Invert Sugar (montrealais) wrote in metaquotes,
Invert Sugar

felis_ultharus, harried English lit grad student, is having issues with postmodernism:

[some ludicrous lit theory article describes a performance artist as:]"...offering to passers-by an "exhibit" of postmodern man about his daily business."

...What is "postmodern man's" daily business? Deconstructing his groceries? Turning office memos into historiographic metafiction? Informing his boyfriend/girlfriend that love is a bourgeois concept and a construction of language, and that the "I" in "I love you" is a signifier that cannot be tied to a signified beyond language? ...

siencyn asks:

Please deconstruct my grocery list. It currently is chicken, green beans, cauliflower, and coffee.

felis_ultharus, up to the challenge, puts on his Derrida mask and replies:

The word "chicken" contains traces "cowardice" and "underage male pursued by an older man." This intertextuality must be taken into account. The mere presence of the word immediately implicates a homophobic discourse of predatory older queer men who may, also, be cowards.

Taken to refer to the animal in its dead form sold in supermarkets, it suggests an allegiance to a hegemonic, bourgeois, meat-eating regime that makes use of hormones and other capitalist methods of food production.

However, privileging this last meaning would suggest that we are making the mistake of taking the items of the list (itself a genre having no referent beyond textuality) as refering to a referant beyond language.

The presence of "cauliflower" suggests "ears" (as in "cauliflower ears"), and hints, perhaps, of a liberal humanist, bourgeois privileging of the oral over the written.

"Coffee" can refer to beans or to a drink that is part of the bourgeoisie lifestyle. Its presence signals allegiance to a global, coffee-producing culture, a mass-market, and, inevitably, resonates with images of repetition (millions around the world are drinking it) -- which suggests the elimination of the individual, while also allegorically producing an analogous narrative of concern for the "already said, already written." "Coffee", as a drink of bourgeois routine, cannot escape connection to the concepts of repetition. The fear of repetition -- of merely reproducing that which has been said, because there are no origins -- creates anxiety.

Thus, I can only conclude that "coffee" is an allusion to the work of Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, the post-structuralists who (if we were going to work within the fiction of "author" and "origin") first described these concepts of reproduction, repitition, and the "already said, already written."

"Green Bean" appears to have no purpose, except as a possible intertext for "coffee bean." Having no possible meaning beyond language, "green bean" is clearly an attempt to liberate language from meaning, from the intent of author-as-god.

Your grocery list, in conclusion, reveals a complex web of Postmodern contradictions. The list's early attempt to re-inscribe stereotypes of queer males, and inscribe new ones, is demolished by the second entry's shattering of imposed meaning, and a relapse in the form of "cauliflower" (oral speech), is finally shattered in the reproduction of the theories ascribed (by believers of "author") to Barthes and Kristeva, which results in a final elimination of the notions of authorial intent and cultural metanarratives.

Clearly, your grocery list is an act of liberation.


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