Maggie Nelson on “vernacular scholarship”


Today I will recommend GENEVIEVE HUDSON interview with Maggie Nelson at Bookslut, here is an excerpt:


I need to talk back, or talk with, theorists and philosophers in ordinary language, to dramatize how much their ideas matter to me in my everyday life. I can’t really partake in straightforward academic writing because its language too often obscures this relation, or it relies on a logic of paranoia: pointing out the blind spots in someone else’s thinking and going in for the kill. I can do that — my father was a lawyer, and a certain legalistic bloodlust runs hot in me — but I don’t think it’s my best mode.


I’m riveted by the combination of the conversation and the academic — by what Eileen Myles has called “vernacular scholarship” — but I’m not someone who is down on jargon per se. I don’t feel alienated or insulted by texts written in argots that are difficult for me, or even “Greek to me,” as they say. I like sliding through a text that is beyond me. I mean, you could read Deleuze and Guattari your entire lifetime, and depending on your knowledge bank, get something different out of it each time. Ditto Barthes. That kind of depth of field is fascinating to me, and it often derives from a writer drawing upon many registers at once (psychoanalytic, scientific, mathematical, literary, and so on). Not many people are going to have mastery of all these fields –


– you just have to get used to swimming in waters that are way, way over your head, to enjoying the unfathomable deeps.





2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff says:

    You might like to know of Jean Burgess’s term ‘vernacular creativity’:

    1. omstreifer says:

      Thank you so much, very interesting!

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