Fun With Bad Writing

If you enjoy pretentious writing, Denis Dutton has some treats for you. His Bad Writing Contest has led me to one of the worst writers ever: Judith Butler, a professor at UC Berkeley, who has been described as one of the ten smartest people on the planet. But wait! No one specified which planet!   Here is a bit of her prize-winning prose:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge. But seriously, Judith, you rule. Other entries are similarly delightful. Check them out here.

As a faithful reader of the Los Angeles Times, I am increasingly horrified by the paper’s latest Rock critic, Ann Powers. I think she shows promise as a future winner of Mr. Dutton’s contest. Here’s a sample:

Early rappers such as Too Short and Slick Rick modified Blowfly style, weaving elaborate tales of priapic adventure with a dash of silliness to temper the bluster. The tradition was carried on in the 1980s by Oakland’s Digital Underground and Miami’s accidental free-speech icons 2 Live Crew and later by Kelly’s pal Snoop and many a rapper from the “Dirty South.” Less comically inclined artists have transformed hyper-masculinization into a hero’s burden. The late Rick James is a prime example of this approach; songs like “Superfreak” and “Fire and Desire” set the stage for Kelly’s grandiosity by turning funk into opera. The New Jack Swing era took gangster attitude into the bedroom, as groups like Guy, Jodeci and Dru Hill brought gangster cool into the bedroom.


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5 Responses to Fun With Bad Writing

  1. Ben Yates says:

    There’s a difference between incomprehensible and just crappy. I can’t tell whether Butler’s writing is good or bad because I can’t understand it, but Dutton just sucks. (It’s interesting how scientists aren’t held to the same comprehensibility standards as humanities scholars. Pick up an issue of the Journal of Neuroscience and it’ll seem even more incomprehensible than Butler, but that doesn’t mean it’s crap.)

  2. Sister Wolf says:

    You can’t understand Butler because she’s spouting a bunch of bullshit. Any time I see the words ‘hegemony’ and ‘totalities’ in the same sentence, I know I’m dealing with a bullshit artist.

    Remember the Postmodern Generator?

    But I’m kind of distressed to see your point about Dutton. I just tried to read one of his essays. Bummer.

  3. Suebob says:

    Dutton sounds like she has just discovered that music is about sex.

  4. Beerzie says:

    Butler has a The-SA-urus! BButler has a The-SA-urus! Butler has a The-SA-urus!

  5. Errol Acey says:

    Great!!!!!! Thanks for sharing..

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