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Captured at www.cybereditions. com/aldaily/bwc.htm

Winners of the Fourth Bad Writing Contest (1998)

The Bad Writing Contest celebrates the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles published in the last few years. Entries must be non-ironic, from serious, published academic journals or books. Deliberate parody cannot be allowed in a field where unintended self-parody is so widespread.

Judith Butler, a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, admired as perhaps "one of the ten smartest people on the planet," wrote the sentence that captured the contest's first prize. Professor Butler's first-prize sentence appears in "Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time," an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997):

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

This year's second prize went to a sentence authored by Homi K. Bhabha, a professor of English at the University of Chicago. He writes in The Location of Culture (Routledge, 1994):

"If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to 'normalize' formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality."

This prize-winning entry was nominated by John D. Peters of the University of Iowa, who describes it as "quite splendid: enunciatory modality, indeed!"

Finally, a tour de force from a 1996 book published by the State University of New York Press. It was located by M.J. Devaney, an editor at the University of Nebraska Press. The author is D.G. Leahy, writing in Foundation: Matter the Body Itself.

"Total presence breaks on the univocal predication of the exterior absolute the absolute existent (of that of which it is not possible to univocally predicate an outside, while the equivocal predication of the outside of the absolute exterior is possible of that of which the reality so predicated is not the reality, viz., of the dark/of the self, the identity of which is not outside the absolute identity of the outside, which is to say that the equivocal predication of identity is possible of the self-identity which is not identity, while identity is univocally predicated of the limit to the darkness, of the limit of the reality of the self). This is the real exteriority of the absolute outside: the reality of the absolutely unconditioned absolute outside univocally predicated of the dark: the light univocally predicated of the darkness: the shining of the light univocally predicated of the limit of the darkness: actuality univocally predicated of the other of self-identity: existence univocally predicated of the absolutely unconditioned other of the self. The precision of the shining of the light breaking the dark is the other-identity of the light. The precision of the absolutely minimum transcendence of the dark is the light itself/the absolutely unconditioned exteriority of existence for the first time/the absolutely facial identity of existence/the proportion of the new creation sans depth/the light itself ex nihilo: the dark itself univocally identified, i.e., not self-identity identity itself equivocally, not the dark itself equivocally, in 'self-alienation,' not 'self-identity, itself in self-alienation' 'released' in and by 'otherness,' and 'actual other,' 'itself,' not the abysmal inversion of the light, the reality of the darkness equivocally, absolute identity equivocally predicated of the self/selfhood equivocally predicated of the dark (the reality of this darkness the other-self-covering of identity which is the identification person-self)."

Dr. Devaney calls this book "absolutely, unequivocally incomprehensible." While she has supplied further extended quotations to prove her point, this seems to be enough.

Caught in the Net welcomes interesting flotsam culled by its readers. Send E-mail to netfishing@chicagoreader.com. There's a T-shirt in it for you if we print it.

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