You’re right, Brad... the hoopla (such as it was) was caused by different a attitude toward – I would even say different meaning of – the terms “violent” and “repression.” I, too, can see why Kamuf was upset with Halloran’s article; the article did not really accurately summarize Kamuf’s overall remarks. But Halloran did zero in on an important part of Kamuf’s speech. Kamuf said that, under a model of reading as a technique for capturing information (a model I’m not sure whether she agrees with, actually):
"Reading is . . . getting produced and maintained as site for the patriarchal, paternalistic family’s reproduction of itself. The practice gets passed down, most typically, in the voice of mothers, usually mothers, reading aloud to their children. There where this ancient practice of reading aloud survives, before the child’s invention of silent reading, it is the mother’s voice that has been made to echo with the letters taking shape on the page. I say “has been made to” because the scene is certainly not a natural one. It has also to be produced, reproduced, instituted. With the scene we are evoking of the child learning to read by listening to the mother’s voice, it is the institution of written signs themselves, and thus of all possible institutions that is being passed down. The institution of the family of man takes place in a scene of learning to read. But what we forget, what we have to forget or repress is that this is always also a violent scene inasmuch as it has to repeat, reinflict the violence that wrenches the human animal out of the state of sheer animality, where, as we are taught to believe once we can read, there is no such thing as reading in this common sense, the sense we all supposedly share, sharing thus the belief that only humans read or do what we call reading."
What isn’t clear – or isn’t clear to me, anyway – is whether Kamuf believes that reading is essentially a technique for capturing information. Or, if she does, whether she further believes that this violent wrenching of the human animal out of the state of animality is a bad thing. From what I can figure, I think she does, on both scores. In any event, this whole notion of calling a mother’s reading to a child an unnatural, “violent scene”, one “repeat[ing], reinflict[ing] . . . violence,” is plain ridiculous. It is simply not “violence” in any conventional sense of that word. It is not an “an exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse,” nor is it even a “vehement feeling or expression”, to cite two possible definitions from my dictionary. It is, perhaps, an “injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation,” but only to someone who already believes in the theory that reading out loud to one’s child is the dreaded imposition of written signs, and therefore, by extension, of “all possible” patriarchal and paternalistic institutions (which are, presumably, evil). As I see it, Halloran simply took what Kamuf said at face value, exaggerating only somewhat for effect. But Halloran and Kamuf are really operating in two different worlds, and Kamuf is hardly in the position to cry about distortions.
The most interesting thing to me, actually, was the notion that we must be taught to believe that only humans read “or do what we call reading.” Perhaps this is better fodder for the anti-intellectualism thread out here, but when academicians say stuff like that, they’re just asking for it, lol.
[This message has been edited by jenni (02-19-2002 04:54 PM).]