Thursday, October 24, 2013


The 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler creates an influential notion of gender performativity. It is considered a canonical text of postmodern feminism and queer theory. A professor suggested the reading as part of a research project on postmodern theory. Throughout my analysis, the Official Style plays a role, more generally, through the use of jargon which relates to postmodern theory. I will provide sentences containing this, as well as analyze the syntactic ordering along with the semantic meaning of what this jargon entails. In similarly written texts concerning postmodernism you will find this jargon as well. This is due to the fact that the postmodernist’s activity systems aim to achieve authority not over the reader, but over the meaningful methods of performance introduced in their writing. In effect, the jargon functions as an establishment of knowledge about the methods of performance evident in the subject discussed. I will go into more depth with this later on.
This text is directed toward a higher education audience exploring gender and identity in a postmodern setting. What is meant by postmodern, according to, is the appeal to fantasy and allusions to traditional historic styles, as opposed to the demand for utility of standard modern theory. Further, the text generates a sense of imagination for the reader that provokes the interpretation of a natural concept of the female and gender in general. Traditional feminism is questioned and ultimately led to the broader idea that gender is a social performance rather than an expression of a reality prior. Butler’s rhetorical style used in order to develop her ideas seems to me to be of creative credibility. What I mean by this is that she chooses her words carefully and creatively in order to structure her language in such a way that makes her ideas seem more credible and convincing than they might actually be. From this, Butler simulates a confidence which I would consider to be, in this context, ‘performing confidence’. I do not mean for this term to be negative in connotation. I mean for it to be critical of how we use the word ‘confidence’. I also do not mean for this term to be applied to Butler herself, but rather be applied to the writing itself. Similarly then, the text is performing professionalism in the sense that the methods introduced create their own kind of unique profession to be engaged in.
I consider this confidence produced by Butler’s writing to be ‘performed’ because of the lack of rhetorical clarity. For instance, there exists a difficult wordiness that can be excessive and unnecessary at times, almost as if she can’t quite choose which word she wishes to use. It is demonstrated in this sentence: “Her argument makes clear that maternal drives constitute those primary processes that language invariably represses or sublimates” (Butler 56%). The fact that she uses the word “or” can mean many things, including the assumption that the reader, a person interested in, or introduced to postmodern studies, can choose whatever word they see fit. As if they can use the word “represses” or “sublimates”. I think this causes the sentence to allude to either the theory of repression or the theory of sublimation. It generates the option of two different theories to be considered in her text. Does she mean for a person to abide to the theory of keeping under control or to the theory of diverting completely? At this point, the choice could completely be up to the reader.
Another thing that sticks out to me is the difficulty of her word choice. The excerpt I chose to critique is written at a grade level of more than 16, almost a graduate school level. This difficulty also applies to the creative credibility I discussed earlier. Again, Butler chooses her words carefully and creatively, yet she may have over-accessorized her careful choosing. In Chapter 3 of her book, she poses a good, yet difficultly worded question, “What grounds, then, does Kristeva have for imputing a maternal teleology to the female body prior to its emergence into culture?” (Butler 56%). What Butler is posing here is the question of whether or not Kristeva has successfully hinted at the self-realization of the female body in a prior reality. A reality which existed before society had a chance to have an effect on oneself. A lot of reading beforehand and after the sentence is needed to understand this concept. The rhetorical strategy in effect by her as a postmodernist writer then, is allusion. Further, maybe even study outside of the book itself is needed, especially to understand what teleology in fact is. I think that she has chosen her words to be professional in order to further engage the reader through introduced methods, such as the method of performance.
To continue with my idea of the performance of confidence that is displayed in Butler’s writing, I will point out that throughout the entire book sentences such as the ones I have quoted are continually written in the ways which I have described. This makes me question the validity of her ideas. The ambiguity obfuscates the meaning of her sentences. The wordiness and using “or” allows for the reader to choose different meanings of the text. Overall, I think the person interested in, or learning about postmodernism is forced to continually clarify her meanings with simpler words that may not be sufficient. The meanings due to this could even be lost. This is troubling. At the same time however, I think that Butler meant to be professional. I also think that Butler meant to exercise her authority not over the reader, but over the idea of traditional feminist claims. And so, the performance of confidence shines through the writing when exercising her authority. Whatever the trouble may be, the style of this writing most likely suits those passionate about understanding what a new theory consists of, whether it consists of anything that needs interpreting at all.
In conclusion, I have discovered that jargon might need to be incorporated in the writing of a newly developed theory. Its need would lay in the attempt to provide some kind of knowledge base about the theory. This leaves us with the question, does this form of writing provide a real knowledge base, a tangible, physical, substantive knowledge about what is truly being discussed, or is it a work in progress toward real knowledge?

By Mariah

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Vicious Cycle of the Official Style

            Capitalist countries are always concerned about how to make their way to the top of the “food chain.” There is a continuous and vicious cycle of individuals trying to show off talents and their acquired wealth. One way to discover the intelligence level according to our culture, is to examine their writing. The western countries in particular place a high value on being able to write piece that only those with the proper knowledge in that area are able to comprehend. I have examined an excerpt from Neighbourhood risk factors for Common Mental Disorders among young people aged 10–20 years: A structured review of quantitative research co-authored by seven separate people.
The article is aimed at those interested in learning more about contributing factors to common mental disorders in teens. Just by reading through the title, I knew I was going to embark on a journey deep into fascinating and thorough research. The language already being used is weeding out those not educated enough to be able to ‘understand’ the research that has been thus far discovered. Without prior knowledge of conducting research, readers would already be confused  in the introductory paragraph when the author says they are focusing on quantitative research, but take into account qualitative research as well. The author uses language such as “A structured review of quantitative research” and have already excluded those who do not understand these types of research paradigms. The question becomes, is this a bad thing? Is it right for people who have not been exposed to this type of language to not be able to connect with the findings of researchers and be left out of the conversation?
People who may be seeking out the outcomes of the research could be those who are predisposed to high-risk environments that are tested. This could help predetermine if their children, or they themselves will develop a mental disorder due to their surrounding environment. These people may be concerned about the risks they are exposed to and curious about the detrimental effects it could have on their family. The language of the article could quite easily confuse anyone who is not practiced in understanding the official style of academic writing.
            Academic writing is a hierarchy forever lengthening the gap between those who are highly educated and those who are not. Word choice and sentence structure is subjective to each author. Many academic articles contain multiple authors creating the need for compromise among each individual author. Sentences such as:
These question whether more should be done to protect them from risks they may face in their local communities during the life stage when they become increasingly independent of their parents and begin to experience their neighbourhoods through independent, unsupervised activities as well as through more ‘structured’ activities managed by adults.
This excerpt uses repetition to add emphasis with the word independent. It also uses slow sentence openings to prolong what the sentence is implying.
Also, this one sentence has 51 words. Whether this is due to the authors wanting to sound more intelligent or compromise among the authors, 51 is an absurd amount of words for something that could have been dealt with more concise manner. The main point of this sentence is to question whether or not adolescents should be watched more carefully when they begin to venture out and play without parental supervision. They are gaining their independence from their parents and discovering themselves. The authors are only questioning whether or not kids today are getting too much freedom to early.
            The authors also mention having more ‘structured’ activities managed by adults. This sounds as if the young adults at question are partaking in activities that are inappropriate. Since the study in question is concerning young adults with common mental disorders, it may in fact not be the activities that are creating these issues, but the actual mental disorders themselves. By wording the sentences like this, it helps to create a more concrete argument that without more ‘structured’ activities common mental disorders are likely to develop.  Without more supervised activities, the adolescents are at risk. It uses language to give the impression that these risky activities are leading to an increase in mental disorders. Although, the authors do later recognize the other variables contributing and do not claim a direct correlation, they do state:
More extensive and sophisticated use of longitudinal study designs is necessary to help to disentangle the complex and reciprocal causal pathways involved in the links between ‘neighbourhood’ risk factors and adolescent CMDs, which develop over the lifecourse, starting before adolescence.
The authors again use proper language to say their results are not conclusive and more evidence is needed to make a concrete claim. This section contains the counterargument to their hypotheses, which is possibly why the author chooses to use even more complex language than before. There are “be” verbs and sentential adverbs. The author uses more redundancy along with another slow sentence opener. This article is a perfect example of the official style because it has continuous examples.
            The language used in this text is sophisticated and intended for an audience that practice in this particular field. Academic writing used jargon such as ‘to disentangle the complex and reciprocal causal pathways involved’ to sound more credible. The sacrifice this makes is excluding the general population from reviewing this information with an understanding of what they authors are trying to say. The issue becomes is it ethical establish credibility while simultaneously relinquishing the average person the opportunity to expand their own knowledge. Is this the way that academic writing should be? Should we praise those who can make such complex sentences that a majority of the audience who reads it can barely understand it? This is the type of behavior that is expected in academic writing and wanted from professors and teachers alike. Our culture seems to want to lengthen the gap between those more highly educated than others.
            Is there a way to overcome the vicious cycle of academic writing? Is it something to be concerned with? If those who are writing the pieces don’t have the power to change their writing style, who does? The authors must write in the official style so they have the chance of being published and respected by their peers. One of the few ways an author can establish credibility is by using the extensive language of the official style, but is there a way to overcome the official style and create a new kind of style that doesn’t exclude other audiences, is considered credible, and creates a unity of all types of readers?

Kelsey Jackson