Thursday, March 31, 2011

Well, the last week was nuts and the next week promises to be nuts as well, but in short: my laptop is back in business, that MLA panel proposal is in, and I'm at ACLA. Looking forward tomorrow's seminar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Criticism, creation, enthusiasm

I have to return to the subject of fans and criticism for a moment, especially after the deep irony of the minor Eyresses incident. (Poor Roberta C. Holloway, she never signed up for any of it.) There really is something utterly appropriate about being read absolutely backwards on the internet. As the Gregory Brothers (remember Autotune the News?) would say, "everything sounds better."

In a journal--say, in Critical Inquiry's occasional article-response-response pairings--one likes to see an absolutely cool, faintly patronizing takedown of the misreader, one that gently suggests that the misreader has quite understandably made an error in her or his translation of the Latin -- yes, that would explain such a tragic misunderstanding. Every once in a while you might get a puerile yet awesome lashing out, like Michael Taussig's response [pdf, Wiley paywall] to Martin Jay's review [ditto] of Mimesis and Alterity, but the principle is the same. The misreader has transgressed.

In scholarship, it makes sense that a baseline level of comprehension is expected. Scholarship is usually quite sincere about the idea of communication. But it seems to me that that's also why it so rarely has room for understanding the critical power of misreading.

And that brings me to Dana Vachon's recent, amazing essay "Arms So Freezy: Rebecca Black's 'Friday' as Radical Text." The opening gives you an idea of the piece's brilliance:
Rebecca Black wakes somewhat too perfectly in the early scenes of her viral video, "Friday." Her eyes open exactly as the clock beside her bed flashes seven. She wears full make-up. Rare for a teen, she isn’t tired, longs not for any receding dreams.

Her cultural debt is less to Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles than Evie Vicki the robot girl from Small Wonder, we realize, as in a voice controlled by Auto-Tune she enumerates the banalities of an anti-existence: “Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs, gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal… gotta get down to the bus stop.”

She offers the camera a hostage's smile, forced, false. Her smoky eyes suggest chaos witnessed: tear gas, rock missiles and gasoline flames. They paint her as a refugee of a teen culture whose capacity for real subversion was bludgeoned away somewhere between the atrocities of Kent State and those of the 1968 Democratic Convention, the start of a creeping zombification that would see youthful dissent packaged and sold alongside Pez and Doritos.
The piece is, of course, a travesty. It's a travesty of everything the "Friday" video is about (or isn't about), a reading thoroughly against the grain, a recuperation of the unrecuperable. In one fell swoop, Vachon parodies both Black's video and the serious pop culture criticism that generates miles of (you said it) fan criticism, and the best part is the glorious persuasiveness of it all, the thickness of the description, the way it forces you to concede that, after all, Vachon does have a point, and "Friday" really can be read as a radical text, which either tells you something terrible about criticism or something perfectly wonderful.

Vachon's piece isn't criticism, not exactly. Phil Nel's post is closer to what we'd normally call criticism. But as Phil rightly notes, Vachon's piece puts his to shame. It's a performance. It's the article's exuberance, its fearlessness, its sheer creativity that makes it so thoroughly exceed its abject object of study and become a little internet masterpiece in its own right. It commits to the project.

It's worth noting that the brilliance of the creation depends in part on the meagerness of the materials with which Vachon has to work. It's not so much that the hordes of fans have terrible taste and that's why they're all talking about Rebecca Black (or the news, or Céline Dion, harbinger of the end of taste). You autotune something banal, corporate, and content-free, like the news, not Bach's B minor mass. It gives you space to play, to create. That's why the criticism of enthusiasm need not be a form of appreciation. In this case, in the remix/appropriation logic of the internet, it's more like transfiguration. Travesty and love are intertwined in the criticism of enthusiasm. As is right and proper.


Jay, Martin. "Unsympathetic Magic." Rev. of Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses by Michael Taussig. Visual Anthropology Review 9.2 (1993): 79-82.

Taussig, Michael. "Michael Taussig Replies to Martin Jay." Visual Anthropology Review 10.1 (1994): 154.

Wilson, Carl. Celine Dion's "Let's Talk about Love": A Journey to the End of Taste. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print.
Spotted on a bulletin board on the first floor of Wheeler Hall this morning:

Rankine, Claudia. Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2004. Print.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sigh. Away from the internets for a day and I find that my recent response to Roland was construed exactly backwards by a writer for Eyresses.

Alas, writing is an instance of partible personhood, and folks will construe it as they will. I suppose I could ask that the poster re-read, but it would be hypocritical, I think, to contest her creative reappropriation of my words!
My Macbook is in the shop after acting up in some truly annoying ways. I don't think the problem is serious (the inverter or--I hope--the inverter cable), but in the meantime I am writing things in longhand. It's very, very strange. I usually write using a combination of handwritten notes (usually involving diagrams and sketches and little arrows here and there), typed notes in TextEdit (often quotations and freewriting), and a main document in Word. Right now I'm really missing those poorly labeled .txt files sitting on my desktop.

Anyway, replying to email and such is going to be spotty for a while.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The criticism of enthusiasm

[Update | Greetings, visitors from Eyresses. Thanks for clicking through; I hope you'll read what I've actually written. I'd love it if you also clicked through to Roland Greene's post, to which this is a response.]

* * * * *

This is a response to Roland Greene's post "The Social Role of the Critic," cross-posted from the comment thread at Arcade.

* * * * *

Roland writes:
The fact that so many blogs are produced by enthusiasts is a symptom; critics are not enthusiasts.

This is perhaps the central point that fan studies would contest. One can have reservations about fan studies, but I think there's something to be said for the notion that there can be a meaningfully critical criticism of enthusiasm, what Catharine Stimpson long ago called "reading for love." I've heard Roland argue elsewhere that perhaps close reading ought to be rethought vis-à-vis other modes of critical reading, like translation. I could imagine this argument compassing creative responses of greater or lesser craft as well, as scholars like Julie Levin Russo have suggested, most recently at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference a few weeks ago.*

It is probably not an accident that so much of the critical fan culture that inspires so much scorn is driven by women (think Eyresses or Gaga Stigmata). Feminine reading is by definition uncritical reading, as we see in that scene in Nana (1880) in which Nana, mass culture in the flesh, reads a naturalist novel about a character very much like herself and doesn't "get it." But as theorists of children's literature have pointed out, sometimes enthusiasm is only made possible by a radical imaginative rereading--or rewriting--of the text that does indeed tell us something about literature that's different from what literature tells us about itself. To return to Nana, for example, to be a reader gendered "feminine" is to constantly love literature only insofar as one can critically reread or, indeed, rewrite the elements that figure you, the reader, as, oxymoronically, a non-reader, one who is incapable of reading critically or of "getting it."

The question that Arcade itself, with its three rubrics of "Conversations," "Transactions," and "Publications," raises is what an e-journal is besides a blog, and what a blog is besides an e-journal. Is the front page of Arcade simply a continuum from the raw to the cooked? Do these rubrics differ in degree or in kind?

As my colleague Monica Soare has posed the question, what besides gender and class is the difference between the gendered and classed terms of "enthusiasm" and "connoiseurship"?

*Naturally I heard of this through the high-pitched, fluttering, terrifyingly feminine interface with mass culture known as Twitter, where a bad music video performed by a thirteen-year-old girl has been trending for a week, above several quite major news events, largely on the strength of an outpouring of scorn that was, oddly, directed specifically at the female child in question, rather than at any of the many adults actually responsible for the video.

Huyssen, Andreas. After the Great Divide. Bloomington: U of Indiana P, 1983. Print.

Stimpson, Catharine R. "Reading for Love: Canons, Paracanons, and Whistling Jo March." New Literary History 21.4 (Autumn 1990) 957-976. JSTOR. Web. 21 March 2011.

Friday, March 18, 2011

At a conference in Orono, in 1996, I heard Robert Von Hallberg disagree with Ann Charters about Langston Hughes' poems, arguing that Hughes' poetic achievement may be overstated. Her response: "The poems weren't written for you." In other words, the audience Hughes imagined did not include white literature professors, but a largely uneducated urban black one. In other words, poems written for such an audience can't be compared to those written for an audience imagined by, say, T.S. Eliot, according to the same critical criteria. Von Hallberg was right to counter: "That's not a defensible intellectual position." In other words, you can't promote the aesthetic value of one work over another based on exceptional reasoning; for one thing, it's condescending to the poet and the poems. Yet she wasn't wrong: people value the poems, regardless. The poems make their impact outside the arena of responsible evaluative criticism.
      --Joshua Weiner

Many poets and critics have responded to Claudia Rankine's call for statements on poetry and race. Highly recommended. Read them here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Staying informed: a bridge too far

Naomi Schaefer Riley mentions Philip Nel's "what do professors do all day?" blog series in her recent Chronicle article. And again I ask myself: why do I ever read the Chronicle?
I am willing to believe that children’s literature is a legitimate field of study. But the idea that in order to teach Kansas State undergraduates about it effectively, one needs to “keep up with the literature” seems to me a bridge too far. And I bet you it’s a bridge too far for many state legislators as well.
Staying abreast of the field is "a bridge too far"? What?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Case of @MayorEmanuel; or, The Puerility of Profanity

A wise friend of mine once explained the rule to me: adults can swear, and children can swear, but they can't swear in front of each other. It violates a boundary.

I suspect that this is, in part, because it is nowhere more necessary for adults to appear to be adults than around children. When the altogether hilarious lyric video for Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" came out, I argued that the song was a virtuoso performance of puerility (that is, a particular kind of child-masculinity), and that the refrain "Fuck you!" was funny because it was so immature. I didn't, however, argue that liberal profanity was itself inherently puerile. But I now think it is, and the reason is @MayorEmanuel.

@MayorEmanuel is of course the brilliant fake Rahm Emanuel Twitter account authored by Dan Sinker and maintained over the course of the real Emanuel's mayoral campaign. Fake Rahm, accompanied by a Honda-driving David Axelrod (and his strangely agential moustache), innocent geeky wunderkind Carl the Intern (he fetches coffee, builds an igloo, calculates Rahm's correct position in an alternate dimension), stray puppy Hambone, and a politically savvy duck named Quaxelrod, curses his way through a mayoral campaign, Chicago winter weather, the Superbowl, and a number of hilarious visions involving the most recent Mayor Daley and, at one point, the disembodied (yet dapper!) head of Marshall Field. (I believe Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic did the definitive rundown.)

Really, the source of this insight isn't directly @MayorEmanuel but one of Kevin Dettmar's recent posts on the relationship between tiny bursts of writing (Twitter), medium chunks (blogging), and longer formats (articles, books). I left a comment that reminded me of one of Kevin's earlier posts, which in turn reminded me of my own series of posts on puerility, which by the way reminded me that, intentionally or otherwise, I end up posting serially, if intermittently, on the same topics, and one of those is puerility, and quite honestly I'll be surprised if it doesn't develop into a monograph eventually,* which perhaps speaks to Kevin's actual point.

But forget Kevin's actual point: back to the puerility of f-bombs.

The basic joke of the @MayorEmanuel account is that Rahm Emanuel is extremely foul-mouthed. So, stupid joke? Well, maybe at first. Sinker himself notes he got bored with just tweeting f-bombs. But of course the style had to persist as he began to add story arcs, and what it brings out is the puerile emotional intensity that must accompany a constant stream of profanity. Profanity constitutes a libidinal outburst; it's an intensifier with a particular affective charge. Constant, repeated outbursts of aggression, applied equally to things loved and things hated, can only be sustained by a puerile character.

4 October 2010

7 February 2011
Note the matching f-bombs.

Despite the fact that the real Rahm Emanuel is married, @MayorEmanuel's universe is a sort of boy-paradise, a Huck's raft variously located in Axelrod's old beater of a Civic, the crawlspace of Rahm's Chicago house, an igloo, and, at one point (as if in homage to Twain), an ice floe in the middle of the Chicago River. Female characters occasionally join in the play--Axelrod loses a pool cannonball competition to a seven-year-old girl named Alyssa, and Penny Pritzker and Helen Mirren, among others, make appearances--but the core quintet is all male. Yes, even the duck.

And while "fuck" is undoubtedly the most-used word in the whole feed, the five don't at all appear to be in a genital phase; all the actual libidinal impulses expressed involve food, coffee, and games (football, snow angels on a frozen Lake Michigan). And, of course (tellingly) shitting, one of fake Rahm's favorite pranks (Hambone, the puppy, is good at it too). Rahm even occasionally longs for a nap, requiring parenting:

22 February 2011

15 February 2011

He sometimes doesn't understand why various advisors won't "let" him do various puerile things. The most common of these is filling his campaign slogans and speeches with f-bombs, of course, but sometimes his prohibited desires are even more obviously childish:

Both 18 February 2011

The fact that the animal companions, Hambone and Quaxelrod (so named because of the moustachelike dark spot on his beak), are given human attributes while retaining some animal characteristics places @MayorEmanuel squarely in the tradition of children's fiction. Indeed, it's never clear how much of fake Rahm's world is his fantasy, and to what degree the puppy and the duck are anthropomorphized by Rahm's childish projection.

14 February 2011

22 February 2011

Indeed, @MayorEmanuel's primary influence may be Calvin and Hobbes, with Rahm playing Calvin and his friends variously playing parents and the toy/animal Hobbes. Fake Rahm's aggression is indistinguishable from puerile desire and enthusiasm--indeed, from play. And that's why fake Rahm's main character trait, his propensity to infuse every utterance with cursing, opens up vistas of delight and childish wonder:
17 February 2011

17 February 2011

18 February 2011

Fake Rahm's enthusiasm is, let's face it, cute.

Here's what Kevin Dettmar wrote about "Fuck You" back in August. It reveals a basic assumption that reappears in his comment regarding @MayorEmanuel, namely that f-bombs are a cheap form of humor, a kind of automatic or unearned transgression (in the way that sentimental fiction is supposed to deliver unearned feeling, for instance).
Friday’s Twitter stream was all abuzz with big love for the new Cee-Lo single, “Fuck You” (or, as YouTube’s dainty orthography/typography would have it, “F**k You”). One of my Tweeps and Producer Extraordinaire, Andy Zax (@andyzax), said it was “destined to be the anthem of late summer, 2010.” Normally I’m healthily skeptical of such claims: but Andy’s nobody’s fool. Not long after, my FB friend Carter Delloro updated his status, and it was clear he is equally smitten.

Something about this all annoyed me deeply. Maybe it’s my inner Church Lady: After all, what kind of a title is that for a song? How you gonna sell it at Wal-Mart? (Probably the way R.E.M. sold Automatic for the People, changing a certain song’s title to “Star Me Kitten.” “Star You”?) Also, I hate being scooped. I may not know much about music, but I know a bangin’ pop song when I hear one. I’ll be the judge, Andy and Carter: even better, I’ll be the critic, and weigh in, explaining how you’re wrong.

So I decided--sound unheard--that I’d write a smackdown of “Fuck You.” I mean clearly, Andy and Carter had been swayed by the naughty factor: I’m willing to drop the F-bomb when it gets some genuine communicative work done, but I was sure Cee-Lo was just being a Bad Boy.

"Just being a Bad Boy"--why, yes. I'm only using Kevin's post as an example, of course, and partly by way of citation, since it's what got me thinking about the puerility of profanity in the first place. But it's a fairly common characterization of the use of f-bombs in humor, and is instructively dismissive to boot.

So is profanity inherently funny, or "just" (to borrow Kevin's word) immature? Well, the examples of Cee Lo's "Fuck You" and Sinker's @MayorEmanuel suggest that it's funny because it's immature; it's a form of self-infantilization, and thus a form of self-deprecation.

The dissonance that produces humor, in @MayorEmanuel, is the disconnect between Rahm's childishness and the (supposedly) grown-up business of a mayoral campaign (children, after all, cannot vote). Profanity is actually the hilarious hinge between these two: as my wise friend explained, it violates a boundary--because typically profanity is a boundary between adult and child realms. In @MayorEmanuel, profanity is a metonym for all the libidinal puerility that really is present in "grown-up" political campaigns, and in particular, in Rahm Emanuel's famously hard-nosed political style. Ha ha, Rahm Emanuel curses a lot. It's only superficially funny, until it reveals the puerility within a certain masculinist (and "realistic") political style--and then it's profoundly fucking hilarious.

*Not just by gluing some blog posts together, for God's sake. It's called revision.

This post's title is with apologies to Jacqueline Rose.

My favorite character is definitely Quaxelrod.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Q. Is there an entire Tumblr devoted to animals dressed as other animals?

A. Of course there is.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A guest poster at Hook & Eye makes the case for keeping a list:
Despite the gloom that lurks over making such a list, I urge you to make one of your own. Include dates, times, places, people present, and include whatever evidence you can. Evidence can be documents, photos, emails you sent in regards to an incident, emails about setting a meeting time to talk about a concern, your meeting notes or official meeting minutes. Write a few notes on how incidents and concerns are dealt with. Perhaps a concern was dealt with and the resolution impacted your department for the better. Note that, too.

Hopefully, your list will be nearly empty. Maybe it won't. I'm not suggesting that you make the list to take formal action at the equity office. Just document things as they happen. Maybe you’ll never need to use the list.
Barbara Fister's response to the aforementioned AAUP report is just excellent. A snippet:
This new AAUP report wisely urges presses to take open access seriously and develop alliances that can help them move from a business model based on selling printed books into something more sustainable. It's a sign that the AAUP is genuinely interested in engaging all of us in dialog that the report carries a Creative Commons license and is open for comment in the Mediacommons platform. However, it starts with some fundamental and arguably false assumptions. The very first editorial urge I had when I started to read Sustaining Scholarly Publishing: New Business Models for University Presses was to strike the word "business" from the subtitle. What scholarly communication really needs is a sustainable not-a-business model. We need to support scholarly publishing as part of the basic research that the world needs, as an investment in the future.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Return of the pre-internet age

I want to be a good citizen and comment on the AAUP report "Sustaining Scholarly Publishing," currently up on the estimable MediaCommons, but I think I'm going to have to refrain. It feels too much like grading.

For example:
Publishers were essential to the scholarly ecosystem of the pre-web age. For scholars to see their work disseminated within their scholarly community, it had to be published by a publisher. For some, this pre-web reality implies that university publishers are no longer required, because the conditions have changed.
The. Pre-web. Age.

Without giving too much detail, I would like to appeal to longtime colleagues' memories of one of my all-time most hilarious grading moments: a student (writing on eighteenth-century poetry) attributed something to "the pre-internet age."* You know, things were thus-and-so in the eighteenth century because there was no internet. This means that the AAUP report closely reproduced, in all earnestness, one of my go-to examples of a hilarious freshman blooper.**

Back-in-the-day versus Now is a convenient historical formulation, but not an illuminating one. The AAUP might be interested to learn that scholars have also communicated in other ways, such as letters, or even (I know this sounds crazy) conferences. In the pre-web age, no less!

I have to read C papers from time to time, but this is definitely not going to be one of those times.

*This was years ago, and said freshman has no doubt gone on to do great things, blissfully unscarred by her-or-his crime against history.
**Some troll inevitably points out that the internet and the web are not the same thing. This is true, but not relevant.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vocabulary to know

One of my esteemed colleagues in the English department has taken the opportunity to use recent events as a teachable moment. Pinned to the corkboard is the Daily Californian's write-up of the most recent Wheeler Hall protest and Chancellor Birgeneau's afore-quoted message citing concern for the "health and safety" of the protesters, viz.
from: Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
to: "Staff, All Academic Titles, Academic Senate Faculty, Students,"
date: Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 4:06 PM
subject: Wheeler Hall closed

The campus is dealing with a health and safety issue in Wheeler Hall and the building is closed. All classes and events scheduled in Wheeler Hall for this afternoon/evening are cancelled until further notice.

Appended is an entry from the OED:

euphemism, n. 1.Rhetoric. That figure of speech which consists in the substitution of a word or expression of comparatively favourable implication or less unpleasant associations, instead of the harsher or more offensive one that would more precisely designate what is intended.

Im in ur university. Teaching ur students rhetoric.

Both images lovingly shot in institutional fluorescent lighting using a crappy Samsung cell phone.

I couldn't help being pleased to notice that one of the OED's usage examples came from nineteenth-century naturalist, beard-sporter, opinionated guy, and erstwhile theosophist/psychic Elliott Coues:
1877    E. Coues Fur-bearing Animals vii. 216 The Skunk yields a handsome fur, lately become fashionable, under the euphemism of ‘Alaska Sable’.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grads writing on the web

One very salutary effect that blogs have on the publishing economy is that they bring work across my radar that print publishing, with its rather parsimonious gatekeeping, would never have brought out. I'm thinking particularly of graduate work; when the Google Books n-grams database came out, for instance, freakin' everybody had an opinion, but some of the smartest and most widely read assessments were by grad students, specifically Natalie Binder and Ben Schmidt. My Berkeley colleagues Lili Loofbourow and Aaron Bady likewise write widely appreciated, if less academically oriented, blogs. And Ladysquires, if you ever decide to depseudonymize, let me buy you a drink for writing the best lit pedagogy blog on the whole damn internet. There are economies of prestige on the internet and everywhere, but they're different ones than those that operate in academia, and for that reason, while the golden age of online scholarly communication may well lie ahead, blogs are already serving as a much-needed corrective to the manifold foibles of academic print publishing.

[UPDATE: I just came across Alex Reid's very smart post on the value of academic blogging. He wisely observes that it ought not become obligatory.]

Friday, March 4, 2011

Paul Hiebert at The Awl:
The post-World War II "neat" may have been an ignorant oversimplification of the world and its inherent messiness, but the post-9/11 random is an exaggeration of this messiness and an unwillingness to find resolve or connection. There is something unthinking and uncurious and unfeeling in its use.
Risk society, statistical panic, flows?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


from: Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
to: "Staff, All Academic Titles, Academic Senate Faculty, Students,
date: Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 4:06 PM
subject: Wheeler Hall closed

The campus is dealing with a health and safety issue in Wheeler Hall and the building is closed. All classes and events scheduled in Wheeler Hall for this afternoon/evening are cancelled until further notice.

This is the aforementioned "health and safety issue": eight students on the front balcony of Wheeler Hall. [Daily Cal]

Quite honestly, I'd been working in my office on the fourth floor all day and had no idea the students were there until the surprising cop presence in my place of work prompted me to check Twitter.

You know what's unpleasant? Having cops give you the fish-eye in your place of work. Likewise, having UCPD come in and "secure the building" by making sure your window's locked on a perfectly gorgeous, warm, sunny day (of course we promptly opened the window and walked out on the balcony as soon as said cops left). Having to leave your own damn office in the middle of a Thursday afternoon (you know, your writing time) because UC admin has decided to shut down the whole building on account of a few protesters whom you can neither see nor hear.

As usual, protesters caused me no problems, UCPD caused me a lot. (Operational) Excellence Without Money reigns.

A chilling detail in the Daily Cal article:
Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard said around 4:15 p.m. that the protesters on the ledge had been visited by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry LeGrande, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jeff Prince and Associate Chancellor for Government, Community and Campus Liaison Linda Williams.
Nice pathologizing of political speech there. Well played, UC admin.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The most terrifying, fascinating hashtag ever?


Being Against Innovation, I was very interested in Jed Rasula's article in the most recent M/m, which showed up on my porch the other day.

One of the best things about articles in your field is that they draw your attention to passages that you've either never seen or never paid much attention to.

The course I'm currently teaching is partly on modernism's fascination with childhood, so this section stood out:
William Carlos Williams observed, with obstetric care, the inaugural moment:
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter
Williams's medical expertise lends particular weight to his observational acuity, with the implied corollary that any historical nativity must also encounter its new world as cold naked fact: disarming, "the stark dignity of/ entrance." Hugo Ball experienced a comparable reverence for the surprising turn of events at Cabaret Voltaire in 1916: "There is a gnostic sect whose initiates were so stunned by the image of the childhood of Jesus," he wrote in his diary, "that they lay down in a cradle and let themselves be suckled by women and swaddled. The dadaists are similar babes-in-arms of a new age." [...] A cautionary respect for the paroxysmal delivery of a new order--exemplified by Williams and Ball--should be borne in mind when reviewing that euphoric insistence, make it new, in any of its prodigious versions.

So, first of all, say what? They "let themselves be suckled by women." The agents in that sentence are the women, as if women just went around trying to "suckle" everything in sight, as if grown people could passively "let themselves be suckled" by various and sundry women (who??) without making any kind of effort to get this to happen. Thank you, Jed Rasula, for bringing that truly bizarre quotation to my attention.

Second, yes, that's some "obstetric care" indeed! We say, equally, that a doctor delivers babies and that a mother delivers babies. Who's delivering this baby, baby modernism, baby makeitnew? Women are curiously absent from this scene of birth.

Rasula, Jed. "Make It New." Modernism/modernity 17. 4 (November 2010) 713-733. Web. Project Muse. 2 March 2011.