Tomorrow I’m supposed to be leading a discussion on Barbara Johnson’s A World of Difference in my literary theory class and I can’t decide if I should bring a dildo. (I know, I know… one of those rare blagpportunities where the title literally summarizes the post.)

We are talking about pedagogy and I will be talking about how Paul de Man avoids the problem of gender by using the word “it.” He also ultimately decides teaching should be an impersonal activity as opposed to an interpersonal one. He also personifies his arguments and linguistic devices so that they carry the burden of the work. Barbara Johnson shows that the combination of these strategies does in fact gender de Man’s work:

“But the question can be asked why de Man’s discourse of self-resistance and uncertainty has achieved such authority and visibility, while the self-resistance and uncertainty of women has been part of what has insured their lack of authority and their invisibility.”

She finishes with delicious aplomb, “It would seem that one has to be positioned in the place of power in order for one’s self-resistance to be valued. Self-resistance, indeed, may be one of the few viable postures remaining for the white male establishment (45).”

This “it,” this “personification” that stands in for the person, the agent of pedagogy satisfying student and teacher in an impersonal exchange sound eerily like a fetish! Even a phallus… So why can’t I do the whole presentation with one in front of me?

By holding the phallus I would make people anxious about sex— which would, in turn, make them anxious about gender. I would have something there that half of the room already has, but the fact that I held it would turn me into a perverse spectacle (Hypothetically? In addition to really?) and bring us right back to talking about how deconstructionists ignore affective difference, the practical manifestations of discursive constructs (like race, queerness, gender.)

Plus– who wouldn’t be comforted by squeezing a little silicone during tense moments.

(And what would the Mormon think!)

Please check Yes or No.

Advertisements