Tuesday, October 21, 2003


There are several splendid links on Butterflies and Wheels concerning the state of academic writing. One of these articles "Language Crimes" written by Arts and Letters Daily editor Denis Dutton would be absolutely hysterical if it weren't true. Dutton sponsors an annual "Bad Writing Contest" where he gives us the rules:

"The rules were simple: Entries should be a sentence or two from an actual published scholarly book or journal article. No translations into English allowed, and the entries had to be non-ironic: We could hardly admit parodies in a field where unintentional self-parody was so rampant."

Reading through some of the results are as Dutton says, "like swimming through cold porridge."

Here are a couple of my favorites:

“It is the moment of non-construction, disclosing the absentation of actuality from the concept in part through its invitation to emphasize, in reading, the helplessness — rather than the will to power — of its fall into conceptuality.”

- A Defense of Poetry

"This book was instigated by the Harvard Core Curriculum Report in 1978 and was intended to respond to what I took to be an ominous educational reform initiative that, without naming it, would delegitimate the decisive, if spontaneous, disclosure of the complicity of liberal American institutions of higher learning with the state’s brutal conduct of the war in Vietnam and the consequent call for opening the university to meet the demands by hitherto marginalized constituencies of American society for enfranchisement.”

- The End of Education: Toward Posthumanism.

English professors wrote both of these headache-inducing nightmares, who believe it or not, are ostensibly in charge of teaching students to write clearly.

God help us all.


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