They prefer to read aloud manuscripts that they clearly did not compose with this type of delivery in mind—and which are therefore always difficult and often truly impossible to understand.
Kaube interprets this habit as symptom of a particular emotional fixation among Humanists on their own texts.
This is why we are eager to associate the essay as a form with concepts and qualities like “vitality, personality, and the concreteness of life-experience” which cannot be subsumed under abstract and therefore general principles.
Some of us would even go so far as to wish for the essayistic form to become omnipresent so that, paradoxically, not being principled might establish itself as an absolute principle.
Such a premise, however, must exclude from the academic critical endeavor the dimension of aesthetic experience as facilitated by literary texts.
Now, I am not the only scholar who argues that, since only about a decade ago, contemporary Literary Criticism has shown a tendency and perhaps even a longing to recuperate the existential—and this necessarily also means the individual and the aesthetic—dimensions of reading against more objective claims.
To write in a complex and (pretendedly) beautiful fashion, according to him, follows the urge to find a form of representation “adequate to phenomena in and by themselves”—rather than adequate for a community of colleagues and geared towards joint intellectual progress.
The essay’s frequent lack of footnotes, of clearly circumscribed questions and goals, and of discussions regarding competing views, allows Kaube to draw the vitriolic conclusion that such critical essays represent a “high form of leisure within the beautiful Humanities”—and thus can not be regarded as contributions towards the growth of knowledge within situations of shared professional labor.
A distance not only from any suggestions of orthodoxy in our post-ideological and perhaps even post-political times, but also from any spiritual position that comes with the impulse of changing and thus suspending itself.
Even Gianni Vattimo’s notion of “weak thinking” that produced so much resonance in an earlier post-ideological moment some thirty years ago, would paradoxically appear all-too totalizing in a present-day view.