Category Archives: vineyards

Postcards from Laos

Dalrymple wishes to be sent to Luang Prabang to write, under a palm tree, about Henry Vaughan, whose Silex Scintillans came out in 1650

Dalrymple wishes to be sent, in luxurious conditions, to Luang Prabang to write, possibly under a palm tree, about the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan, whose Silex Scintillans came out in 1650

The Dalrympian Shangri-La

In the 13th century, writes Dalrymple,

when the world climate was much warmer than it is now, there were vineyards in the far north of England, a precedent that must give some hope of gainful employment to the chronically unemployed there.

He points out that

working oneself up into a fury of indignation is one of the great consolations of human existence, which is otherwise apt to be so tedious and unsatisfactory.

Hence the appeal of rioting to European spoilt-brat radicals who love the planet and its biosphere. But Dalrymple cannot work himself up into a state of righteous indignation over wastage and extravagance

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.52.10because I have in my time done a fair bit of travelling at other people’s expense to no very obvious benefit to anyone except myself. These days I don’t go anywhere only because I’m not asked, or not often. If someone tomorrow were to offer me a free trip in luxurious conditions to Laos (a country I have long wanted to visit, my Shangri-La) to discuss, say, the works of Henry Vaughan, the 17th-century religious poet of mid-Wales, I should of course at once accept, even if by doing so I added my mite to the downfall of the planet and the destruction of the coral reefs in the Pacific.

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The secret vineyards of truth and knowledge

The grape English essayist: characterful, sometimes gratifyingly acidic, earthy, supremely well balanced

The grape English essayist: characterful, sometimes gratifyingly tart, earthy, supremely well balanced

Verbal phylloxera

There are two ways, Dalrymple points out,

for prose to impress more than it should: by portentousness and by incomprehensibility.

In another post, we looked at how Dalrymple views portentousness as exemplified by the contents of a Western news-magazine. In this post, it is the turn of incomprehensibility.

Prestige conferred by impenetrability

Picking up a criminological journal, Dalrymple comes across a representatively logorrhœic and polysyllabically incomprehensible passage:

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The handiwork of vile sap-sucking verbal pests

We use this signifier, hypermodernity, instead of, say, postmodernity or high modernity, because the prefix hyper is probably better for conveying the strategic dimension of contemporary modernity. It is precisely this strategic dimension of the contemporary which is producing extreme levels of reflexivity and flexibility. These, in turn, (re)produce a process of socio-cultural hyperdifferentiation, and, as such, feedback into contemporary strategisation….In this article, we have argued for an answer that will try to mobilise hypermodern energies of dislocation to debunk privileged discursively (re)produced Truths and foundations that inevitably block out the voices and hopes of multiple Others. Our answer lies in a radical politic that tries to fertilise the Othered margins of essentialised discourse.…Border-crossing criminology is a permanent process of de(re)construction of discursively constructed, essentialised borders. Border-crossing criminology is a reflexive and flexible (hypermodern) praxis: it evokes infinite Other voices of oppression/suppression, even those that are—inevitably—being silenced in and through specific border-crossing discursive moves.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 08.11.11Humorously, the journal states that it is

committed to publishing only the highest quality of scholarship.

What, asks Dalrymple,

would lower levels of scholarship be like?

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Du fléau qui ravage nos vignes, délivrez-nous Seigneur

Intellectual aphids

That the kind of prose quoted is

not an aberration, a freak, but a manifestation of a widespread academic fashion or disease

is demonstrated by

(a) the fact that it is frequent in the journal, and

(b) the fact that the journal has an editorial board of 49 academics round the world, from Norway to Venezuela, from Poland to Japan.

Lutte contre le phylloxéra

Lutte contre le phylloxéra

Such prose, writes Dalrymple, is to academic life

what phylloxera was to vines in 19th-century France. Whether recovery will ever be possible must be doubtful.

Dalrymple writes that prestige in publications for academic intellectuals

is conferred by impenetrability, where truth and knowledge are kept as secret gardens that would be defiled by the presence of the uninitiated.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 08.59.05Large numbers of fifth-rate academics,

paid from public money, go a long way in polysyllabic incomprehensibility about subject matter that is describable in plain language.

Blight upon academic life

Blight upon academic life