Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quantum Feminism?

The psychoanalyst at ShrinkWrapped is trying to make heads or tails of a dissertation entitled "Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics: the Archival Text, Digital Narrative and the Limits of Memory", which is also a forthcoming book. To be honest, I'm still trying to make heads or tails of what quantum feminism might be. The ShrinkWrapped doctor is convinced that it's just a bunch of pernicious gobbledygook, an interesting take for someone who has spent their life in the field of psychoanalysis.

At any rate, he could be right that it's nonsense. However, the tone of his article, which roughly translates to "Harrumph!", and the tone of the comments, which roughly translate to "Haw, haw! Wouldja lookit that city slicker with her fancy egghead talkin'!", really rub me the wrong way. I find much of academic theoretical writing to be absurd as well, but I'm getting a bit tired of reading things on the Internet that amount to "Here's something that I've never read and why it's probably crap!" Is there a better definition of a Philistine than someone who brags about not reading all of the books they haven't read?

That said, I'm having trouble with the dissertation too. Apparently, history people are no more qualified than psychoanalysts to wade through this stuff. And yet... at the risk of irritating Greg once more, and remembering that he has done some work in the field of quantum electronics, and with much groveling... (“Oh Lord, ooh you are so big! So absolutely huge! Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you!”) Dr. VonWinkle, would you like to take a look at the Abstract of this thing, and see if it makes any sense to you? I can probably translate the theoretical jargon, if'n you can tell me if she's explaining "Quantum space" correctly.

Update: I've now read the abstract five times, and actually, it's starting to make sense to me. I'm not sure how her theories couldn't also apply to any sort of archive, such as a traditional library, and so why the focus on the Internet. But, perhaps she gets to that in the body of the dissertation. Anyway, I'm interested in knowing what others make of it.

Update 2: I'm also not sure why the rather sexist assumption that linearity is somehow particularly masculinist necessitates the counter-argument that other models of time are somehow particularly feminist. But the fact that I disagree with the point she's making means that I also disagree with the people who are saying that she's not making a point!

12 comments:

bleeeeeeeeeeeeeee said...

.. .. ...

Anonymous said...

Are you mentally ill or what?!

Why post useless comments on people's blog posts when you can't even read the language?

If you're looking for more traffic to your blog, I suggest you read people's post (that you really wanna read), and comment on them..

You're pathetic!

Rufus said...

Huh? What comment are you referring to?

Rufus said...

Ah well, you can't expect a comment like that to become coherent on its own.

gregvw said...

Oh sweet Jesus does the rampant misuse of the word "quantum" get on my last word. Curiously, your extreme mangling of my surname does not, since most people (including actual Germans) do fuck up the spelling of "von Winckel." Nice MP ref tho.

Since when is quantum mechanics "the science of a body in motion?" I would have that that would fall under the name "dynamics" since thats what it means.

I read the abstract and it certainly sounds like twaddle to me. Granted I don't know much about the postmodernist philosophy and feminist aspects, but the throwaway pop-science references surely do ring of a pseudointellectual who spent a bored afternoon leafing thought whatever superceded OMNI magazine.

Sorry, but there is just no fucking way that I am going to wade through the whole dissertation to look for evidence of authenticity.

Rufus said...

Dr. von Winckel,
It won't happen again, I promise. My take on her science was about the same. However, since my own knowledge doesn't go much further than Omni and some long conversations with members of our university's physics department, I figured I'd ask.

What was funny about the whole thing is that her dissertation struck me as that of a layperson not understanding a certain field of study and pretending to, and the blogging about her dissertation struck me as a bunch of lay people not understanding her particular field of study and deciding that, since they don't understand it, it must be nonsense. I actually found the philosophy stuff more interesting, and as I'm a bit weird, much more easy to understand than the bits about 'Quantum' this and that.

So, I guess the danger in math and physics is that people will not understand what you're talking about and pretend that they do, and in the humanities we have to worry that people won't understand what we're talking about and become hostile!

Rufus said...

No, don't worry about reading it all. I've read it all, and it's really just more musing than making concrete arguments. Pretty hit or miss really. I just wanted you to read the abstract.

gregvw said...

I wish I could have filled my dissertation with 170 pages of musings. Instead, I actually had to compute a bunch of stuff.

Rufus said...

I'm really getting roped into doing pro bono work for this woman, aren't I? Okay, basically what she's doing is coming up with a theoretical framework that can be used to explain something about a certain chunk of literature. This is what lit crit people do, along with close readings.

The main problem I have with her theoretical framework is that it's rooted in a misunderstanding of certain ideas from physics and a misuse of the word quantum. That aside, perhaps her theory, or maybe we should call it a 'useful metaphor', really will make it easier for some readers to make sense out of these books. More useful would be those readers who correct her problems (probably just by cutting out the word Quantum) and use her theories to explain some other batch of literature, or the totality of Internet archiving (and explain why in the world it's different than any other sort of archiving!).

Admittedly, my own dissertation will involve a lot of crunching numbers and boring concrete archival research. I guess where I differ with most people on this woman's dissertation is that I just expect certain areas of writing in the humanities to consist of people musing until they come up with a theoretical framework that helps us understand something about art or literature. It's not that I think it's particularly successful in this case. However, some of the great works in the field have consisted of people musing successfully! And, moreover, most philosophy consists of people musing successfully or unsuccessfully. It'll never build us a bridge, but I think it still has a place in the academic world. I would say that the use of hemlock might improve the state of philosophy.

Whew! I'm doing a lot of work for a dissertation that didn't much thrill me!

gregvw said...

Even if everything else makes sense, it strikes me as pretty laughable that you can put a word (the FIRST word) in your doctoral dissertation, which supposedly you are THE expert on, which you do not understand.

Quantum just means "discrete" as in things taking discrete values. Unfortunately, the word is widely used to mean "spooky" or "non explainable by classical theories." While quantum mechanics is both of those things, that is not what the word means. Meh.

Rufus said...

Alright, point taken. (slyly erasing former dissertation title on "Quantum French travellers of the 19th century")

gregvw said...

I'm going to have to ask to to remove the words cyberspace, synergetics, orgone, space elevator, and virtual reality.