Dear A Post-Contemporist,
I first read the Post-Contemporary essay sometime in mid-January when I became aware of it via Parmandur.
I don't mean to come off as harsh, but I also feel like jumping right in to my impressions of the essay. I want very much to sympathize with your arguments, and can grasp their appeal, but when reading the essay I also am irked by several moments that I feel obscure the heart of your argument. To begin with, I find your caricaturization of the ideologue to be facile. "But look, I started with the same text you did!" You must be thinking of something to generate a caricaturization like this. What Beowulf critic uses Beowulf to create "a sordid mockery of the original text"? When you add in the "scientifically proven!" jab later on, I also wonder what critic appeals to science in their arguments. The only critic I've seen that does that is Marx, and Marx has become unread in this hemisphere in the past four decades.
Also, who has taken criticism as anything other than an interpretation? Who regards the criticism as the canon and not the text? The only critics you remark on through the essay are Aristotle and Barthes. I'm not even sure I should include Aristotle, since he's neither an ideologue nor is he even a literary critic, he's more of a proto-critic.
But in particular, I find question with sentiments like this, "We usually do not have the builder of the tower to speak to; we cannot know his or her intentions nor his or her desires." What? Why not? After all, can I not ask you, as a living author, about the content of this essay—albeit this essay isn't literature, but I have for other works. If the purpose of the tower is to look at the ocean, then we certainly do know the intention of the author.
Excuse me if I drift into shorthand here. Later you say, "Universal truth n'existe pas." Is it universally true that universal truth does not exist? Also, why is this in french?
Later still, "Aristotle wrote -- but he attempted to create reason for it! Reason, founded as it is upon belief, cannot explain that which lies beneath reason. Anthropologists have found that facial expressions are pancultural -- can not pathos, sympathy, and in fact, elements of the text also be so?" Why do you appeal to scientificity in an anti-scientific essay? Why do you presume that pancultural traits cannot be rational? Why do you presume that unconscious traits cannot be rational?
I think that I can sympathize with many of your sentiments. The above direct questions in response to specific quotations are not meant to imply that I am unsympathetic to your arguments. The pathos, ahem, of your piece is exemplary. We do, after all, want to love texts. Yet.
Yet you seem to put the reader on a pedastal. In reading your arguments, I feel like the "text" is a body upon which to be inscribed. The "author" is inaccessible—why I do not know—and in his/her inaccessibility becomes irrelevant. You emphasize the "human" value but you then imply that the author is totally irrelevant. What is human about putting the text above the author? What you seem to mean is putting the human reader above the human author. But then, that will happen anyway, since most readers will accept their own reading as the correct one unless the author specifically states otherwise.
Your arguments speak out against the ideologue and ideological criticism as though both these too were inaccessible. Yet your argument itself drifts in the direction of imperialism. The reader becomes the colonizer. The author, "the other," inaccessible and therefore irrelevant, and his/her text is the colonized, to be exploited regardless of any will either sought to expressed.
Your arguments take on fascist characteristics when they say: when you see propaganda, give in to it. I too am overwhelmed by the beautiful, the sublime; it is, after all, the sublime. Yet, I refuse to evacuate critical responses to preserve any and all traces of beauty. I refuse to be enter into the relationship of slave and master with a text.
You seem to be arguing for transideological criticism when this perhaps the most ideological thing I have ever read.
Perhaps as the reader I have misread your text? Do you as the author, transcendant of your writing, become irrelevant to any further discussion of any misreadings? Or can you—or rather, are you obligated—to defend your arguments? Anyway, thanks for the essay, hope to see another soon,
Le Creature De Flames