Complexity and ambiguity

“The majority of essays in the humanities have as their primary methodological orientation an interest in complexity and ambiguity. A plurality of texts describe cultural locations, practices, identities, and objects as hybrid, mixed, impure, marginal, dislocated, disoriented, Creole, Pidgin, transcultural, liminal, meta-, para-, quasi-, or otherwise complex and ambiguous. The pleasure of the text is produced by the very focus on hybridity, mixture, and other kinds of irreducible complexity as much as by whatever other insights are gained into the cultural locations, practices, and so forth, that are the texts’ nominal subjects. To the extent that this is generally true, the commonest rhetorical strategy in recent scholarship is to demonstrate a state of unexpected complexity or a pitch of ambiguity that cannot be reduced to simpler schemata. . . . Hence the characteristic pleasure and discomfort of the twilight zone between namable concepts or even between one name and its nearest neighbor. . . . If there is an analytical limit to these interests, it is the assumption that the demonstration of what I am calling hybridity is itself sufficient; the idea is to work upward from known states and dichotomies that are taken to be relatively pure toward an interesting and complex impure state” (112-113). from James Elkins Visual Studies. A Skeptical Introduction

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