Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chapter Five (part 4)

Literary theory is pretty ephemeral on the surface, but it's got me thinking about words and how they're used. For example, I'm obsessed with politics, I try to watch the political conventions and I follow the news most nights on TV. Politics is nothing but confusing rhetoric, lies and inflated claims, yet we find ways to sort it all out and make choices, commitments, even fight revolutions. That's all very grand. On a more practical, mundane level, understanding that words don't necessarily mean what they seem to mean cuts down the pompous and arrogant people I have to deal with to a more manageable size.

"Would you like a cup of reality with your puffery?"

As bad as the academics are, it's our future, whether I like it or not, though news from the job market outside Mother Yale is none too encouraging. The need for new doctors of philosophy isn't quite as pressing as new doctors for the projects of the inner cities. I have to keep P.'s spirits up while at the same time juggling my own hopes of resuming life after he's finished. He gets down when the news is bad; it's my job as the faculty-wife-to-be to give him support.

"We gotta stick together, Cassie," he tells me. "I'd be lost without you."

When he's done here, I can go back and finish my own degree and become something besides a secretary.
(later that evening)
I looked back over the last few pages, and they're so fucking dry! I can write down our conversations, but that doesn't mean I've captured the same excitement and energy as when we talked! My God, what a stimulant good conversation can be! It's intellectual heroin mainlined right into the arteries— not to mention occasionally an aphrodisiac. I just don't know how I can record the flash and sparks of our three-way conversations, even if I remember like they happened yesterday.

"A lot of people—me included— think Deconstruction is simply taking something apart." I'd seen P. out of the corner of my eye strolling into the kitchen where S. and I were joking about Ellen, so I quickly shifted to a topic more "dignified." P. leaned against the doorjamb between the kitchen and the living room, and I quietly shut off the Selectric, moving into the living room and lighting a half-dozen candles I'd put there over the past few weeks to make our "homework" sessions less work and more homey. Like the other times, I sat on the carpet leaning against the couch with S. perpendicular to me, again with his head in my lap while P. led the discussion from a chair opposite us like the good professor he'll be someday.

"Deconstruction undercuts our assumption that words are connected to an actual thing in the real world. 'There's nothing outside the text' is Derrida's famous dictum."

"Deconstruction's just one step away from nihilism," S. looked dejected at his own point, "an immoral and dangerous way of looking at the world view."

P. looked annoyed, and brushed this reservation off with a sweep of his big hands.

"Words are the most powerful weapon in the world. Historians like you should be paying more attention. I'm just a literary critic, but I can see that crying about the problem won't make it otherwise."

to be continued