Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Pseudsday Tuesday

In the bad old days, women who struggled to gain equal rights with men said things like:

I love my man as my fellow; but his sceptre, real, or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man.


How very old fashioned. Mary Wollstonecraft didn’t know about the liberation of Islam, with its “portable seclusion” and “culturally variable meanings of personhood.” Worse than that, she uses words we can all understand. She could never have written Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics: the Archival Text, Digital Narrative and the Limits of Memory.


I have posted before on the subject of nontrivial neotextuality as postmodern meta-mytheme. So I was delighted to come across this  mnemotechnics malarkey. It is the subject of a doctoral dissertation by “radical cyber-feminist” Carolyn G. Guertin, discussed in another excellent article by David Thompson, Peddling Stupidity. Ms – for surely it is Ms – Guertin believes that "as technology becomes more pervasive in every aspect of our lives, everything is becoming digital and our feminisms grow still larger". I imagine her tumescent feminisms could knock Lacan’s penis into a cocked hat. And I can feel my fingers becoming digital as I type this.

Here are some choice extracts from Thompson’s very funny and perceptive article:

On visiting Guertin’s website, I discovered that the author is a Senior McLuhan Fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. As a “scholar of women’s art and literature and new media arts,” Dr Guertin also shapes young minds at the Universities of Athabasca and Guelph, Canada, and is a frequent guest speaker at conferences and events across Europe. Her works, I learned, have been published “in print, online and in real space.”

Space crops up quite a bit in Guertin’s dissertation, as do various mathematical, quantum mechanical and geometric terms, the bulk of which are misused in a series of strained and incoherent metaphors. In keeping with many purveyors of postmodern theorising, Guertin has been careful to appropriate fragments of scientific terminology that sound fashionable and exciting, and uses them with no apparent regard for their meaning or relevance.

We’re presented with what amounts to a collage of grandiose jargon, habitual non sequitur and unrelated subject matter – including feminism, web browsing and space-time curvature - bolted together by little more than chutzpah:

“Within quantum mechanics, the science of the body in motion, the intricacies of the interiorities of mnemonic time - no longer an arrow - are being realized in the (traditionally) feminized shape of the body of the matrix.”


“Where women have usually been objects to be looked at, hypermedia systems replace the gaze with the empowered look of the embodied browser in motion in archival space. Always in flux, the shape of time's transformation is a Möbius strip unfolding time into the dynamic space of the postmodern text, into the ‘unfold.’”

Instead of making any attempt to focus her thoughts, such as they are, or to clarify her aims, whatever they may be, Guertin veers from vacuous pseudo-argument to vacuous pseudo-poetry, and resorts to listing a series of words – again, in no perceptible order:

“Agency, noise, flow, différance , interface, objects, events, duration, intervallic space, topology, complexity, ecstasy, incorporation, inscription, translation, heterotopic space, hierophanies, hysteria, hybridity…”

This goes on for some time:

“…chora, translation, transformance, interference, entanglement, chaos, Hilbert space, speed, resonance, rupture, rapture, wanderlust, subjectivities...”

And so on.

It’s important to understand that nonsense of this kind is rarely arrived at by accident. It’s highly unlikely that mere clumsiness and mental dullness would produce such determined vacuity. It’s less probable still that so many academics and students would, by chance and dullness alone, produce vacuity with such eerie uniformity. To produce ‘work’ of the generic emptiness shown above - or seen here, or here, or here or here - requires practice and dedication, and no small dishonesty. One might forgive genuine stupidity and a lack of mental wherewithal, but when people who aren’t entirely stupid are determined to peddle stupidity as the height of intellectual sophistication, well, that’s harder to excuse. In a saner world, Guertin and her peers would be laughed out of every room they entered. And a gentle pelting with soft fruit wouldn’t go amiss.

I suggest Yoko Ono’s apple. Determined vacuity is just right.

Posted on 04/10/2007 12:41 PM by Mary Jackson
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