Sunday, June 3, 2012
"But what do you think of theory?" he said, posing the question in good liberal fashion. He was a graduate student of English literature, all in favor of "theory," as if one could treat it as an identifiable object, and then vote either for or against it. His question meant: What is your opinion of theory?
My opinion was, after all, just as good as his, and being so was worthy to be heard and voted upon by the others present, five or six of them.
"But what do you think of theory?" he said, posing the question in good liberal fashion. I answered in a manner implying those elements of "theory" most important to such a group, those elements which, when they come to the fore, doubtless make these people feel the most enlightened, as if they had learned something.
I said: "Theory, from Greek theorein, to spectate, to watch, as in the sentence: 'We watch TV all day.'"
This produced a most predictable response. They told me that arguments based on etymology were "meaningless," that "theory" is not simply a matter of Greek usage. To this I said that I wasn't basing my argument on etymology, but hearing my argument in etymology. I insisted that, in any case, the Greeks were all over the place, that half the homes in Madison were Phonecian ruins, that the Vatican was a Semitic site occupied by the Greeks, that we must treat the Vatican as if it weren't a Greek site, that we must speak through its Semitic heart, the heart of Mary, the blood of Christ, and so on.
This produced a most predictable response.
Then we spent an hour arguing over the value of the mass media, and I went home most enlightened.