(More) Litblog Sneering (as a logically valid form of argument)

As readers will know, we are avid scrutinisers of thisspace by Stephen

M., though somehow we didn’t manage to keep up with his latest post from all of two days ago (we obviously had a lot to do during our weekend of not

leaving the house).

Thisweek, Stephen M. is troubled by “smug, paranoid and irrational assertions” on litblogs (and, to be fair, other sorts of

blogs); – he wonders whether such behaviour may be accounted for by “mental illness”. – We, of course, appreciate that Stephen M. has his fellow

man’s welfare in mind; – but it doesn’t prevent the momentary disquiet that perhaps Stephen M. conceives anyone’s views who deviate from his own

“idiosyncratic extrapolation”s are to be thus classified.

Back as far as August 21st, Norman Mailer proved himself to be “wrong-headed” (can we

substitute “mentally ill”?) in his interpretation of the oeuvre of Samuel Beckett. Yet Obooki couldn’t help wondering (since he’s been reading a

book on logic lately) about Stephen M.’s own seemingly wilful (no doubt for the purpose of – comedy) misinterpretation of Mailer, especially when as

recently as May 18th, Stephen M. had castigated the unfortunate scientismist (sic) Jonathan Gottshall for his:

“refutation [which]

relies on a reduction of a complex essay to a “statement” and his own idiosyncratic extrapolation of the final passage”.

Gottshall, we

learnt there, should “call for more intellectual history in literary scholarship (at least for himself)” – though unfortunately not for anyone else

who might hold different (though equally strange) views, such as: that Barthes’ Death of the Author

“reaffirms modernist

resistance to romantic notions of mastery begun in Proust’s Against Sainte-Beuve”;

– so, that’ll be around 1954 then, which was when

these previously unknown and unpublished papers of Proust’s were rediscovered by Bernard de Fallois.

When Stephen M. uses the word “romantic”,

we are assuming he is using it in the non-technical sense: that is to say, he is not referring to the irrational and emotionalist artistic movement of the late c18th / early c19th which was vehemently opposed to scientific ways

of thinking.

Here, for instance, is a quote from Wiki on the romantic movement:

“Whereas the thinkers of the

Enlightenment emphasized the primacy of deductive reason, Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination, and feeling, to a point that

has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.”

and here is Proust, from the very same chapter Stephen

M. quotes:

“If intellect ranks only second in the hierarchy of virtues, intellect alone is able to proclaim that the first

place must be given to – instinct.”

(Sorry, that’s my Nietzchean dash).

(Actually, our book on

logic would suggest that Stephen M.’s arguments here are possibly consistent, but not rational – a conclusion we feel he would no doubt be pleased


We notice too that James Hawes, whose book and views on Kafka are seemingly anathema, has had the foolhardiness to post a response to

Stephen M.’s brilliant analysis of 16th August. – Will Stephen M. respond in turn and tear apart Hawes’ weak profession of actually having done some

research and spoken to some scholars on the subject?

Still, we were pleased to learn that Thomas Bernhard didn’t think much of Martin

Heidegger. This must be a terrible trouble for Stephen M. – and something he feels the need to explain away. (Or is this just another “idiosyncratic

extrapolation”?) – Actually, as far as we recall, Bernhard seemed opposed to pretty much all philosophers.


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