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How to Talk Through Your Hat

Pierre Bayard, "How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read" (2007), cover.

Pierre Bayard, “How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read” (2007), cover.

This series of posts from early 2013 evolved from my encounter with the manifesto-cum-instruction-manual How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard (2007), in which, as I wrote, “the author argues in favor of a spirited discourse about literature untrammelled by antiquated notions of any pesky obligation to actually read the books under consideration.” My analysis of Bayard’s argument led me to conclude that his project in this treatise constitutes “an energetic advocacy of [what we once called] talking through one’s hat.” Or, to put it more bluntly, bullshitting.

That took me, inevitably, into considering the corollary for the visual arts, “How to Talk about Pictures You Haven’t Seen.” This led to pondering present-day “artspeak,” its sources and its consequences. The links below will take you  to my responses, the most recent first. I suggest starting with the earliest post and working your way forward from there.

  • How to Talk Through Your Hat 5 (April 22, 2013): In which I consider the relation between “International Art English” and International Postmodern English, suggest a symbiosis in academe between semantic tropes and their visual counterparts, and wrap up.
  • How to Talk Through Your Hat 4 (April 16, 2013): In which I explore the implications of “International Art English,” the recent report by Alix Rule and David Levine that studies the peculiar language of the postmodern discourse on art.
  • How to Talk Through Your Hat 3 (April 9, 2013): In which I bring the Alan Sokal/Social Text hoax into the discussion, as an example of what bad things can happen to presumably good people (Lacan, Baudrillard, Kristeva) when they get caught pontificating on subjects about which they’re demonstrably ignorant.
  • How to Talk Through Your Hat 2 (March 31, 2013): In which I continue my weighing of Bayard’s promulgation of a discourse disconnected from its subject, and its implications for the colloquy around photography.
  • How to Talk Through Your Hat 1 (March 27, 2013): In which I meditate on, and warn against the reading of, Bayard’s insidiously Borgesian text, immersion in which can leave you doubting that you’ve ever read any book, even including one you’ve written yourself.
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