Speaking of Gobbledygook

I have this habit of browsing through the “New Arrivals” shelves on my way out of the university library. I go straight to the PNs (film) and the PSs (American Lit) and grab whatever titles catch my eye. It’s a bad habit, actually, because these are the books that inevitably get filed away on some bookshelf at home, never to be opened.

Today, after tracking down the last of those elusive Philip Roth essays, I gave into my craving and checked out Just Being Difficult? Academic Writing in the Public Arena, a new collection of essays edited by Jonathan Culler and Kevin Lamb. According to the jacket copy:

The essays are less about proving the innocence of those accused of bad writing than about critically interrogating the terms and assumptions of the allegations. The contributors attempt to inform and deepen the debate by asking what values, history, politics, and stylistics are implicated, on both sides, in the controversy.

The book seems to have been inspired, in part, by the journal Philosophy and Literature‘s year-end awards for “bad” academic writing and by the debate (and hard feelings) they have provoked. I found one brief review that summarizes the collection’s argument as such: “by calling attention to their own unconventional writing style, theorists emphasize theory‚Äôs calling to investigate language.” I certainly hope that they offer a more convincing justification than that. Should be a fun read.