A Reply To Mr. Napolitano

Straining at gnats is bad form but awfully fun.

I know I shouldn't do this, but what can I say: once a rebel, always a rebel. I have undertaken critical commentary on an essay by one Todd Napolitano, who made quite a stir in the journaling community recently with an essay that basically slashed-and-burned all women writers of on-line journals. Evidently this essay was undertaken as part of an eZine (electronic magazine) devoted to "women's writing on the Net," so already I have a bone to pick: set up false dichotomies, come to false conclusions. Todd Napolitano succeeded above anyone's wildest dreams, however, in his analysis of on-line journals.

What bothered me most about the essay was its OQ -- the Obfuscation Quotient, or ability to use 10 words where 3 or 4 might have done. The single greatest tragedy of writing today is that the more complex, the more obscure, the more convoluted a sentence is, the higher the quality it's judged to have. This admiration of dense complexity destroys not only academic writing, but also writing in business, in government, in "literature" -- any type of writing where the writer frets about appearing more learned than thou. If you make your point easy to understand, the audience might just not agree with you, and it's best to prevent that from happening.

Let me also add, because I am both a critic of and participant in the online journaling movement, that there are decent criticisms to be made of online journaling as a discipline and in the online journals themselves ... criticisms and plaudits. I happen to be of the opinion, however, that Todd hasn't made either.

Please pay careful attention; there will be a quiz at the end.

Of Graphomania, Confession, and the Writing Self
The Kitsch of On-Line Journals

Todd E. Napolitano
Of Graphomania, Opaque Writing, and the Self-Important Self
How Graduate School Is Killing Serious Criticism

Diane P. Patterson

My comments on the essay. Definitions of the more obscure terms, as well as annoying but unstoppable spelling flames.
Anyone venturing to explore a genre as vast as women's writing on the web is bound to feel a bit overwhelmed by the innumerable number of people calling themselves "writers." Milan Kundera's words readily come to mind here. "According to my calculations," writes Kundera, "there are two or three fictional characters baptized on earth every second." For years, I felt Kundera's estimate to be rather exaggerated, flash-in-the-pan "creative writers" not withstanding. Until recently, that is. For as I think about his project on women's writing on the net, I can't help wondering if Kundera's estimate isn't somewhat understated. Women's writing: "Women's X" has historically been used to denigrate the topic at hand. Is everything else on the Web men's writing? Or would Todd merely call it writing? The fact that there are several men's on-line journals to choose from and yet Todd ignores all of them is intellectual dishonesty and does not bode well for the rest of this essay.

Do Milan Kundera's words so readily come to mind?

I wondered if perhaps Kundera was behind this project on women's writing on the net, but I couldn't find his name in the masthead anywhere. Perhaps what is meant here is "THIS project on women's writing..."? Rather a difference in meaning. Copyeditors of the world, untie.
I don't want to sound overly pessimistic here. In fact, I very much relish the idea that all net identities are fictional characters of sorts--isn't this the creative allure of virtual reality, to become-beyond-oneself in an endless "web" of information, identities, and virtual bodies, to experience a radically new aporia with one's mundane, this-worldly existence. The ironic juxtaposition of "virtual" reality and the "real"--this was the power of transgression that once attracted me to the net. A new moment of aesthetic emergence [entstehung], the moment of arising as Nietzsche puts it. Indeed, what is so important here is that Nietzsche always writes to efface himself. The net, I thought--the ironic play of identities, an electronic masquerade, writing to unwrite oneself.

Todd expertly sets up a straw man here: that the creative allure of virtual reality is to create a fictional character. He takes what attracted him to the net and generalizes that that must be what attracts everyone to the net. At this point I begin to hope that Todd is not a PhD candidate in Logical Reasoning.

Oooo. Todd uses German and refers to Nietzsche...in the same sentence fragment. (Good editing, Todd.) We now learn that what is important here -- but is "here" the essay or the net? Todd refuses to say (fallacy of equivocation, sweetie) -- is that Nietzsche always writes to efface himself. Since Nietzsche didn't write an on-line diary, I'm not sure why this is the important thing, nor does Todd enlighten his readers.

Note, by the way, the first appearance of a form of the word "irony." Irony is big with the deconstructionist and post-modern crowd, mostly because they have to justify to themselves why they are spending endless quantities of time memorizing words like entstehung.

Is aporia the term Todd wanted here? Really?

1) Rhet. the expression of a simulated or real doubt, as about where to begin or what to do or say.

2) Logic, Philos. a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.
Ah, I am quite the fool. Having spent hours over the past three or four years reading through just some of the thousands of so-called "writers" publishing themselves electronically, I now completely empathize with Kundera when he claims, "I am always unsure of myself when it comes time for me to enter that vast crowd of John the Baptists." Unfortunately, Kundera's Kierkegaardian moments of self-doubt remain the exception rather than the rule. Now, I certainly do not wish to squelch creativity (I am not quite as abject as Adorno in this regard), and I by no means want to dismiss women's writing per se. Quite the contrary, I am an advocate. What I am lamenting is how anyone with a computer and access to the net fancies themselves a writer who simply must be read. Like an assembly of crazed narrators from a Poe anthology, this new generation of hacks simply grab you by the shirt collar and refuse to let go until their story has been told. "Ah, I am quite the fool." Well, we weren't going to point it out, but since you've brought it up...

Back to Kundera, are we? Perhaps Todd is doing his dissertation on quotes from Kundera applied to any situation? And now the name Kierkegaard rears its misshapen Teutonic head, thereby proving that Nietzsche is not the only hard to spell Germanic philosopher Todd has heard of. And how does he know Kundera's moments of self-doubt aren't, say, Allenesque? Or even Hamletesque? No, Todd goes straight for the high-tone sounding Kierkegaardian, and really, I have to applaud that.

Todd's less-than-convincing -- dare I say, disingenuous? -- avowal that he doesn't want to squelch creativity (note: not the same thing as "promote creativity") and he is an advocate of "women's writing." It's tragic that Todd doesn't realize that saying, "I am advocate of women's writing," is much like saying, "I'm not prejudiced, some of my best friends are X."

We could wail and cry because any grad student with a computer and access to the net fancies himself to be a critic of the highest degree, but we don't. Instead, we make fun. It's tragic, however, that Todd believes that a "generation of hacks simply grab you by the shirt collar and refuse to let go," because he has never learned how to use bookmarks or the BACK key. Still, Todd's point that there is "this new generation of hacks simply grab you by the shirt collar and refuse to let go until their story has been told" speaks more to his reaction to the journals than it does to the journals or the writers thereof. If I get bored or if a journal is simply too badly written to continue reading, I stop. Todd, for some odd reason, feels compelled to continue. Why?

Kundera has the perfect term for this sort of writing--Graphomania. As Kundera describes it, graphomania is not "the mania to create a form," that is, not a mania to create challenging new aesthetic forms and media, but rather a mania "to impose one's self on others" through already established modes of "received ideas" and pervasive non-thought [idées reçues]. Graphomania reflects a singular neurosis common to modernity: namely, the need to have an audience, "a public audience of unknown readers." Graphomaniacs aspire to make stories out of their lives and thus presume to do a lot of people good. Writing four love letters a day is not graphomania; xeroxing your love letters so that they may be published one day is. In other words, it is true we cannot do without feelings. But I think Kundera puts it best when he says that "the moment they are considered values in themselves, criteria of truth, justifications for kinds of behavior, they become frightening." Enough with the verdammte Kundera references already, unless you tie Kundera into your thesis. Otherwise you're just name-dropping and we're on to you.

This is it, folks: this is the most important paragraph of the piece. Listen up.

Graphomania literally means "mania to write." Kundera defines it another way, and then Todd reexplains Kundera's definition for us. Where this reexplanation hails from must not be important; no, it's just handed down from Mt. Olympus.

"Graphomaniacs aspire to make stories out of their lives and thus presume to do a lot of people good." Whoa. Todd first creates the subclass of graphomanics, decides what's they're trying to do and judges them all to be failures. There's a lot of presuming going on here, but I don't think it's the "graphomaniacs" who are doing it.

Todd continues his preumptions unabated that graphomania (whatever, in fact, that turns out to be) "reflects a singular neurosis common to modernity: namely, the need to have an audience, 'a public audience of unknown readers.'" Clearly Todd is not familiar with the writing forms known as the novel, the tract, the pamphlet, the sermon, and so on. In fact, this ludicrous proclamation makes me wonder what the hell Todd's problem exactly is.

He clearly shows his academic doublespeak bias in the sentence that begins "Writing four love letters..." Xeroxing your letters for future publication is egomania. Or maybe it's simply forethought for future ... um ... graduate students. Are letters only valuable if they're found in trunks, bought from family members, or unearthed by accident a hundred years from now? Are they only valuable if they're from Guaranteed Grade-A Academically Accepted Writers? It takes at least a hundred years for a writer to be fully accepted into the canon, and probably even longer these days. (No, I'm not going to justify that comment; sweeping generalizations don't need to be justified, as we've discovered.)

When did Kundera say this and what did he say it about? Context, context, context. For crying out loud, man, give your references. Surely you've learned how to do that in one of these deconstructionist/analyze things to death classes you've quite evidently taken.

Frankly, I find many on-line journals frightening, all the more so because graphomania is not just an isolated phenomenon; no, it is a cultural ethos and a morality, and it is not restricted to writing per se. On the contrary, it pervades the very fabric of our every-day relations with others.

"That's just like me, I. . . ."

We may see graphomania as the overpowering conflation of the will to truth, the will to power, and ressentiment.

Cultural ethos. I guess if the PhD/academic career thing doesn't work out, Todd's planning on becoming a "cultural pundit" who sees "trends" afoot.

Todd, just a paragraph ago, said: "Graphomania reflects a singular neurosis common to modernity." By modernity I think he means "the present" and not "all creative work in the 'modern' or 'post-modern' schools" ... but hey, who can be sure? So, is Todd saying that at no other time in history people have commiserated? Everyone's experience was vastly different from his or her best friends' experiences? (Not to mention, of course, have writers at no other time in history wanted people they didn't know to read what they've written.)

By using the phrase "we may see" Todd conveniently leaves himself an out, as in, "we also may not see..." Or perhaps he's just giving us permission to see graphomania in this way, although he doesn't give much justification.

And what the fuck is ressentiment, anyhow, and how does it differ specifically and appropriately from the more common but less highbrow resentment? (Discuss.)

According to Webster's On-line, ressentiment is "deep-seated resentment, frustration, and hostility accompanied by a sense of being powerless to express these feelings directly" -- but aren't online journals all about expressing these feelings directly, particularly in ways that Todd finds egregious?

The on-line personal journal--at its worst, a new outlet for personal refuge we would otherwise find inane, petty, and grotesquely self-indulgent--is a perfect case in point. For here we have graphomania masquerading as the journal, that progressive, alternative women's medium which has fortuitously found voice in academe. Certainly, journals are an empowering medium in the history of women's writing, given the patriarchal politics underpinning the aesthetic realm. As such, their artistic and political import cannot and should not be overlooked. But too many on-line journals, while purporting to have a place within the larger tradition of women's journal writing, are in actuality merely the same old blather recycled in the guise of the "new" and politically correct. I honestly don't know where to begin with this paragraph, which is sexist, snobbish, and judgemental while never uncovering one glimmer of a nugget of truth.

Journals are a "progressive, alternative women's medium [that, not which, Todd] has fortuitously found voice in academe"? This is what we call "intellectual masturbation." Without academe, journals would have no voice? Are you kidding?

The technique Todd employs here surely has a nice Greek or Latin term created by those who analyze texts, but a slang term might be "carrot-and-stick" or "good cop, bad cop." Journals are an empowering medium ... just not these journals. No, these journals are attempting to sneak into the larger tradition of women's writing while actually being about something else. But Todd doesn't tell us what that something else is. Todd: What is the same old blather? Don't use a comparative without telling us both halves of the equation.

These journals include Carolyn Burke's Diary, Jessa's Journal, Willa's Journal, Mary Anne's "An Ongoing, Erratic Diary", Laura's Warm Puppy Diary, Sabina's Old Diaries. The list goes on. I wonder when Todd wrote this essay. Willa's journal has been on willa.com for some time, and I can't even remember when Mary Anne's journal moved, but I don't think it's been at uchicago.edu for some months now.
From what I can tell, the gnomic injunction of your average on-line journal is two-fold and interpellative: Confess, and be true to your Self (understood here as something essential and virtuous). "Who one is," to borrow Foucault's once sardonic and ironic phrase, is made impervious to the cancerous threat of the fictive which is so much a part of the writing (and written) self. The on-line journals I read are not writing; they are graphomaniacal confessions which are quite blind to their own insight (ironic considering the self-reflective nature of the genre). Here Todd takes the award for shortest quote that is somehow relevant: "Who one is," by Foucault.

Sigh. Is it the Self that is essential and virtuous, or the Confession? If he means the Self, Todd's dismissive tone is strange: is the Self not essential? Should women live exclusively for others, as they've been told for thousands of years? If he means the Confession, are Confessions not psychologically healthy for those confessing, if not for those who are hearing said Confession? And is your average on-line journal (note: he doesn't define what he means by that term -- middle of the pack, or something found in each one?) truly about Confession?

How does Todd define writing? Why do "graphomaniacal confessions" not fall under this header? Be specific. You may use the back of the page.

Aha! We return to irony. Todd tells us that it is ironic that journalers are blind to the insight given by the confessions. Well, you know -- no duh. No psychology bonus points for Todd.

Have no fear, Diane is here with definitions on hand:

characterized by aphorism.
1) : a concise statement of a principle 2) : a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment : ADAGE
Hmmm. Not found. Could Todd mean "interpolative"? Naaah, Todd knows all, sees all, spells all correctly.
Case in point: "Coffee Shakes" by Sage A. Lunsford. Filled with nightmares, parental warfare, and Prozac, "Coffee Shakes," like many on- line journals I have read, is overburdened with "ache" and "anger," "veggie burgers," politically incorrect neighbors, and the overblown environment of "feeling unaccountably terrible." Amidst all the feeling "bone-crushingly sad"--pathos above all else--readers are told that the cat was fed wet food, sanitary pads were purchased as a fortuitous afterthought, and pop culture just sucks (compared to truly avant-garde phenomena such as X Files, used book stores, and Ruth Rendel novels). Life is simple in this neck of the net. Racism is bad and "pop-psych" radio shows are good. Wal-Mart, MTV, and America On-Line are "Blech"; purging personal "monsters" is healing. Just imagine the kind of commentary Sage would have been in for if she liked Wal-Mart, MTV, and America On-Line.

What is funniest about his attack on Sage -- and note the stealthy quality of his attack; no out-and-out criticisms, just underhanded juxtapositions of terms, wink wink -- is that Sage has a section of her web pages devoted to parodying another on-line journal that redefines the phrase "blind to [its] own insight." I wonder exactly how Todd spent those "hours over the past three or four years." Certainly not by studying those he's criticizing. Todd seems to begin using the passive voice ("the cat was fed wet food") in order to avoid referring to Sage herself. He never mentions Sage's name again, nor does he refer to any other journaler specifically. It's as though Todd's gods (Kundera, Nietzsche, et al.) are far more deserving of specific interaction than are the people whose lives Todd knows a hell of a lot more about. Does Sage use the word avant-garde to describe what she likes? No, Todd seems to have come up with it, as an "ironic" way of putting down what Sage does like. The fact of the matter is, in today's society, any set of likes can be described as "avant-garde," "retro," "kitsch," "mainstream," and so on. You can get anyone in your sights. It's cheap but effective, I guess.

That's Ruth Rendell, boy.
Such is "Coffee Shakes." And as I mentioned above, it is symptomatic of the poor quality characterizing on-line journals in general. Clearly, a preponderance of these diarists are searching for a sense of connectedness with others. There is a strong urge here to confess with an odd sense of arrogance about having been bad, or beaten, or unloved. But there is also a deep need for compassion and understanding which is quite poignant. And so the guilt readers feel, coupled with their own senses of alienation and disconnectedness, keeps them clicking the page, so to speak. With each page, one moves further into the quagmire of graphomania with its overblown environment of sentimental gestures. Now graphomania has an "overblown environment of sentimental gestures." Methinks Todd had better do a lot more thinking -- or at least, a lot more specifying -- of precisely what graphomania means. To anyone besides him.

Todd says that "poor quality [characterizes] on-line journals in general," but he never says what has poor quality. The writing, the ideas, the tone? Once again, the amount of generalizing that goes into a tossed-off sentence astounds one. Or at least, it astounds me.

The computer is such an impersonal medium, however, that the desire to "connect" with others will always fall short. A fine journal would ironize this. Instead, we usually get the sort of self-aggrandizing myopia that fills "Coffee Shakes": "But then, Todd and I are quite anti-social (Sarah and Todd and I like to say that we enjoy each other's company precisely because we're all anti-social and enjoy our time alone and Sarah's really the only person we hang out with outside the computer)." Alienation and "anti-social" feelings become as marketable a commodity as anything pandered by Wal-Mart or MTV. Todd had better get a field with some crows if he's going to keep setting up strawmen like this: all diaries are about connecting with others; the computer is an impersonal medium so you can't connect with others; the only diary worth reading would ironize the contradiction here.

He finally flings off his protective cloak here and tells us what in fact he's looking for, what he defines as good writing: irony. These writers aren't ironic enough; ergo, they aren't good writers. In fact, their confessions, which are straightforward and therefore not ironic, can't really be termed writing.

Remember, just two paragraphs ago, when he told us about Sage's likes and dislikes? Wal-Mart and MTV were on the list of dislikes, but here Todd seems to be saying that Sage's marketing techniques -- how she goes after the "others" to connect with -- mesh very nicely with these mass-market icons. If true, that line of reasoning would lead me to think that Sage was being ironic (and therefore good) after all. But Todd's making this up as he goes along, so clearly that never occurred to him.

Aside from the co-option of this otherwise historically important women's medium, what concerns me most is the penchant these diarists have for essentializing their otherwise psychologically nihilistic identities. They do indeed constitute, in Kundera's definition of graphomania, "a brute revolt against brute force, an attempt to free one's ear from bondage, a frontal attack the objective of which is to occupy the enemy's ear." In the process--and this is the fundamental characteristic of confession--all political nuance is lost as are the subtleties of writing fiction (which, like it or not, is all we ever write when we write about ourselves). Todd goes for the hat trick (that's a sports reference, dude) of offensive language with "the co-option of this otherwise historically important women's medium":

1) co-option:
all these damned graphomaniacs are indulging in an activity that they aren't licensed for! Who said they were diarists? Back, back, heathen!
2) otherwise historically important:
I'll decide what's culturally and historically important 'round here.
3) women's medium:
evidently, no man has ever kept a journal -- instead, we call what men write history. Todd's continual (and willful, one suspects) blindness to male participation in this activity leads to a suspicion that he regards journal-keeping as a slight, though ever-so-clever parlor trick women do, like mending socks or birthing babies.

I have no idea what he means by the last two sentences of the paragraph. I think what he's saying is that the journalers are fighting against something (their identities?) but political nuance is lost. There may be a prize for the first person to tell me what this means, along with a bonus prize for diagramming both sentences.

By the way, Todd? You appear to have pulled the word essentializing out of your ass. I'll go out on a limb and assume you meant, "the act of trying to make something essential." (Actually, wouldn't protoessentializing be a better term for this?) You couldn't have just said, "the penchant these diarists have for trying to make their otherwise psychologically nihilistic identities essential," because it wouldn't have sounded fatuous enough.
In retrospect, I suppose that I shouldn't have expected so much. After all, the computer is the most efficient, industrious, and productive creation our society has spawned. When the dust settles, when this most recent technological tumult finally quiets, I suspect we will remain one-dimensional all the same. Marcuse was so right. What seemed like great progress will prove to be stagnation, nonetheless, with the notable exception of the NASDAQ, which soared to new heights, making fantasies come true for daring high-tech investors, not adventurous net surfers. One person's artistic dream is another's dividend, I suppose. Possible explanation for this paragraph: Todd had high expectations; the journals didn't meet them; clearly, he hoped for too much and the rabble couldn't produce, though Wall Street is happy. I think.

The fact that Todd seems to have missed the great progress forward that anyone -- talented writer, gifted artist, or nobody schmuck -- can publish seems to have been totally lost on him. He can remain one-dimensional and I hope he does, because he can't write either.

Marcuse, Herbert
A social and political philosopher.
1) having one dimension
2) lacking depth, superficial

Who will remain one-dimensional? Todd acknowledges that he lacks depth? Trying to live up to the example of Nietzsche, I presume.

The ironies abound considering that sending identity adrift through the medium of writing, what Oscar Wilde might call the fine art of "lying," seems to be increasingly intolerable among site masters these days, fiction having given way to the ethical imperative that one must always present oneself to be who one "really" is. Above all, no lying! (Of course, recent government regulations will now ensure that we do not represent ourselves as more depraved than good Americans should be. Is this Big Brother or a reflection of ourselves?). Indeed, the tensions of writing about human existence, the ironies of trying to write what is always ever ahead of language, are lost--the mortification of the question (Blanchot). And if it is merely superficial and trite to demand sources and continuities, centers and consistencies amidst the infinities of the net, we can say the very same about the writing self, the written self. Yet amidst the growing marketplace of technological flights of fancy daring us to go where no one has gone before, one thing seems to be missing, namely writing, that is, writing which, with the sweeping gesture of the fictive, allows the writing self to continually form anew. These syllogisms Todd sets up really give me a headache.
  1. All writing about the self is fiction (the "co-option" paragraph).
  2. These journals have the ethical imperative that one must never lie.
  3. Therefore, no journal is writing. I think.

Actually, Todd's list of givens about what constitutes writing has grown so long as to be absurd and patently unappreciable in the real world. Again, it's this kind of blather (not the same old, though) that gives academic writing its bad name. What the hell is a "writing self"? Is that a person who writes? The part of a person who writes? Why not say writer?

Todd's inability or unwillingness to understand the true political intent behind "recent government regulations" leads me to ignore anything he says on the subject.

What Oscar Wilde might call the fine art of "lying"? Hadn't you better check to make sure before attributing it to him?
Unfortunately, I have found that too many on-line journals--women's or otherwise--are simply another cog in the mode of mainstream, normative, socio-cultural identity production. What we have, then, is kitsch, albeit something far more than just l'art pacotilliste, far more than just junk art. What we have is a facet of an overwhelming socio-cultural ethos, a life-force and a spirit even (we can speak of the Kitschmensch and the Kitsch-Man's need for kitsch, as does Hermann Broch). Todd pulls out all the stops in this paragraph, a paragraph that forces the reader to sit back, take a few Excedrin, and say, Yes, this is why graduate study in the humanities has such a bad name. The sheer force of inanity displayed here led one reader (CJ Silverio) to conclude that Todd must be joking; no one could cobble together crap like this and possibly be serious.
Kitsch--that is, the need to gaze into the mirror of the beautifying lie and to be moved to tears of gratification at our own reflection. (Kundera).
Todd is addicted; he just can't leave Kundera alone.
Todd Napolitano is a doctoral candidate at Temple University. Diane Patterson is a writer who understands the process of writing.

A doctoral candidate in what discipline, by the way?

A quiz on the essay

  1. The thesis of Todd's essay is:

    1. "All net identities are fictional characters of sorts."
    2. The net is filled with John the Baptist impersonators.
    3. Women writers fancy themselves worthy of being read. They are mistaken, mes amis.
    4. On-line journals are not only merely women's writing but are "inane, petty, and grotesquely self-indulgent" with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

  2. CJ Silverio speculates that the entire essay is a joke, based on its last paragraph. Which term produced this conclusion?

    1. kitsch
    2. socio-cultural identity production
    3. socio-cultural ethos
    4. l'art pacotilliste

  3. If Todd is in fact joking with this essay, what terms should he have avoided using so that readers would have a better chance of making it to his comic finale?

    1. "inane, petty, and grotesquely self-indulgent"
    2. "I find many on-line journals frightening"
    3. "pathos above all else"
    4. "so-called 'writers'"

  4. Todd never refers to the writer of "Coffee Shakes" by name after a first introduction, whereas he refers to all the male writers he mentions by their last names. Why?

    1. He thinks "Coffee Shakes" wrote itself.
    2. It would be hard to refer to an actual person as suffering from "self-aggrandizing myopia."
    3. Historically, women and children have been referred to by first name, whereas men are referred to by their last name, and even Todd realizes that that would be too obvious.
    4. Journalers aren't worthy of being referred to as people.

  5. Todd quotes Czech author Milan Kundera quite a bit. Why?

    1. In his spare time, Todd is Kundera's publicist.
    2. Quoting Kundera makes him sound awfully learned, although Todd does not go so far as to quote Kundera in his original language.
    3. The chosen Kundera quotes are extremely applicable to the genre of writing Todd is discussing -- as they are to any other genre of writing or in fact any subject whatsoever.
    4. Todd isn't very clever and can't think up his own pithy things to say.

  6. The term graphomania can be defined as

    1. A mania for writing.
    2. "The mania to create a form," a mania to create challenging new aesthetic forms and media, because new aesthetic forms and media are fairly trivial to create.
    3. A mania "to impose one's self on others" through already established modes of "received ideas" and pervasive non-thought.
    4. A synonym for "egomania" but it sounds cooler, even though it's incorrect.

  7. Which is the most difficult sentence to comprehend even after a few readings?

    1. As Kundera describes it, graphomania is not "the mania to create a form," that is, not a mania to create challenging new aesthetic forms and media, but rather a mania "to impose one's self on others" through already established modes of "received ideas" and pervasive non-thought [idées reçues].
    2. And if it is merely superficial and trite to demand sources and continuities, centers and consistencies amidst the infinities of the net, we can say the very same about the writing self, the written self.
    3. "Who one is," to borrow Foucault's once sardonic and ironic phrase, is made impervious to the cancerous threat of the fictive which is so much a part of the writing (and written) self.
    4. They do indeed constitute, in Kundera's definition of graphomania, "a brute revolt against brute force, an attempt to free one's ear from bondage, a frontal attack the objective of which is to occupy the enemy's ear."

Quiz Answers

  1. d, I think.
  2. d.
  3. not scored.
  4. b or c, definitely b or c.
  5. c, half credit for choosing b or d just 'cause they dis Todd.
  6. d.
  7. photo finish, extra credit if you can make it through the the entire essay, my entire critique, or both.



Last Updated: 4-Jan-97
©1997 Diane Patterson