citable authors of all, because you can cite him reverently
without having to figure out what he said. With Benjamin a
citation is the academic equivalent of the purely ritual move,
like a ballplayer's sign of the cross." ~ Lindsay Waters
Waters, poohbah of humanities operations at Harvard University Press, made this comment a couple of years ago. He is politely stating the truth that Benjamin - like Thomas Kuhn, Clifford Geertz, Richard Rorty, and a few other boundary-crossing notables - is much cited while scarcely read. The discrepancy varies among social sciences and humanities with various authors. But humanities types, especially those writing on visual arts, tend to rely on the WB talisman to a truly exasperating extent. The mere mention of his name seemingly is enough to afford the author weight and authority. In my case, it is the signal that the time has come to start skimming.
For his part, Walters has diminished the possibility that invokers can offer the excuse that WB's works are scattered and difficult to track down and so forth. He has just published this new, cheap collection of WB's writings on arts and media.
Labels: New Books