To read and find ugly a sentence such as “Personalised embodied narratives foreground the particularity of the everyday” requires no rare sensibility. No fine eye is needed, furthermore, to see that it bears the markings of a pseudo-philosophic pretence that might hide a banality at best or an absurdity at worst. One might appreciate that to write such stuff and find it worthy of expression, however, requires several years of academic instruction, in which span of time any trace of aesthetic sensibility or mental acuity is exorcised as if it were a foul and irksome ghost. Hence we should not be startled to discover that the author of this squalid phrase is suitably qualified to express it, being that she is a lecturer in the language of which it is a blight.
Anne Brewster, like many a lecturer in English, does not much concern herself with the English language or the literature of the “dead white males” whose works have helped to shape it; for like many of her ilk she is obsessed with race, and in particular with the “project of rewriting whiteness”. Quite what this might entail, I cannot tell, though it seems to involve a desire not to be white, if the following is anything to go by:
If it is patently impossible to divest ourselves of whiteness, I'd suggest, perhaps the best we (as white subjects) can hope for is persistently to interrupt our narrativisation of it.Anne Brewster, “Writing Whiteness: the Personal Turn” Australian Humanities Review, Issue 35, June 2005.
Plainly, I have arrived on the scene late in the day; for the assumption has already been made that no decent person could possibly be white and of good conscience. Assuming then that “whiteness” is a sin, and that we are not yet able to divest ourselves of it, how are we “to interrupt our narrativisation of it”? Our author has a suggestion:
If, as [Richard] Dyer suggests, the project of refunctioning whiteness necessitates ‘making whiteness strange’ [White, (London: Routledge, 1997. p. 4)], this can be effected through making oneself strange. (Ibid.)You may be disappointed to learn that “making oneself strange” does not involve standing in corners at parties muttering to oneself about the contents of one’s tool-shed, nor does it recommend keeping black puddings as pets. It involves rather reading “indigenous literature” in order that one may somehow become estranged from oneself towards a new identity less afflicted with “whiteness”:
I have argued elsewhere . . . that the experience of defamiliarisation produced by reading indigenous literature, for example, shifts us into a space of uncertainty because the ‘self’ to which we return is not a fixed site. Defamiliarisation reminds us of the inability of identity to remain identical to itself and of the fact that whiteness itself is a zone of indeterminacy. (Ibid.)
This wish to destroy one’s own kind reminds me somewhat of the tragic Otto Weininger, the philosopher and Viennese Jew, of whom even Hitler was reputedly an admirer; and with statements such as the following, it is not difficult to see why:
Herr Weininger committed suicide at the age of twenty-three. I do not know whether Ms Brewster views suicide as an option, in order that she might finally divest herself of whiteness. I get the feeling, however, that persons such as she would like to be around to shepherd the rest us off first. The last man out shuts the door, as it were.To defeat Judaism, the Jew must first understand himself and war against himself. So far, the Jew has reached no further than to make and enjoy jokes against his own peculiarities.(Otto Weininger, Sex and Character. (London: William Heinemann, 1906.) p. 207.)