Re: foucault-digest V2 #192

I had been avoiding this discussion of the clarity of writing, but I think a
few points need to be made before rather extreme misunderstandings are passed

Nussbaum is hardly a conservative of any sort, and has nothing to do with the
National Association of Scholars. She is a philosopher, with a specialty in
ancient Greek philosophy. Her work is quite serious and worthwhile, and she
has a reputation as a good, progressive scholar. Criticizing someone's prose
style hardly makes you into a reactionary, at least in the non-academic
circles most of the world lives in.

I happen to like most of Judith Butler's work, but I find it extremely hard to
share any of the passion we have seen on this list concerning her reception of
the award. At the very least, the excerpt in question was a run-on sentence of
considerable length, and requires two or three readings just to decipher what
is being said -- for those familiar with Gramsci and Foucault, as well as
those who are not. The issue is really whether or not Nussbaum got the phrase
right; the issue is rather could it have been expressed with a great deal more
clarity and precision. I don't think there is any question that this is the

Some texts take a long time to decipher and read because they use a
specialized vocabulary which is unavoidable in discussing a certain set of
ideas; far more texts take a long time because of intellectual laziness (the
're-write' seems to have given to stream of conscious 'theory') and poor
prose. Impenetrable texts are not a badge of honor, nor a sign of intellectual

Leo Casey

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