September 8, 2006


I'm reading a book by intellectual historian Martin Jay, Songs of Experience, and am very impressed by the breadth of his knowledge and the graceful way he synthesizes an enormous amount of material into a coherent and compelling narrative. So I started browsing around the internet for some other things he might have written.

I stumbled across this review he wrote awhile back for the London Review of Books. The review is of David Simpson's 2002 book Situatedness: Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We're Coming From. Simpson's subject is the intellectual trend of insisting on "speaking azza"—speaking as a white Midwestern male, or as a black lesbian poet (I was reading Audre Lorde today—great stuff). This is a subject I'm really interested in and, honestly, one of the most perplexing problems in liberal intellectual circles today. I believe there are many who, like me, find something not quite right in focusing quite so much on situatedness and who worry that in all this speaking azza, we might be talking right past one another. Yet there is a certain necessary logic—as much moral as epistemological—to always prefacing one's remarks with an invocation to the muse of situatedness. I suppose one could think of it as humility, but then one could also see it as a perfunctory procedure to forestall too much criticism or debate. I tend to think it's the latter.

Anyway, it's a good review, and gives a little etude in the history of the problem, which I think is both helpful and interesting.

And here's another review of a book I'm meaning to read. If you're into Zizek, you'll probably find this very interesting. If not, well, you'll probably be better off reading something else.

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