TSM Episode 63: Another Boring Lecture

Lusipurr speaks. People listen.
Classtime with Lusipurr!

Produced 2012.09.02

In an effort to demonstrate his lecturing capability, Lusipurr tells Blitzmage and SiliconNooB a story. Then, after they awaken, Final Fantasy XIII news dominates the panel’s time. Buoyed by this, the participants finally avoid a series of lengthy rants.


  1. Lusipurr, I am always interested in hearing a lecture, especially those of a purely academic bent, not just video games all the time – though I do appreciate the social-historical context that games and the industry are often put in, unique to Lusipurr.com! But I have some serious problems with the Roland Barthes stuff…

    This summer, I took a Literary Theory class, with excerpts from Foucault, Derrida, Saussure, Barthes, and others. While I do see the merit in some of Foucault, especially on how the discourse of a particular time cordons off what is considered appropriate to talk about, the post-structuralist/semiotics contigent left a horrible taste in the brain. They read as being self-satisfied in their correctness, which takes one particular view of literature and then tries to apply it to everything, up into social criticism. I think that their “signifiers” have little meaning, although I could be wrong because they use so much of their terminology that it’s difficult for one, as you pointed out, to understand their writing without being well-versed in it.

    Psychoanalysis has suffered similarly in academic Psychology because of its self-referentiation, to which there is a vastly more hypothetical than empirical basis for. Now, this was only an undergraduate class, so several representative pages rather than entire books were read, but by the time Barthes came around at the end of the semester I had totally had enough. I rarely sell my college textbooks, because they tend to be informative enough to be useful later, but I sold my Literary Theory anthology as soon as possible.

    Structuralism and Post-structuralism have points, and may be interesting to read how they play out in particular pieces (I’m thinking now of an introduction to the Illiad I had just read), but have too narrow a viewpoint and are too intellectually self-satisfied. I’m sorry you have to suffer them, though they had been a major force in the later 20th century and one should be at least familiar with their arguements. Their explicit purpsose is “destablizing” the literature, and it works for the reader as well. Ultimately, I learned far more about literary criticism from Literature of Adolescence because the professor tried to show how many interpretations were possible, than from the Derrideans, etc. who simply cut the text into pieces and after having done so, either make irrational connections or fail to see any at all.

    Please do continue the lectures though, especially as filler on a low news week. Even if it comes in the form of intellectual sado-masochism.

  2. Matt: Part of my problem with post-structuralism is that it is not particularly useful. It is all well and good to take apart the underlying structures which underpin meaning, but when nothing is offered in their place, it is a fundamentally bankrupt enterprise. And of course, real post-structuralism does precisely that. (This is not to say that misguided/manipulative people have not tried to create alternatives–also structures–whilst pretending that the entire is astructural.) In this way, it is like Charles Wright’s The New Poem:

    It will not resemble the sea.
    It will not have dirt on its thick hands
    It will not be part of the weather.

    It will not reveal its name.
    It will not have dreams you can count on.
    It will not be photogenic.

    It will not attend our sorrow.
    It will not console our children.
    It will not be able to help us.

    And of course, this misses the entire point (at least, in Wright’s mind) of the purpose of poetry. What good is The New Poem if it cannot do any of the things a poem ought to do? This is how I feel about post-structuralism. Okay, we know about an endless chain of difference and the play between terms and the centre, and the structure, and so on–but what does this tell us about what the text does or what it means? Has it ever increased any sane person’s appreciation of Spenser, or Shakespeare, or Shelley?

    As I said to Imitanis, the post-structuralists have been teaching us the proofs for their arguments for half a century now. Their assertions are few, and most scholars accept most of the assertions. Yet what the evangelists of post-structuralism continue to do is to demonstrate, yet again, the truth of their arguments. No one is seriously contesting them at this point.

    An analogue: we all know, and trust, that gravity is a function of mass insofar as it affects the space-time geometry around an object. We accept, even though many of us have not worked it out for ourselves, that the proofs establishing this are clear and dependable. But setting this aside, knowing the proofs or not knowing them has absolutely zero effect upon a falling apple, or our observation thereof. We still accept that gravity caused it. The figures proper do not affect the meaning we impart to the timely descent of a pomme rouge.

    For a long time, post-structuralism has been “the thing”. It is ponderous, it is self-important, and it is deliberately crafted with the purpose of excluding the uninitiated. All of these are reasons why it should go–but we have an even better reason. It offers us nothing in the way of meaning. And whilst explicatation de texte might not be the “done thing” in academic journals, it is why people become scholars of literature, it is what is taught in classrooms, and it is the one remaining thing that interests people in the (otherwise ailing) humanities. Best then to think about meaning, whilst there are still people paying attention. Otherwise, post-structuralism will go down, aloof and distant to the end, and it will take the humanities with it.

    (Aside: If you think you’ve had enough of the post-strucutralists, imagine how I feel. This is my fourth(!) graduate-level course in theory, following two which I took as an undergraduate. I have now read vast quantities of the stuff: lectures, articles, and books, but I was tired of it almost from the start. At this point, when I see whole books of Barthes and Derrida on a syllabus, I want to die. It would be less painful.)

  3. It’s a subtle thing when Lusipurr goes back to school. You can tell if you REALLY pay attention to his comments on the site.

  4. HAHAHAH, Ethos you old so and so. *rubs monocle*

    Still, though, I’m happy to listen to these things. Informative, to say the least. Instead of doing whatnot else while listening to this podcast, I made a point to stop and really listen. I for one, wouldn’t mind a small part of each podcast be a reading from whatever you thought interesting, Lusi.

  5. Academics go through phases. This one, I hope, is ending soon. In the meantime, consider writing an essay on the failings of post-structuralism and the need for meaning. I’m thinking now of how Tolkien’s “Monsters and the Critics” decried years of misguided Beowulf research. Beat them at their own game.

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