Saturday, May 09, 2009

the idol of absence

It's funny how I feel instinctually nervous for having just endorsed a critique of critical theory. I'm in the humanities. I can't shirk the feeling that they're going to come get me for stepping out of line. Should this blog go silent, tell my wife I love her, inquire if Joel Osteen does funerals, and don't let them repo the CRV.

But at least I know I'm not alone in my trepidation. In a 2004 Art Bulletin review of Hans Belting's Bild-Anthropologie, Yale's Chris Wood airs a devastating critique of theory, but only after taking proper precautions by doubly removing himself from the statement, providing a hypothetical summary of someone else's ideas.
"Belting's argument, were he to spell it out, might run something like this: critical theory is certainly all about mediation. But it has become a mere rhetoric of mediation, a set of analytic routines designed to disrupt any possible exchange of meaning. Critical theory, he might say, has become a negative theology that has made an idol of absence itself; it is a self-contained tautological scholasticism increasingly closed to the perspectives of the physical sciences, to any true interdisciplinarity, to the realities of politics, to experience itself."
Well said, Professor Wood - I mean hypothetical Hans Belting as summarized by Wood. Very well said.