim, lovely, although it looks like there could be some confusion between slowers down and bridge crossers. I'd like to see the reintroduction of traffic police. There's nothing more heart-warming that the sight of the constabulary wearing white gloves.

emmy said...

Plato walks into a drugstore... Is that the one?

And Lexi, since fourth class "cute" has meant 'ugly but interesting'. So you are half cute?

alexis said...

Hawdy haw haw. By the time I was in fourth class, it had mutated to "small, ugly, but interesting", so I'm only a third of the way there.

wool spaniel said...

Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was once attempting to decipher a similar one-sentence-paragraph. It had been prepared by a lawyer. It was part of an insurance contract. It was in approximately 6 point Courier, carbon copied onto foolscap paper. Need I say more?

After several painstaking iterations, I still wasn't getting it. So I decided to find the verb. And you know what? THERE WASN'T ONE!!!!

It turned out that, months earlier, a couple of lines of the paragraph had accidentally fallen overboard and sunk without trace in the typing pool.

(Ah, the exciting life and times of a junior minion in an insurance office. Such an inspiring source of stories to tell the children at bedtime.)

alexis said...

Woolly, it is an amazing thing, and a testament to your spiritual robustitude, that you have reached this point of your life more or less intact. Such trials! A lesser soldier in the fight for comprehension would have faltered long before. Sometimes I get the distinct impression that I'm not so much reading as just roving my eyes across a piece of paper. Love, lexpo.

TimT said...

What exciting tales the grammatologically inclined have! Boldly risking Derrida-death at every moment! - verbing where no non-gender-specific pronoun has verbed before! - rescuing meek and helpless words that have been near-drowned in the typing pool!

Excelsior, I say!

BTW, 'The English paragraph' - is there such a thing as this? Does it exist as an objective and definable phenomenon, much like 'English tea' or 'Yorkshire Pudding'? I am unduly excited at encountering the English paragraph for the first time! Maybe I should write an essay: "On my first encounter with The English Paragraph..."

alexis said...

I wish you would write that essay. The English paragraph - you know - as popularised by William Hazlitt? It's tweedy, and slightly damp with bulldog slobber. I'm sure you'd know it if you saw it.

Maria said...

timt's idea for the STOP sign (in a lovely period red) has great merit, but it places a dilemma for "no stopping" signs.

TimT said...

Obviously, I have no idea what you mean by 'a lovely period red', but for the problem you pose: NO STOPPING signs could be represented by a simple comma (,). Or possibly an ampersand (&).

ROADWORKS AHEAD: (^).

SPEEDERS MAY BE FINED: ($)

REPEAT OFFENDERS FACE BIGGER FINES: ($$$$)

SPLITS INTO TWO LANES: A/B

Indeed, more eccentric signs would be possible too:

HITCHIKERS WITH STRANGE ACCENTS AHEAD: (~) or (`)

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING WOLF CREEK. BEWARE OF SLASHERS: (/)

torshy said...

Slippery when when wet Ü

Things may be hiding in trees ß

Strangely yet elegantly shaped road ahead §

alexis said...

Derrida'll be quaking in his boots. The relationship between the street sign and the street signified gets less arbitrary by the comment. Keep up the reconstruction, comma-rades.

Karen said...

Isn't it awful when you spend two hours trying to make out three pages? My policy is that I very much would like a principal verb, but I am able to accept its absence in certain special cases. However, in exchange, I expect that the sentence would have said something profound and earth-shattering by the time I've got to the end of it. One of my pet hates is English sentences written like a bad translation from the French in order to conceal the fact that the writer has absolutely nothing (or nothing much) to say. There's a certain anxiety in writing like that sometimes, I think. My favourite long English sentences are Virginia Woolf's.

Sorry to break from all the levity, but I've got a bit of a headache from wine tasting yesterday and headaches put me in a serious mood. Yes, from wine tasting! I must learn how to drink properly.

wool spaniel said...

I love it when someone tells the ten-year-old spaniel pup a joke, and five minutes later he gets it and laughs and laughs and laughs until tears stream down his face.

Well, it just happened to me... I just (finally!!) got the period red thing for the full stop sign.

So now I am laughing!!! You've made my day!

alexis said...

That's just how he laughs! You can see on his face how he's thinking, and you can see exactly the moment he gets it. It's gorgeous.

Karen, sorry about yr head. Wine can be nasty stuff.

Maria said...

Obviously, I have no idea what you mean by 'a lovely period red'

Sorry for my obscurity of phrasing, TimT, it's that time of the month.

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