Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Avital Ronell story, cont.

It’s news: Avital Ronell returns to the classroom this fall, teaching a course titled Unsettled Scores: Theories of Grievance, Stuckness, and Boundary Troubles. My guess is that by semester’s end Ronell will still not understand boundaries but will have settled all scores.

From an advertisement for the course:

This course explores the literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis and political theories of straightjacketed existence. Is the stagnation of being a temptation or necessity? How are we confined within a grievance culture — by whom, to what purpose? Do we have enough agency to pull out of the psychic stalls or political stagnation fueled by misgivings and faltering assumptions? How does fiction manage these questions and reconfigure our being-toward-death?
I will admit: my skepticism about the intellectual content here makes it impossible for me to decide whether straightjacketed is a pun, a misspelling, or a deliberately chosen variant of straitjacketed.


May 13: NYU Local reports that some student-government members have condemned NYU’s decision to put Ronell back in the classroom:
Student Government Assembly (SGA) leaders wrote that the university’s decision to allow Ronell to return is “fundamentally antithetical to the University’s student-centered mission and stated commitment to survivors of sexual violence and abuse. Her reinstatement also reaffirms the status quo that survivors are not to be believed.”
A related post
The Avital Ronell story

comments: 4

Richard Abbott said...

"...impossible for me to decide whether straightjacketed is a pun, a misspelling, or a deliberately chosen variant of straitjacketed"

Or simply a UK-ism - my automatic inclination would be to use the -ght form rather than the -t form, and it took me a couple of reads to realise that you had done the opposite.

That piqued my curiosity, so I went to Google's ngram viewer (for straitjacket/straightjacket) and according to whatever corpus of books Google uses, the -t form has always been more popular, increasingly so as time goes by. As of 2000, straitjacket outnumbered straightjacket by about 5:1.

Michael Leddy said...

That’s interesting. I’m never really sure how to spell this word, which is why it stood out in the course description. I checked Merriam-Webster, which gives straightjacket as a variant. That’s why I wondered: deliberate variant, or mistake?

Garner’s Modern English Usage says that “straightjacket is a common but mistaken variant that has lingered (and even swelled a little) since the mid-19th century.”

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Usage says that “the straight- spellings originated as errors, and they are still regarded as errors by many people. Because of their common occurrence in reputable publications, however, they are recognized as standard variants in almost all current dictionaries.”

But the OED, as just discovered, doesn’t give straightjacket as a variant.

Fresca said...

Huh, I'd never thought of it, but the different spellings convey different meanings, eh?
"Strait" for narrow and confined, which is surely what the jacket does,
while "straight" could be punnable, as you point out.

Either spelling makes some kind of sense, but what is "being-toward-death"?

Oh! I googled it--it's Heidegger.

I don't know all the ins and outs of this professor's case, but is her return to teaching a little bit like Louis CK returning to stand up?

Michael Leddy said...

“A little bit like Louis CK returning to stand up?” I’d say that’s an apt comparison. I don’t know what right-minded student would take this course. It’d be interesting though to spectate for a little while.

My uncharitable interpretation of “How does fiction manage these questions and reconfigure our being-toward-death?” might go like this: How do sexy e-mails and texts to a grad student make Avital Ronell feel young again? Look at the photo she has on her NYU page.