I have a confession to make. I can’t read a great deal of art/literary criticism. It gives me a headache, and with every terrible pun or convoluted phrase I grow closer to self-harm. The worst of it seems to come from the whole a/theology movement. I recall the sinking dread I encountered every time I picked up the hellish About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture by Mark C. Taylor. The book, once you slog through its complete unreadability, actually has some interesting ideas, but they are largely undermined by Taylor’s self-congratulatory, pedantic writing.
I have a visceral reaction to art/literary critics who think they are clever (whether they really are or not). So, in reading Mark and Method edited by Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore for a class, I came to the chapter on Deconstruction by Moore with trepidation. I admit, when he began to talk about Derrida I started to die a little inside, but the real eye-bleeding started when I happened upon this quote:
Mark’s Jesus can therefore be read on the model of the written mark (and what is Jesus in Mark but a series of written marks, a marked man?). But Jesus’ status in Mark prefigures Mark’s own status. Mark’s Jesus is a “writer,” himself inscribed in a text, but so inscribed as to prefigure the fate of that text. Mark’s own destiny as a writing is foreshadowed in the way it writes up the story of Jesus. Mark is gradually folding back on itself as we read it. Not only is it a writing about Jesus but also it is a writing about writing. In addition, it is a writing about reading, a writing, which, as it retells the story of Jesus, also foretells the history of (mis)reading that the story will generate. (p. 101)
Maybe I’m just stupid, but what in the hell does that even mean? The puns have a quality that I can only describe as cloying, and the underlying point, which I presume he is trying to make, is completely beyond me. Interpretation is always a slippery endeavor be it Lord of the Rings or the Gospel of Mark, but I’d hope that a book that attempts to demonstrate critical approaches would strive for a bit more clarity.