Thursday, May 17, 2007

In which someone is wilfully obscure

Lee Rourke makes a very good point, one that needed to be made. Some of the best publishers are university presses. In the UK, if one takes OUP and CUP as read, Edinburgh UP stands out. I have admired books it has published in recent years by Timothy Clark and Robert Eaglestone. Forthcoming books look good too. I hope the demand of Stuart Sim's latest book is shouted from the rooftops when it appears. And later in the year, it publishes Blanchot's Epoch, an edition of the journal Paragraph edited by Michael Holland and Leslie Hill. It also runs a surprising large series called Deleuze Connections. (I would like to link to individual pages for these books but a tradition among university presses seems to be user-unfriendly web design.)

However, my favourite academic publisher, also following heroically in this tradition, is Stanford UP, if only for its Meridian Crossing series.

Going back to Lee's blog, there's a line under the title beginning "Scholarly tomes can be wilfully obscure". Now I noticed Rangy Manatee using this phrase too the other day ("Do the pair of them like Will Oldham because he is wilfully obscure?"). "Wilfully" seems to be added to "obscure" like "wine-dark" is added to "sea", "godlike" to "Odysseus" and "Mainly-Catholic" to "SDLP". Yet how can one prove that obscurity is ever wilful?

I tend to think everyday life is obscure. It has certainly escaped me lately. Who shall I blame? Anyway, it reminds me that Lee mentions Henri Lefebvre's famous The Critique of Everyday Life, which in turn reminds me of Patrick McGuinness's excellent review of Michael Sheringham's Everyday Life (new from OUP) in a recent TLS. One paragraph begins:
Maurice Blanchot defines the quotidien as 'the familiar which is discovered (but already dissipated) beneath the surprising'. It is defined by lack of attention, and to think about it is to transform it. Essential to it, if not exactly constitutive of it, is the fragile quality of inattention it receives, a quality which needs, paradoxically, to be factored back into the attentive process if we are to make sense of it.
Obscure, moi?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:57 pm

    Hello Steve,

    Thanks for the mention - I consider it an honour. Hey, it was the sub editor who constructed the header to my article.

    May I thank you for alerting me to the Michael Sheringham title. I'll have to open a savings account first, but that book will be mine soon.




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