meika on Sun, 31 Aug 1997 17:49:19 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> 'emailing elizabeth grosz' An Interview with Maria Kunda

"emailing elizabeth grosz"

Interview with Maria Kunda

Friday 18 June 1997
Hobart Tasmania Australia

meika von samorzewski

Sandy Trousselot.

Attention: Parochial details have not been footnoted or explained for an
internet audience, this is deliberate. (You'll just have to ask someone:)

ABSTRACT: Elizabeth Grosz, her books _Sexual Subversions_ and _Volatile
Bodies_ among others, reading habits, email, internet discussion groups,
posture, positions, study guides, text books, primary versus secondary

"emailing elizabeth grosz"	Interview with Maria Kunda

meika >Maria, what do you dislike about Elizabeth Grosz?<

I find myself recoiling from that question, because I do dislike what she
does in her book production, but she does it well and I buy her books.

So, at some level, I resent the fact that books like hers have a market at
all, and more than that, that I am her market. What she does is, she takes
*bites* on conceptual issues, and puts them into fashionable thematic
categories, her books are analogous to compilation albums where music
samples from old favourites make up the seed idea of each song.  I can see
what she is doing, dealing astutely with a readership, giving us what we
all want- a position on things.

You can get a position on Big Thinkers through reading her slim and slender
volumes with nice well figured chapter headings. They are study guides

There's something vicarious about this kind of reading experience. This
secondary literature is like an intellectual tour guide, which one reads
with enjoyment, regardless of any effort made to actually visit the places
mentioned. A reliance on secondary literature alone... seems to be a
reading trend, along with armchair travelling and ever more spectacular

A type of writing which permits you to 'take a position' that you've gained
almost passively. You can read Grozs' surveys of Big Works and adopt, or
nod in easy agreement with her opinions. I dislike this even though I am a
party to it.  I am actually very grateful for intellectual guidebooks, even
though I dispise that fact.

>Maggie Tabberer once said that people want to be told want to wear.

Yes, yes. Its terrible. But at the same time I can see the appeal of it.
And I can see why it is so today.
Fourteen years ago I bothered to read Foucault reasonably systematically,
and now I can say with a certain literacy of attitude, "You've completely
misread Foucalt!"  But today I do not have the time to read that much
anymore. Even I resort to non-rigourous pap, well, 'pap' is unfair, they
really are text books.

Sandy >Text Books? Why?<

Because they are didactic. They simplify and label.  Grosz's _Sexual
Subversions_ is a good introduction to a field of dense literature, and its
her book that I am by far the most familiar with, and which has helped me
greatly, but it is representative. It deals with the 'content' of
intellectual works which rely very heavily on form for their import.  The
ideas are there but over-simplified. There are cut-and-dried comparisons
between the three writers, who can be found to have much more in common
than Grosz might lead you to believe. So we have in the book is an
undergraduate thumbnail text where three writers are lumped against each
other and the focus is on differences not similarities. The way they cross
cut, and the different levels of their analyses, and primarily the
different kind of writing, and the different voices that these women use,
which is very evident even in translation - all that is obscured, and
somehow sanitised.  Instead of the dangerous headiness of reading an
original text, you can go for the the measured, sensible tone of the
secondary text, with its bureaucratic style, with a nice healthy glossary
at the front or back. Perfect for a student's deadline, but its more than

It is writing for an academic appetite, perhaps its an Australian, and a
very middle brow way of doing thngs. Position papers published so that some
among us can strike positions on things without having to do a great mess
of reading. For which we have no time but we do have the need to appear
well informed.

meika >Glosses without the text then? Reminds me of email discussion
groups, where say, for example on a Delueze-Guattari discussion group,
points can be endless argued back and forth, positions struck, accusations
filed of a failure to read, or of a misrepresentation this way or that,
books and personas promoted, all the while, in every fifth email there is
suggested, kindly or flamingly, that maybe 'you should go back and read...'
which no one does of course, and they reply with whatever attitude or
feeling they have regardless, and obliviousness of any supposed revealed or
referenced authority that their fingers type about. A type of team sport or
interactivity where there are no penalties and no goals.<

Yes, its the way reading is going, masses and masses of short interchanges
with little by way of content or form and everything is just a reference to
some mass of other references without end. I am particulaly worried about
my own reading habits, where I used to smell a rat I'd go back to the
source. But now?

meika >Wasn't it always like this to a degree, one goes back to Derrida,
and then to Husserl, and Kant and then on back to Plato and the

Well, another way of looking at it is to consider where once a 1 hour
university lecture course would spark interest in a particular writer and
hopefully one would go away and spend some time reading and ruminating, now
there are too many sparks and no time to follow up on any of them.
Certainly Grosz whets up an appetite for more and more sparks but there is
no satiation. _Sexual Subversions_ and _Volatile Bodies_ have great indexes
and great bibliographies, sparks aplenty.

And where talk is cheap, such as coursework or emailing, or where time is
short, the demand for ready-made posturing increases. Grosz has been smart
enough or lucky enough to catch hold of a widespread trend. Speed reading,
not dense text is wanted. No one wants to enjoy the texture of writing
which takes a long time to digest. Everyone wants the vitamin pill, no one
wants to chew through the roughage or the fat. There is too much to keep up

For example, by reading Grosz on Kristeva in contrast to Irigaray and le
Doeuf in _Sexual Subversions_ the reader goes away with a ready made
posture on the writer, but what you don't get is (a) the culturally rich
references, a lot of which are unnoticeable unless your a connoisseur, and
(b) your own memories in relation to Kristeva's text. That kind of reading
requires that you mull over and think back: reading where a couple of pages
are attempted, and you just have to put it down. Either because its hard
work or to slowly savour it. To re-read the just-read. To turn it round. To
turn it over and over.

I feel a nostalgia for this kind of reading. I can seldom emerse myself  now.

Without this there will not any personal connection to the work and so no
connotations of any flavour that will provide a personal reaction to the
work, or the world around you.

Grosz is one layer writing, a report on sources, its honest but I find it
bereft, not really writing.

>What is writing?<

When you commit yourself to paper, virtual or otherwise.

Writing should move your brain, forge your thinking. Not let you lie down
with ease. Grosz aims to represent other's writing with clear snapshots.
Good enough if you are happy with only seeing movie reviews because there
are to many movies to actually go and see. Happy to know that a movie exist
somewhere conceptually.

meika > I know I always leave her books disappointed, they end when I am
just expecting Grosz to say something. Not that Grosz is an ego transparent
writer or objective reporter, its more that there is not enough of her own
work. I mean if I am going to pay money for a book and I know the author's
name, and its a name driven publishing world, why can't I expect something
more from the writer's own self? Do you think Grosz is quietly writing a
magnus opus on the side?<

No. Well, who is these days. If someone is, they go quiet for periods.
Years. Decades.  They don't regularly publish text books.

>Will email, the internet, replace these glosses-without-the-text study

No, it will generate more.

>But are they a good or bad thing?

Dunno, good really, the dross should keep the publishers around, $30 a
bang. I just end up worrying about my own reading habits. Not what I buy or
get given for summer solstice presents.

"emailing elizabeth grosz"

Interview with Maria Kunda

Friday 18 June 1997
Hobart Tasmania Australia

meika von samorzewski
investigative poet

Sandy Trousselot.

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