In the process of weeding my academic prose (the metaphor is appropriate), I am amused to find an over-reliance of the prefix “re.” To invoke WCW, “So much depends / upon” “re.” At times, my arguments really seem to be that if we prefix every objectionable or outdated or untheorized claim with “re,” then we have achieved a new type of knowledge.
Often, of course, “re” is itself unrealized, standing in for an argument that I can’t quite make, don’t quite understand, have only a glimmer about. “Re” is a critical tic that seems to enact an argument but mostly hides lack of rigor. For, when “re” is taken away, the claims seem facile, weak, flabby. (Again, the metaphors are instructive.)
And yet I’m found of my “re.” Each one contains within it the history of my coming to academia, the possibilities I imagined in Adrienne Rich’s brilliant notion of re-visioning—the concept that created a multiplicity of “re” because what she did with the prefix was so darn cool. So very darn cool!
Revision (sans prefix) offers a wonderful and frustrating way to understand one’s critical mishaps. In my case, it shows quite glaringly the multiple places I move from step a to d, having skipped what lies between because it seems too obvious; I don’t understand it; or, more often, I’m really quite lazy. (Note to self: be more generous with students.) Of course, I also have the terrible habit of simply erasing paragraphs, pages, blogs even, choosing to start a new ditch when I feel out of my depth. (Buy a ladder, Keguro, buy a ladder.)
“Re” will not get me out of the ditch—or help me dig it deeper, whichever I might need.