A Criticism of (My Own) Critical Approaches

This is not for you.

By criticism I do not mean the activity by which one points out the flaws or merits in a (body of work) as one does in a review, often with a purpose of either recommending the work for consumption by others, or submitting a recommendation for its place within (or outside) of a canon.

Nor is it the activity by which the critic engages the author of the text on what she should or should not have done to make the work good or better. I am not here as a judge of craft.

I mean (but not simply mean) the set of activities by which I make meaning by interacting with a particular work (often referred to hereafter, but not exclusively, as text). The critical pieces I make may be recommendatory, but they are not exclusively so. Most often they are acts of appreciation, as this space (the We Remember Love blog) is not professional. It is a hobby space wherein myself (and guest writers) write about subjects of personal interest.

For the casual readers of this blog, I apologize for what would seem to be a formal shift in my language. I prefer to write this way about this particular subject (for now at least). For more familiar readers I’ve no doubt that you would detect the strong personal feeling that went into this piece. I apologize also that I did not write this for you. I am however, okay with sharing this to whomever is interested.

In this post, a critical view of what I’ve done here in this blog (and beyond) so far, and perhaps what I intend to do in the future.

Here is how I thought I practiced criticism:

I am a post-structuralist with a high appreciation of postmodernism. I refuse to limit myself to what I thought as pervasive outmoded critical practices. By this I mean close-reading as used by mostly Liberal Humanist critics in the anime blogosphere who are, almost to a man, completely unaware of the theoretical underpinnings of their methodology.

They sternly think of their work as “telling it the way it is,” often (but not always) appealing to objectivity.

This is the way we’ve been taught to read (analyze) books in high school. Those who do not go out of their way to study other critical practices will most likely take this method for granted as truth, and look upon other practices as unnecessary sophistry.

Before I go further, here is a presentation of the tenets of Liberal Humanism (done with the important contributions of Kaiserpingvin):

I’m not saying that every single reviewer out there follows these tenets to the letter in every post they publish. In many cases, the intentional fallacy (tenets 2 & 3) is disregarded (writers are blamed directly, harshly, and at times with contempt for perceived intentions or failure to achieve intended effects).

Related to this, innovation and originality is highly valued (in contrast to tenet 4). Cliché and trope subversion is also valued. The experience of the new and novel gets attention and praise.

Otherwise, standards of quality are professed. What is important is what is good. What is good, is something that says something about the human condition, uplifts human thought, if not human spirit. There is a correlation with the perceived good in the work, and the good it represents in humans (even if all the text does is show how bad we are). If it tells a kind of truth, freely; is complete and without gaps or holes, achieves symmetry and has integrity, then it is good and beautiful.

Works that accomplish this are included in “Best of” lists and favored lists by both critics and fans.

While I did not think I was above this, I thought I was beyond this.

I was too educated in criticism and meta-critcism (the criticism of criticism) to practice “mere” formalist Liberal Humanist criticism.

I thought I accomplished this by not arriving at a binary conclusion: good/bad. If I wrote about a show or manga, it’s obvious that I like something about it and I thought it interesting enough to devote crafting a post on. Some examples:

Such essays explore and speculate on specific items in the text that are beyond making a decision whether the subject show is ether good or not good.

However, in my revisiting them I’ve noticed that if there’s one thing in common, the role I play here is mostly an intermediary between the text and the reader. I am interpreting the symbols so to speak, consistent with Tenet 10. How do I know I was doing this? It’s because I still didn’t want to appear like I pulled the claims I made in these posts out of thin air.

For all the overt rhetoric I spout of making meaning, what I end up doing is still actively interpreting meaning. In these cases I am the manservant of the text and the reader as opposed as an independent agent of meaning construction.

Here is another set of essays:

All three are character analyses. One thing that none of them can escape is a moral framework. All three subjects are acknowledged as having moral failures, and as being interesting for being so. The works they belong to are significant because they present moral quandaries for the viewer to consider. What is present in these essays, even if I’m not saying it, is that it is good for the viewer to be provoked this way (an examined life is good, &c).

This third set of essays is part of my professed critical perspective, that is to appreciate works that “remember love” for others as part of a kind of tradition (e.g. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Eureka SeveN, Turn A Gundam, Martian Successor Nadesico).

While there is indeed a difference between mainstream or popular critical practice and the things I do in these essays, the difference is actually superficial. The posts merely avoid good/bad value judgments because it takes for granted that the shows being discussed are good.

The authorial arrogance here works like this: If I’m writing about a show, I don’t have to justify how good it is. Rather, here I show how all these things can be found within the work. It naturally follows that the work is a quality one.


Yay, me.

Here is the crux of the epiphany:

In my efforts to go against the grain, I find myself not very different at all from everyone else. I just ended up working harder to end up being pretty much the same kind of critic.

In theoretical terms, here is what I am:

I am a post-structuralist by education.

I have a soft-spot for deconstruction.

I am a post-colonial reader by inclination.

I am a structuralist by habit.

I am a liberal humanist by sentiment.

For all the thought and work I put in, I really am after the same things with almost everyone else. I was just quite inauthentic about it.

After discovering my former professors on facebook and getting in touch with them, I remembered love for all I used to study. I re-read the essays of my idols, and looked long and hard at myself, because I want to hold myself up to the standards I’ve been trained to meet.

What I attempted here is something like a deconstruction of my own critical practice. I read my body of work against itself. But what do I do with the findings? I intend to reclaim my authentic critical voice. I want to achieve symmetry between my professed intentions and my actual behavior.

I don’t want to come up with something convuluted and cheesy like a post-post-structuralist approach. Rather I just make peace with the idea that I am a person not at odds with nihilism, and from this peace I freely use even post-structuralist methods in keeping with structuralist habits. Why, because I’m a romantic the way Liberal Humanists are.

I was once an academician, and my goal was to teach philosophy through literature. I majored in Literature, with a minor in Philosophy. I found reading philosophy immensely forbidding, and often boring. At the same time I often found the discussion of literature incredibly bland, and often boring. I thought (and still think) that the best way to communicate philosophical thought was through stories. I would use the study of stories to communicate philosophy.

I have a very, very, very soft spot for Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

What Harvard University does using the HBO series The Wire is made from the stuff of my dreams. That is, to use contemporary writing and not just great (European) novels to communicate practical and philosophical ideas.

How I value all this I think, is informed by my Liberal Humanist bias. I may sympathize with the nihilism within postmodernist thought. I may sympathize with the methods of post-structuralism to read the text against its professed meanings. However, I am truly interested in appreciation and not destruction. I am a builder and not a destroyer.

Where one would rend a text asunder, I would establish symmetry. Not because there is inherent symmetry in anything; rather, I acknowledge the condition of nihilism and from its nothingness create my own (if arbitrary) order.

This is love, as I remember it to be.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, meta and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to A Criticism of (My Own) Critical Approaches

  1. animekritik says:

    Excellent. Three comments and a query:

    1) The 2nd paragraph in Tenet 8 reads kinda strange.
    2) I was just about to do a post on precisely what it is that I try to do in my blog critically speaking, so I guess great (or silly) minds think alike and in tandem.
    3) It’s harder to be oneself than is commonly though. One just has to keep trying. The trouble is one has to “be” a Humanist (or something more reactionary, but never something post-Humanist) in order to flourish in society. By the time the thought has left your head and reached the keyboard, a major dose of self-censorship has taken place.
    4) Sauce for Gunbuster pic?

    • Thank you.

      1. “There must [be] no unnecessary or narcissistic devices…”

      Apologies for this error.

      2. In tandem indeed, but I am interested in the question, “why now?” In my case I thought I had 2 years worth of writing to read, and that I had reconnected with some of my acquaintances in the academe as well as their writing.

      3. The self-censorship is interesting, I think we are ultimately responsible for the words we choose and the persona that can be read. At some point (like now), I find it important to take stock and find integrity between intention and production/behavior. We are nothing but our words.

      4. It’s from one of the Mikimoto Haruhiko artbooks (he is the original character designer for Macross, Orguss, Gunbuster, and some Gundam shows and manga as well).

      • animekritik says:

        The only reason I’m thinking about it now is because I was reading through an article on metaphors as heuristic devices and I saw a lot of my blog as trying to do that 🙂

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  3. kadian1364 says:

    There’s a lot to stew on here. Let’s say your writing methodology were really against the grain. Can the the average anime watching, blog reading audience you attract here understand that sort of writing? Would you have attracted the quality or size of audience you have now?

    I think it’s important to share the similar framework of logic at least to understand one another, i.e. valuations of what is good and what it bad. Then we each bring in our own experiences and perspectives to spice up the conversation.

    I read WRL not only because it fills a niche I don’t see often, but also the amount of thought and depth of analysis is beyond the usual noise yet at an understandable level (read: better than most everyone else). Nihilism as I understand it could be a novel perspective for reading once or twice, but doesn’t compel me like more traditional thought.

    • First of all, thank you for the reassuring words, and I truly value your sentiment.

      The kind of framework at the core of my reading is very difficult to communicate even at my very best effort. I will attempt to do so here:

      Consider that in this view, my view, there is something beyond subjectivity as it is commonly held. The arbitrariness I speak of comes from a space where there is no essence of things, no essential meaning to words, and that ideas (perhaps in the Platonic sense) cannot exist without words (signs, and symbols).

      Since words arrive at their meaning when two speakers agree at their meaning (you and I agree that the word “lightning” means an electric meteorological phenomenon), then the idea of lightning is independent of the actual phenomenon. The phenomenon is not the essence of it. We just called it that, and we can call it something else if we so agree.

      Extend this to a created work, how it occurs, what it means (whether its content, or the whole) is entirely contingent to the participation of those who experience it, including its creators. There is no necessary privilege of either creator, intended audience, or any other consumer. Its meaning becomes many, and all are available for consideration.

      As an advocate, I may sound normative or prescriptive (e.g. In Utena, the swords are penises which is why Utena carries one, and Roses are vaginas which is why Utena pulls the Sword of Dios from within Anthy the Rose Bride), but this is only because it’s fun to write with abandon. All in all, all I’m making is an invitation to see things my way, for readers to consider my offering, the meanings I make from my participation with the text.

      The inauthenticity I talk about is similar to say, Yagami Light’s. My writing is accessible, but the arrogance is hidden carefully and calculatingly. If I deconstruct many of the essays, say the Haruhi one (As Cruel Gods Go), the reading will yield how the essay shows contempt for the endless recursion of Endless Eight whining prevalent at the time (as if to say, “This is how you write about Haruhi you ignorant hacks”).

      I may not personally hold this arrogance towards people, since I really like people and I care just as much as (if not more) about making friends than winning arguments via essay. But the essays themselves can be deconstructed to reveal the arrogance. Compare this to say, digiboy, whose text even if deconstructed yields the opposite: arrogant and imperious (there is a right way of how to feel moe, for example), but what one can see is also an even stronger need for validation despite the initial authoritative stance.

      Now that I am aware of my own essays betrayals (so to speak), I can now consciously avoid them. It won’t make them perfect, but I will definitely feel better, enjoy myself more, stop worrying and getting hung-up.

      Now to give some credit: The accessibility that I strive for is due to the example and advice of cinco bajeena/otou-san. He doesn’t get enough credit, but he is, next to Iknight, my anime blogging hero.

  4. gaguri says:

    “I thought (and still think) that the best way to communicate philosophical thought was through stories.”

    I find philosophy immensely boring to read as well (except for Deleuze’s poetic texts) and I agree with him when he says “philosophy needs a non-philosophy that comprehends it”.

    http://in-trans.appspot.com/entry/articulated-flow <- this is a blog article which I feel that is similar to what you're trying to say, except in more poetic terms (so might leave some confused). But that's the kind of articles I want to write as well. "I want to perceive the world not from its floor, but from a perch atop that pagoda."

    • Thanks for the link, it’s a lovely post.

      The post is aggressive in ways that I’m not, as I actually end up writing in a confessional style (the more important the subject is to me) as opposed to a presentation/case-building one.

      But yes, I end up saying pretty much the same thing — which is part of what I found inauthentic in my writing.

      But I think I figured it out.

      Even deconstructively, I want to bring people together in a banquet of meanings, on a table that I prepared. I am debate-averse because I don’t seek to invalidate other meanings. The meta-deconstruction is there is no right/wrong, only mine/yours, but even that can be mine/yours/ours without zero-sum logic.

      I am confident about this in written work, much less so with film and visual arts, and even less with music (I attempted to deconstruct my comments in your blog and it reads like a student acutely aware of his ignorance at the same time skeptical about the ideas he’s given). It’s like I’m afraid to drink my own medication: whatever meaning I create in my experience of the text(material) is valid.

      I get better every day, I only make a distinction with the meanings I make that are worth sharing and those I’d rather keep to myself.

  5. lolikitsune says:

    Up next on notdotq: “The Inauthenticity of Post-postlightning ghostlightning, or my BROstlightning wrote this post just to piss me off, so I had better respond to it.”

    Not really.

    But again, categories, boxes, pigeons, pipipipipi, for some reason I’m failing Mizunashi Mode and I just can’t communicate with the widdle gway birds. Ugh, references, Nascar, alchemy, etc., etc., but eh…

    I guess it’s always fun to examine ourselves and our techniques. I don’t think it would be valuable for me to do so because 99% of what I do in the aniblogosphere is inauthentic. When I read tragedy (you remember the post), I’m not being particularly normative, I don’t think, so that separates me from new criticism pretty nicely. Structuralism and post-structuralism are pretty much the same thing unless you believe that that assnut Foucault actually ever changed his mind about anything over the course of his lifetime. Liberal humanism? I’m not totally familiar, but it seems couched in a similarity of human experience/condition that I’m not comfortable affirming.

    My crowning critical achievement to this day is probably still Akari’s Lies, and where does that lie, o ghastly crucifier of mine? Comparing it to things I’ve read in the academic sphere, Plato’s Pharmacy comes closest; does that make it faux-deconstructionist? A close reading presented as more than such, doing a lot of shaky speculation that adds meaning and “plays” with the text, yet makes no positive claims at 100% confidence—seems to fit the Pharmaceutical prototype in that regard, at least, though I’m not sure if I should at all times conflate Derrida, Plato’s Pharmacy, and deconstruction.

    Why do I care about this? Why am I rambling at such lengths?

    What has school done to me? And why are you enforcing it?

    Bargle fargle, ghosty, bargle fargle

  6. Pontifus says:

    I know I’ve talked to you about this post already, but I’ll reiterate here:

    I am a post-structuralist by education.

    I have a soft-spot for deconstruction.

    I am a post-colonial reader by inclination.

    I am a structuralist by habit.

    I am a liberal humanist by sentiment.

    This is where the magic happens.

    The conclusion this post seems to point to is that one needn’t construct a self-identity based on reading methods or, more broadly, schools of thought. You don’t have to be “a postcolonialist” or “a structuralist” or “a liberal humanist;” you can just be ghostlightning who uses those methods when they seem convenient and applicable, and, when they don’t, uses alternative methods. We’re talking about critical lenses, after all, which are nothing more than tools — sometimes they’re useful, sometimes they’re not, but the important thing is that, at any given time, you have access to an entire toolbox.

    To put it another way, I don’t think that identifying oneself strongly with one approach amounts to inauthenticity; inauthenticity happens when you make all the tools in the critical toolbox look like one tool in particular.

    • Baka-Raptor says:

      Last two paragraphs were pretty much what I was going to say. ghostlightning wa ghostlightning, and such.

      By the way, you should try destruction sometime. It’s fun!

      • This post is mostly destruction, wherein I read my essays “against themselves” – though characteristically, I don’t end the post with rubble strewn all over the place. I need to put some things back together, even if they’re a little (or a lot) different from what they were to begin with.

    • Thanks and I think I get you.

      If you look at my list closer, you’ll see that many of these are at odds with each other, even if they are built upon each other in many cases. The chief among these is the LH/Romantic/Modernist bias for symmetry, beauty, Truth, proportion against the Poststructuralist/Postmodern acceptance or even fetishization of meaninglessness/nihilism, the free-play of meaning, the absence of a center, plural truths, flatness of aesthetics (standards), and beauty in asymmetry.

      What I want to say, even if only to myself, is how to make the LH/Modernist/Romatic biases a valid tradition within postmodernism. If I give up the necessity of rightness, and make this tradition an invitation instead of prescription (even if my language and expression is that of conviction), then I think I am successful.

      • lolikitsune says:

        Seems a bit simplistic to group modernism with LH and say that it’s interested in beauty and symmetry and truth, am I wrong?

        • Yes it is. But I’ve written long enough comments as it is, and given the format I am making big categorical lumping that cannot work in a strict academic sense. But in my particular experience, I associated the grand narratives of human achievement with the Modernist ideal, therefore having significant overlap with Liberal Humanism.

      • animekritik says:

        “Make the [old] biases a valid tradition within postmodernism.” This is regression, am I wrong?

        • It can be read as such and it makes me worry.

          That said, this is how I mean it. Whereas,

          1. In a nihilistic flatland, all my sentiment and desire is but one equally valid set of meanings.

          2. The problem is if certain meanings, ideals (or its very concept) are privileged necessarily over others.

          3. I hold my sentiments and desires no less important or true than any other within the postmodern condition.

          4. I hold my sentiments and desires no more important nor true within the postmodern condition. They are contingent.

          Therefore, my sentiments and desires can be a tradition, of appreciation, which is how I view my own role here in this space (WRL).

          It’s like loving religion for secular reasons, without converting into one.

          • animekritik says:

            Do you feel your values are assaulted by postmodernism? I feel as if many people share them and there’s no real reason to “make them valid”. Where’s the threat coming from?

          • More like values are non-essential and therefore contingent, and arbitrary. I like things symmetrical and consistent and when contradiction occurs in my thinking I go into conniptions (especially because I really like postmodernism and find nihilism very powerful). I like the pieces to fit. Postmodernism suggests that the pieces are where they are and that’s not “bad.”

            So, my attempts to make meaning from order, symmetry, ideals, etc. I want them to fit in my flat world view.

      • Pontifus says:

        Ah, your last comment to animekritik (particularly the bit about you not liking contradiction) helps me get where you’re coming from. I’m running up against that preference of yours by suggesting that, where theories of interpretation are concerned, you’re allowed to contradict yourself, and maybe even that you should do so.

        I tend to think that poststructuralism gives the okay, perhaps inadvertently, to a lot of other aesthetics. In the absence of a finite center, you’re free to choose your own center or centers. The post-s didn’t annul their forebears; they just pull the rug out from under them (though some would disagree, I guess). To me, thinking of the earlier stuff (and the post-s, and the later stuff) as arbitrary and optional constructs even makes them make more sense.

        • Yes, this is what I’m hoping for… to make something sensible out of the contradiction. It’s one thing to have different truths, but it becomes difficult for me when they are polarized, and resistant to be reduced as a binary opposition.

          But I think it’s coming down to analytical skill at this point, and I can’t complain about my own limitations on that end, I can only try to do better.

  7. I’ve always loved doing analysis of literature/anime, I write how I want to write and damn the consequences. I really wish I still had my paper discussing Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World, it was a fun paper to write.

    When I write about Anime, I notice a bit of a theme of awe and wonderment and a lack of identification with any “cliques” nowadays. I used to pretty much just watch mech shows, now I’ve branched out to a lot of other genres. I’m planning on starting Sailor Moon sometime this year/next in an attempt to branch out into the magical girl genre as an extension of my intense love for Tokusatsu.

    I really enjoy reading your work even if it’s about a show I haven’t seen. You helped me to go beyond just watching Macross 7, you and digiboy helped me to give Eureka Seven another chance after watching it many years ago, and you helped me finally decide to ignore all the bad things I’ve heard about Gundam 00 which resulted in it becoming one of my favorite Gundam shows. I really have to thank you!

    • Thanks. I’m glad you get something out of the posts even if you’re unfamiliar with the material.

      It is quite ironic, because Gundam 00 fans sometimes think I’m too harsh on it. Then again, the shows detractors sometimes lump me with the “00fag” camp.

  8. Bruno J Global says:

    Ah, this does take me back to high school/college analysis times. I just wonder, this Liber Humanism thing, I seem to remember it as Formalism, or is there a difference? I’m aware that there are other critical approaches, but indeed, with a science degree, I never got to be properly trained in using these.

    • Formalism is part of this tradition, yes, but not the other way around. LH is conceived as a loose category that can speak for many pre-theory theories.

      Check out Beginning Theory by Peter S. Barry.

  9. Cuchlann says:

    You seem to think that, in interpreting some other work, you’re not making your own meaning. I would encourage you to think about it in this way:

    Thursday night we were discussing The Picture of Dorian Gray. The professor ended by posing a question to the class (most of whom were horrified by their false impression of what the Aesthetics and their search for beauty meant). The question was: basically: “But aren’t you all aesthetics? Aren’t we all? We’re just searching for the next book we can’t live without, the next amazing movie. We’re English majors, devoting our careers to studying literature — the pursuit of artistic sensation.”

    He approved my addendum: “And that’s all criticism is, as well. It’s just an attempt to pass on whatever feelings you’ve experienced to someone else, so they can experience them too.” (Which, by the way, is also one of the reasons more than one interpretation is possible, because each interpretation is simply a framework for an aesthetic experience, either of location or dislocation).

    You’re not beholden to the text if you use it; I would argue the farther a blogger gets from using the concrete text, the more beholden they are to it, because they can no longer interpret. They must use the text as an absolute if they’re going to build anything far away from it (think of the “theory of everything” post that hand-waves at meanings in half a dozen texts without every illustrating any of them).

    • This is great stuff.

      My consternation over my own practice lies more with its distance from my (then) ideal to what I actually did — which was to really ‘divine the intention of the text,’ and I did it without being (or while forgetting) my own agency in the matter to a degree.

      This isn’t a problem now, or it’s less so, because I get that even the most author-centric interpretation method is, whether the user likes it or not, a meaning-making act of creation as opposed to a divination.

      You’re not beholden to the text if you use it; I would argue the farther a blogger gets from using the concrete text, the more beholden they are to it, because they can no longer interpret. They must use the text as an absolute if they’re going to build anything far away from it (think of the “theory of everything” post that hand-waves at meanings in half a dozen texts without every illustrating any of them).

      Yes, I’ve seen this happen, when conclusive or normative posts take certain interpretations of anime as self-evident truths.

  10. Salinea says:

    This is beautiful.

  11. Jack says:

    You had to come to this revelation just as I was experimenting with very close readings of texts, didn’t you?

    Apparently this is because my school indoctrinated me within the liberal humanist position without me knowing it. Now I won’t be able to write anything ever again, thanks!

    On an unrelated note, the tenant I see deployed most often (usually without explanation) is ‘show, don’t tell’.

    • Close reading in itself isn’t bad or wrong, nor obsolete. I still use it. What will make it obsolete if we use it within the limiting context of some of the Liberal Humanist biases, foremost perhaps is the exclusion of anything meta, or anything beyond the text (author, culture, history) as a means to participate in it.

      To use a method such as deconstruction still requires close reading, only broader, to involve not just the close reading of the text itself, but that of context, history, language and all kinds of meta.

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  13. Marigold Ran says:

    Several assumptions:

    1. Being different is good. (You’ve made this assumption without justification. May I ask why is being different a good thing?)
    2. Good is good. (Bad can be good too, sometimes. Can “good” be defined? Or is it primarily subjective? I.e. “I think it’s good, therefore it’s good?”)
    3. Beauty and truth is good. (Plato assumes that the relationship between truth and falseness are linear. There is “good” and “truth” on one end and “not-good” and “lies” on the other end. Is that a valid perspective?)

    But most importantly:

    4. The Liberal Humanist Assumption:

    “The purpose of criticism is to transmit our appreciation of these books to other people. WE BELIEVE THAT THROUGH THE METHOD OF CRITICISM, THIS TRANSMISSION OF APPRECIATION IS POSSIBLE.”

    On this point I completely disagree. There is sufficient evidence from students who graduated from high school English classes that this assumption, expressed in the capitalized sentence above, is flawed. I do not believe criticism is a valid way of transmitting appreciation to someone who failed to appreciate the work in the first place. In other words, even if a person writes a really good essay on Faulkner, I’m still not going to go out and read his books. He’s boring. Others share this opinion too.

    I enjoy reading your posts because they’re thoughtful (and all thoughtful ideas are provocative). However, observing my own viewing habits, I doubt anyone has convinced me to appreciate anything that I didn’t intend to appreciate in the first place. The primary role of criticism, as I see it, is to introduce works that are on the “borderline”- i.e. the sorts of shows that a person would like to watch but is too lazy to go ahead and do it. If the show or a book is not on the “borderline”, and is, in fact, far away from the “borderline”, then criticism is not going to help.

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      As for your questions.

      1. Sameness = boredom (speaking for myself). Specifically, if I offered nothing novel or different, there was no reason for blog readers of popular quality blogs at the time to add me to their consumption habits. I equate difference in this context as distinction (a positive value tag), as opposed to say, variation (a neutral value tag), or mutation (a negative value tag).

      2. LH ascribe good to the ff qualities (an abridged list):

      Absence of superfluousness

      It’s effect is the provocation of human thought that leads to wisdom, as well as the uplifting of the human spirit.

      3. Prior to Nietzche (eventually leading to Derrida), binary oppositions are fixed:


      The binary opposites give meaning to each other and these are not only fixed in language convention, but also in practical human logic. Nietzche questioned this brilliantly. But on the language level, the poststructuralists “deconstructed” the binary structure and allowed for plurality of meaning between signs.

      4. Your disagreement is valid, but it doesn’t invalidate the assumption. I discovered many shows because of well-written essays on them.

      But wait, you say “failed to appreciate the works in the first place,” well that’s a different problem. It’s very difficult to change someone’s feelings about a work — especially because stories work on a very emotive level. I don’t think anyone who ended up hating Revolutionary Girl Utena will change her mind after she reads my essays on it.

      But it is not impossible.

      After I dropped Highschool of the Dead with disgust, I read this post on Superfanicom. I ended up being a fan of the show and the manga.

      • Marigold Ran says:

        1. Your blog was already different. Apparently you thought otherwise. Fair enough.

        2. I really don’t like LH. Uplift the human spirit to what? The phrase “uplifting the spirit” oftentimes means “aristocratic snobbishness.”

        There is also no such thing as wisdom, only experience. Many sayings that were considered “wise” back-in-the-day have no value today because the circumstances have changed. Aesop’s fables are an excellent example. Some of his fables remain valid [e.g. the fable about sour grapes] because in some ways society and people today is similar to society and people back in Aesop’s day. However, other fables are now totally worthless [e.g. the fable about how a person should always stick to his job and not try other options] because society has changed.

        The things that a person considers to be wise reflects the circumstances around him. For example, a person who came from the ghetto would see more “wisdom” in carrying a gun than a person who came from the suburbs. They came from different places, and therefore their sets of experiences are different, and thus they value things differently. The LH concept of a “wisdom” that is universal to all does not exist.

        3. Prior to Nietzche, in EUROPE, binary oppositions were fixed. Asian philosophies have a long tradition of assuming that there is no such thing as binary oppositions (Taoism is an excellent example). I’m glad the post-structuralists have finally caught up with a philosophy that was developed thousands of years ago.

        4. No, it’s not impossible. But it’s rare and it almost never happens. And it definitely won’t happen with high school students. Thus, the effort spent into imbuing high school students with an appreciation of Faulkner is not worthwhile.

        • 1. The difference was also between my own site and blogs I really like (The Animanachronism, Claimin Ground, Superfanicom). I wanted to be different from them as well.

          2. It’s easy to dislike LH. I did so too for a long time. I distinguish ideals from praxis, so I don’t get caught up with the erudite snobbishness some of them indulge.

          Watching Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann uplifts my spirit, though LH critics may not approve of the show, as they more likely than not distinguish between high vs. low culture. Bloggers, to a degree do this, by excessively vilifying fanservice (not knowing the many varieties of such), and when they do indulge such, they classify this as a “guilty pleasure” (BLECH).

          There is wisdom, and it is a state (ergo temporal) rather than something fixed and immutable. A wise statement, or a course of action is not necessarily universal or timeless, but LH people certainly thought of them as such.

          3. Asian traditions of thought do relish in paradox, Taoism definitely does. But I do not have access to such studies when it comes to their tradition of literary criticism.

          4. It is worthwhile, if not for Faulkner, for someone else. I turned out a great appreciator of literature out of high school and I know many people who do as well (if only to count fellow majors). The difference has to do with both the teachers we had, and the methodologies they used.

          Some methods, do work.

          But, it is very, very difficult. I was a lecturer at the university level and the teaching of literary appreciation is difficult. As I mentioned in the post, it is often bland and boring. But there are exceptions, there are students like myself.

          The task of critics, academicians, and educators is to make things work. Perhaps spend less time writing for each other, but also do the work to enrich students in general, as opposed to expecting literary works to enrich them as a self-evident truth.

  14. Marigold Ran says:

    Also, criticism, I think, reveals more of the person criticizing than the work being criticized. At the least, it’s possible to tell the sets of emotions a person is feeling at the moment when he’s writing honestly on the net.

  15. Lord Zero says:

    Mmm… to be honest… i discovered your blog very recently. No more than
    2 months ago.
    It was a instant bookmark. Why you ask ? Because of the style.

    Im a scientist, a field biologist. I dont really know anything about the technicisms of phylosophy or politics, nor writing devices. If you were to ask me about what its the postmodernism and how it evolved… i couldnt offer you anything besides a blank look and maybe a lame joke.

    Then again, even lacking the knowlenge to analize the structure of the posts, i have enjoyed all of your entries so far. As long as i keep on being able to read your insights about the anime and manga that you and me like, i will be content.

    Keep up the good work. We really appreciate it.

    • Thank you very much.

      I know this post isn’t for you, but I’m glad you went out of your way to say these words to me. I appreciate it.

      I can tell you that a lot of discussion re anime and manga comes down to taxonomy and categorization, often becoming problematic because of linear, binary, or mutually exclusive definitions.

      For example, the term “slice of life,” or “moe”

      Both are treated as genre, and you have people trying to call shows only either one or the other, often motivated by distaste for one or the other. I can only wish it can be a simple and elegant system as can be found in biology (not to say that phylogenetics seem simple to me).

      • Lord Zero says:

        To be honest its the same in all kinds of categorizations.
        Speaking only of what i know… it only looks well organized from an outsider point of view.

        I mean, we dont even have a common agreement of what a species is to begin with… its a blurry line all over the place.

  16. All I can say is, I have really enjoyed reading your writings in the short time that I have known this blog. (I’d been stuck in education related muck for a while and hadn’t looked at anime blogs in ages and ages…) I don’t tend to dwell on topics like post-structuralism and so forth. I simply appreciate quality when I see it, taking the same attitude a Zen master does when looking at a beautiful flower.

    Above all, I think you show an appreciation of anime as artwork, and write about it from that perspective. I think that’s very commendable.

    • Thank you for the compliments and reassurance.

      The Zen Master reaches Zen after lots of work purging what’s unnecessary from his thoughts. You can say posts like these are part of my own process. After all, Zen Masters don’t blog :3

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  18. abscissa says:

    This is so philosophical and I really enjoyed every bits of it. Unlike you, I’m neither a Philosophy nor Rhetoric major. I’m actually a double major in Math and Statistics. However I have fondness in Philosophy because I took some courses as my electives, and I like reading Philosophy books. I would say that academically I’m also a Post-Structuralist. In terms of ethics I have a somewhat contradicting ideology; I’m partial anti-humanist and a dualist at the same time by nature. And as a thinker, I’m trained to be a rationalist, but I would say I prefer to be a Kantian.

    Thanks for sharing me this. I would say that my knowledge is limited to what I have been exposed to that’s why it’s really nice to see different points of view. Also, I grew up in a very multicultural environment where the views are so diverse that sometimes it’s difficult to have one intact vision. On the contrary, I find it easy to liberate from the tradition and discern new ideas. I guess that reflects my random way of thinking. Thanks again for a very interesting post.

  19. Pingback: Bakuon!! Meets Blogging: On Understanding Our Hobbies – Humble Ace

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