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Just Being Difficult?: Academic Writing in the Public Arena

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Is academic writing, particularly in the disciplines of literary theory and cultural studies, needlessly obscure? The claim has been widely circulated in the media and subject to passionate debate, but it has not been the subject of serious discussion. Just Being Difficult? provides learned and thoughtful analyses of the claim, of those it targets, and of the entire question of how critical writing relates to its intended publics and to audiences beyond them.

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Overview


Is academic writing, particularly in the disciplines of literary theory and cultural studies, needlessly obscure? The claim has been widely circulated in the media and subject to passionate debate, but it has not been the subject of serious discussion. Just Being Difficult? provides learned and thoughtful analyses of the claim, of those it targets, and of the entire question of how critical writing relates to its intended publics and to audiences beyond them.

In this book, a range of distinguished scholars, including some who have been charged with willful obscurity, argue for the interest and importance of some of the procedures that critics have preferred to charge with obscurity rather than confront in another way. The debate on difficult writing hovers on the edges of all academic writing that seeks to play a role in the public arena. This collection is a much-needed contribution to the discussion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This collection is a remarkable and rational contribution to a passionate contemporary debate. Is academic writing unjustifiably obscure? The claim has been widely made in media ranging from the Wall Street Journal to The New Republic and Philosophy and Literature. Just Being Difficult? offers a thoughtful, generally unpolemical, stimulating, and learned series of analyses of the claim, of those its targets, and of the entire question of how critical writing relates to its intended public and the audiences beyond it." —Richard Terdiman,University of California, Santa Cruz
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804747097
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2003
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Jonathan Culler is Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Kevin Lamb is a graduate student in the English Department at Cornell University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Dressing Up, Dressing Down 1
1 Difficult Style and "Illustrious" Vernaculars: A Historical Perspective 15
2 Hume's Learned and Conversable Worlds 29
3 Bad Writing and Good Philosophy 43
4 The Metaphysics of Clarity and the Freedom of Meaning 58
5 Feminism's Broken English 75
6 The Resistance of Theory; or, The Worth of Agony 95
7 Styles of Intellectual Publics 106
8 On Difficulty, the Avant-Garde, and Critical Moribundity 129
9 Difficulty in Modern Poetry and Aesthetics 139
10 Bad Writing 157
11 The Morality of Form; or, What's "Bad" about "Bad Writing"? 171
12 The Politics of the Production of Knowledge: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 181
13 Values of Difficulty 199
Contributors 217
Index 221
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