Lots of great political news coming out of the US Supreme Court this week, but the decision on health care had me thinking about literary theory. Specifically, this post by Nicholas Baglay and this one by Einer Elhaug, together make a nice point about meaning as a goal in interpretation and the purposeful destructiveness of stubborn textualism. Reading it, I was reminded of the distance I felt unpacking boxes after my recent move and flipping through so much of the critical work I was assigned in the mid-90s in graduate school.
What struck me reading about the dissenting arguments in the health care case was the way Scalia’s approach feels out of time but not in the way he believes: he seems like a product of the the heyday of academic deconstruction. De Man and Scalia (and Thomas to an extent) seem to me of a kind insofar as their textual processes create obstructive rather than enabling insights, and these obstructions bring whole enterprises to a halt, prevent movement, and enforce the status quo. The result too often is a link across fields between deconstruction and the ugliest of conservatisms.
This is all very simplistic and hunch-based but it makes me wonder a bit about academic queer theory, much of which has been, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, opposed to the normalizing political project that led to the Court’s recognition of a right to gay marriage. The value and importance of queer theory is difficult to exaggerate, and yet, I worry when it finds itself on the wrong side of so important an argument and worry too when it’s foundational critical approach seems to align it with the methods of Scalia’s side of the court.
ps–obviously there’s a lot of nuance needed here, but in broad strokes, this is the shape of my first thoughts.