This "very 'umble" (as Uriah Heap would phrase it) piece of satire was read at a meeting of the Killjoys (a literary discussion group) in a dilapidated, crumbling backhockey of a 1950's Cape Cod style house in Manhattan, Kansas last Friday. Though the current reader (you) will not be able to capture the aura surrounding its reading (the haze of pipe smoke, the taste of fermented barley and the imminent possibility of the roof caving in) I hope he or she (you) will at least enjoy the written words. So without further ado . . .
While we killjoy critics are against physical weapons of any kind—especially wooden or plastic weapons for children, which might lead little boys to imagine they are slaying dragons and saving socially constructed and dangerously gendered princesses in pink tulle . . . You will notice I have digressed, as is proper, for Killjoy critics also approve heartily of academic digressions which lead to new discoveries of thought and keep the writer from that format more menacing than a thousand, bloody-handed, ravenous capitalists at a rally for pollution: the five paragraph essay.
To return to what was posited at the outset of this paper, we killjoy critics are against physical weapons of any kind, but our arsenals are full of metaphorical weapons when approaching a text. One of these weapons is our ability to, once we have stated an idea about a text, repeat it at least twenty different ways using as many synonyms and obscure words as possible so as to make the audience think we are making tens of points, while, in reality, we are only making one. In other words, we present superfluous phrases to explain single concepts to our readers utilizing alternative phrases to give the appearance of nuanced meaning. What I mean by this is, we find other ways to state the same concept under the auspices of separate words and word pictures. To put it another way, we use diverse symbols, metaphors and cultural commentary under the aegis of one theory so as to skew the perception of the readers. Another way of looking at this is to think of a thesis as a fractal, made up by thousands of other mini-theses—namely words and phrases—that resemble the original thesis. It is best to state as many of these as is possible. Maybe an example would make my point seem stronger: Karl Marx famously said, “Workers of the world unite!” though we Killjoy critics esteem Mr. Marx highly for his ability to suck every drop of joy from any text on which he places his full, German lips, it would have behooved him to have found twelve to fifteen other phrases that meant the same thing as “workers of the world unite!” For instance, “Laborers of the planet, come together!” “Drudges of the globe, coalesce!” “Those who toil in this diurnal course, fuse yourselves!” “Proletariat of the blue planet, meld!” “Toilers on terra firma, merge!” “Those whose noses are to the grindstone, combine!” “Hired hands of earth, unionize!” His call for action would have stayed the same, but his audience would have been awed by his ability to repeat the same phrase in so many diverse ways. To put it simply, he could have used sundry phrases to supplement his singular thought. He might have told his readers what seven or eight critics said; if they happened to have said the exact same thing as he said, all the better. Over-citing critics is a sure way to let your audience know you are taking the text before you very seriously and will not let any joy seep through the hermetically sealed door you have forged from numerous examples.
In short, killjoy critics can assure themselves that the reader who used to find joy in a text now rues the day they laid eyes on that series of socially constructed words by employing seven strategies: repetition, reiteration, restatement, review, reminder, recapitulation and regurgitation. Another way of seeing this is this is to picture yourself in a room of mirrors. How many of you are there? Are any of your reflections different than the others? The answer to at least one of those rhetorical questions is, “no.” Write like that. In other words, put down words on paper following the example of the mirrors. As critic Mary S. Wagoner puts it, “Tristram” (never mind who he is, just imagine he stands for all authors everywhere in every time period) “Tristram repeatedly replies to the reader.” This is wise. It is prudent and smart. It is good advice. Make it your motto. Incorporate it as your life’s most meaningful phrase. By doing so, you will be a better killjoy critic, or, to say it slightly differently, you will be successful in academia.
R. Eric Tippin
In a basement office on the campus of Kansas State University
October 23, 2013
Portrait of an Unknown Artist
Oil on Canvas - 1897
Elizabeth Hean Alexander