I’m not an academic. When I viewed some blogs by English professors with intimidating credentials and published works, it threw light on the naked inadequacy of my authority. Who am I to write a blog on poetry? I’m not an expert.
But then I convinced myself that this is a strength. You see, there is a problem with academic writing: much of it is deliberately obscure, excessively abstract, and intended for too narrow an audience.
Am I just being a dismissive? No – let me explain. A good writer’s goal is to convey ideas with force and clarity. This is not the agenda of the academic — his first priority is to prove his authority. And one of the best ways to convince others of your intellectual heft is by displaying your erudition with language that is maddeningly hard to follow. Granted, you may be wrestling with complex ideas – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for elegant simplicity.
Of course, I’m generalizing about a group and a tendency I’ve observed, but it’s an insidious influence that seeps into their writing style and poisons their ability to communicate. Lost in their own language, they wander so far into a thicket of abstractions that I’m not convinced they even know where they are going. The German philosopher Nietzsche sums it up another way: “They muddy the waters to make them look deep.”
The German philosopher Nietzsche sums it up best:
“They muddy the waters to make them look deep.”
He was referring to mystics, but he might as well refer to academics. This is not a blog for academics. This is a blog for the educated layman. I admit my amateur status, and though I want to be your guide, I confess a lot of the territory is unknown to me – but that’s what makes it exciting. I have the time and energy to scout ahead a few miles ahead for you, and point out the sights, and you get to sit back and enjoy. Let us explore together.
“…like Blake, Shelley is always alert to the combative possibilities of interweaving an antinomian rhetoric with a dialectic that exposes the inadequacies of both the orthodox in morality and religion and any position that seeks merely to negate orthodoxy by an inversion of categories.” — Harold Bloom, from The Visionary Company: A reading of English Romantic Poetry
Surely there’s a more straightforward way he could have made his point…