In the comments to the McSweeney's post, below, Bruce Williams wondered if we couldn't put "transgressive" out of its misery. There are a number of other critical buzzwords that have surely outstayed their welcome:
- "Subversive." I generally operate on the assumption that a truly "subversive" work will have been understood as such at the time it was written/staged/filmed. If nobody noticed, then the work probably didn't subvert much of anything. Either that, or the author was incompetent.
- "Anxious." I've noticed that some scholars* are getting annoyed with "anxious" (there was a small-scale dustup on NASSR-L when someone accused more traditional critics of "anxiety"). Critics use "anxious" in order to suggest that a dominant group might be self-consciously aware of its vulnerability vis-a-vis a minority. But it often seems to be the case that the modern critic projects the "anxiety" in question onto the text. This was my initial response to reading Homi Bhabha and Sara Suleri, for example. I understood why "anxiety" was useful to them, but it didn't seem any more operative in the works they were describing than, well, "subversiveness." Moreover, the term seems to be a catchall for an entire range of proximate emotions, some of which fit ("fright") and some of which don't ("anger").
- "Interrogate." This is literary criticism, not Alias.
- "Police." This is literary criticism, not Law & Order.
- "Map." I don't think that this is an objectionable verb--I've used it on occasion--but it's not clear to me that the spatial imagery involved is always appropriate.
- "Inventing"/"imagining." I'm guilty as charged here as well, but it sometimes seems as though all historical activity has been swept under the cultural-fantasy carpet.
*--Was it Jennifer Green-Lewis who objected to "anxiety" in an article on feminism and historicism? I can't find my copy...