26 July 2009

Teaching Aid

Principles of the Weighty Tome, or How to Write Fat Books.

I. The whole composition must be permeated with a protracted and wordy exposition of the initial plan.
II. Terms are to be included for conceptions that, except in this definition, appear nowhere in the whole book.
III. Conceptual distinctions laboriously arrived at in the text are to be obliterated again in the relevant notes.
IV. For concepts treated only in their general significance, examples should be given; if, for example, machines are mentioned, all the different kinds of machines should be enumerated.
V. Everything that is known a priori about an object is to be consolidated by an abundance of examples.
VI. Relationships that could be represented graphically must be expounded in words. Instead of represented in a genealogical tree, for example, all family relationships are to be enumerated and described.
VII. A number of opponents all sharing the same argument should each be refuted individually.
  The typical work of modern scholarship is intended to be read like a catalogue. But when shall we actually write books like catalogues? If the deficient content were thus to determine the outward form, an excellent piece of writing would result, in which the value of opinions would be marked without their being thereby put on sale.
  The typewriter will alienate the hand of the man of letters from the pen only when the precision of typographic forms has directly entered the conception of his books. One might suppose that new systems with more variable typefaces would then be needed. They will replace the pliancy of the hand with the innervation of commanding fingers.
  A period that, constructed metrically, afterward has its rhythm upset at a single point yields the finest prose sentence imaginable. In this way a ray of light falls through a chink in the wall of the alchemist's cell, to light up gleaming crystals, spheres, and triangles.

Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street (1979: 63-64)