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An archie Debunker

...asked by his wife whether he wants to have his bowling shoes laced over or under, Archie Bunker answers with a question: "What's the difference?"... As long as we're talking about bowling shoes, the consequences are relatively trivial; Archie Bunker, who is a great believer in the authority of origins (as long, of course, as they are the right origins) muddles along in a world where literal and figurative meanings get in each other's way though not without discomforts. But suppose that it is a de-bunker rather than a "Bunker," and a de-bunker of the arche (or origin), an archie Debunker such as Nietzsche or Jacques Derrida for instance, who asks the question "What is the Difference"--and we cannot even tell from his grammar whether he "really" wants to know "what" the difference is or is he just telling us so we shouldn't even try to find it. (de Man 368)

First off, sorry for the long quote, but I felt it was necessary. You see, I actually laughed when I read this. I'll repeat that so you know how momentous the occasion was for me: I laughed while reading for Lit Crit--and this laugh was not a sort of inward chuckle, no it was an out loud laugh that made my family look over at me, glance at the cover of what I was reading, then wonder what the hell I could be laughing at. Indeed, until that moment, I would have been right there with my family wondering what on earth could be so amusing in a book called Contexts for Criticism, particularly in a poststructuralist essay. While that's not really meant to be a bash on the book, it's true that for all of the reading we've done this semester I've had to worry much more about falling asleep or getting a headache than from getting a stitch in my side from laughter. But here I was sitting at home, laughing at Paul de Man's clever example of the difference between grammar and rhetoric, all the while further fermenting my family's analysis of me as a hopeless dork. Lucky for me, I'm ok with that analysis. That laugh was precious to me and worth putting up with any sort of judgments my family might make about me (they already knew I was a dork anyway). At least now, in my glorious dorkiness, I have found a blurb from our readings that I not only appreciate for it's intellectual value (as I have done so with so many other blurbs in my previous blogs), but I also appreciate this little blurb in particular because managed to give me laughter instead of a headache.

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Comments (1)

Greta Carroll:

Haha, Ellen, I’m pretty sure I laughed when I read it too. Some of the things in the other articles have made me laugh though too. Some of the sentences just seem so ridiculous. And I don’t mean ridiculous as in ludicrous or as in what they are saying makes no sense. It’s just amusing to me to read an article where a critic spends a great deal of care and effort setting up such carefully knit, believable arguments and then admits that pretty much everything is ambiguous and we really have no way of knowing anything for sure. I particularly like the last sentence from your quote, the “we cannot even tell from his grammar whether he ‘really’ wants to know ‘what’ the difference is or is he just telling us so we shouldn't even try to find it” (de Man 368).


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