* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

In (paren)theses

4 August 2003
Victor feels s/he needs to qualify

As some/many of you will/may know/suspect, I am currently writing up a PhD in Roman Verse Satire. A PhD (or DPhil at Oxford) has an upper limit of 100,000 words. This allows the doctoral candidate to be as rambling as they please, cramming c.300 A4 pages with tautological repetitions, redundancies, excessive verbiage and versifying, not to mention (which I now have) tangential ideas from left-field which are dropped mid-flow, never to be retrieved.

Doubtless this all sounds a world away from your idea of a PhD as presenting a piece of mind-blowingly original thought in a manner both arresting and accessible. How wrong you are. 100,000 words allows for the inevitable and recurrent - even constant - reiteration of concessions and qualifications which allow me to hedge my bets, and render my thesis so tentative as to all but nullify its impact entirely.

I would like to be able to tell you conclusively that Juvenal, the 2nd-century verse satirist, epicizes satiric comment and content in order to amplify the horror of life at Rome. Instead, the conclusion of almost four years' research is likely itself to conclude that the speaker of any of Juvenal's Satires (whoever that may be - and there is no compelling evidence that we should necessarily look for a persona consistent throughout all sixteen poems) has appeal to epic resonance for a number of different reasons and with a variety of effects, one of which is to present life at Rome as intolerable in an expansive manner not unlike that of indignant epic poets of the Silver Age. Punchy, no? You still here? Thought so.

All over the world people like me who can reasonably be judged to be experts in their very small corners of their chosen fields feel bound to equivocate, tone down, beat about the bush...because they want to pass. And that depends not so much on the quality of your contribution as on whom you choose not to upset. Why stick your neck out when you run the risk of offending someone who has the power to slate your most recent journal article, provide a damning review of your book, or leave you off a shortlist?

Enough of the politics. I'm much more interested in the (possible) effect(s) of this trend for prevarication. Some of you may have noticed already.

One of the most (pre-)eminent scholars in the study of Roman Literature is in/famous for his ab/use of (double) brackets, slashes and hyphens to combine and condense distinct - even diametrically opposed - words and ideas. By way of illustration, when discussing gender issues he will often refer to (wo)men; he also enjoys removing letters from (and/or adding letters to) words so that they spell out his ideas. The sad consequence is that although he is by far the most respected mind on the subject his writing is regarded as the least penetrable (even less than mine). And I'm sure that's not how it should be.

This is, of course, a forward movement discernible elsewhere in modern society. Even the most mundane and least theoretical of regulations now stipulate that "s/he" will wear the correct non-marking footwear in the sports hall, will not stand forward of this notice or talk to the driver whilst the vehicle is in motion, will not wear skirts above the knee. But in the realm of ideas it seems to me to constitute little short of intellectual suicide. More than ever before the train of thought has been stifled by words, playing out in the most pedestrian fashion conceivable Derrida's notion of diffèrence - our failure to grasp the true nature of an idea due to an inexorable deferral through language.

So, what am I going to do about it? Will I lay my academic life on the line in an attempt at clear thinking and straight talking? Or will I continue to toe the line, equivocate, obfuscate? I can categorically assert (with some reservations and conditions) that I will/may think about it.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
27 October 2003. Victor writes: Our Tune
6 October 2003. Victor writes: Sucking face (in a public place)
15 September 2003. Victor writes: You got any ID?
25 August 2003. Victor writes: Blood on the Boulevard
4 August 2003. Victor writes: In (paren)theses
10 July 2003. Victor writes: Island Fling
19 June 2003. Victor writes: Back (back) and forth (and forth)
2 June 2003. Victor writes: 300 clowns, 13 eight-year olds
12 May 2003. Victor writes: The swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune
21 April 2003. Victor writes: ...just sitting there quietly contemplating suicide
31 March 2003. Victor writes: Victoria
6 March 2003. Victor writes: Relevant experience
17 February 2003. Victor writes: You will eat chips and go nowhere
27 January 2003. Victor writes: A bushy fish for fishy Mr Bush (after Juvenal)
6 January 2003. Victor writes: The Accidental Voyeur
16 December 2002. Victor writes: Gripper goes bang
25 November 2002. Victor writes: Bediquette
4 November 2002. Victor writes: Where have all the spastics gone?
14 October 2002. Victor writes: An Immodest Proposal
23 September 2002. Victor writes: Fastscan masterplan
2 September 2002. Victor writes: Dry Humping Social Club
12 August 2002. Victor writes: Beat the Mongol
22 July 2002. Victor writes: What life is not
1 July 2002. Victor writes: Stupor heroes
6 June 2002. Victor writes: Dry
13 May 2002. Victor writes: Muppet Suite
18 April 2002. Victor writes: gingermingeninja
25 March 2002. Victor writes: Sodomize with Pukka Pies
28 February 2002. Victor writes: Dave's problem
4 February 2002. Victor writes: King of the Aisles
10 January 2002. Victor writes: Here come the decorator gimps.
17 December 2001. Victor writes: Make war, not supper.
22 November 2001. Victor writes: Cough
29 October 2001. Victor writes:
4 October 2001. Victor writes: Green Gauges
10 September 2001. Victor writes: Blind weed
16 August 2001. Victor writes: Snout!
23 July 2001. Victor writes: You're not going to put this in a clown are you?
28 June 2001. Victor writes: What is a droll?
4 June 2001. Victor writes: Burt Pakamak
10 May 2001. Victor writes: Board to Death
12 April 2001. Victor writes: Tricolon with anaphora?
22 March 2001. Victor writes: Point of View
26 February 2001. Victor writes: Goth's Dinner
1 Feburary 2001. Victor writes: Les Miserables
4 January 2001. Victor writes: Flat-packed furniture
14 December 2000. Victor writes: Deliverance
20 November 2000. Victor writes: Bottomry: Exorcising Ghosts
26 October 2000. Victor writes: Body Art
2 October 2000. Victor writes: Disney must die
7 September 2000. Victor writes: Ice-cream in Offworld
14 August 2000. Victor writes: I like sweets that taste of medicine
26 June 2000. Victor writes: I've seen the future, and it's feathered

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