[Fwd: Re: Butler on Spivak (was SZ)]

Katha Pollitt kpollitt at thenation.com
Sun Nov 21 15:47:53 PST 1999

Carrol Cox wrote:
> Dennis R Redmond wrote:
> > On Sat, 20 Nov 1999, Katha Pollitt wrote:
> >
> > > writing. Butler's just a bad writer --verbose, turgid, jargonistic.[SNIP]
> >
> > So she's a little wordy. Doesn't mean she doesn't have smart things to say
> > or that her ideas are invalid, though. [SNIP]
> Mostly on the say-so of posters to this or other maillists I spent a good
> deal of time on Judith Butler. (*Bodies That Matter*, an NLR article,
> her sections of *Feminist Contentions*) And I have never considered
> the charge of "bad writing" to be a legitimate challenge to any writer's
> content. (I see the claim that form and content are inseparable as
> a major 20th c. superstition. Content is inseparable from *some* form,
> but there may be many forms, including badly written ones, that express
> the same content. To put it another way, unless paraphrase is possible,
> society is impossible.)
> Carrol

Carroll, it is Butler herself who resists the notion that her ideas can be paraphrased--not her critics. That is her justification for the way she writes: any other way would not convey her meaning. My question to her would be: so how can anyone, including JB herself,teach or discuss her work? discussion involves paraphrase, unpacking meaning requires using different words than the original ones.

If she would say, heck I know I'm a bad writer, but I still have something to say she would be a much more sympathetic figure! But she is wedded to her style because that is what gives her work its cache-- it becomes the exclusive possession of a small group of initiates.


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