Sunday, February 1, 2015

Visions of a parallel world: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Choosing one's literary-criticism name is as important as the choice of one's porn name, although the process does not seem to be as formalised. It helps to have a double-barrelled hyphenate first name along the lines of Jean-Paul, but if the components do not exude continentality then they should be abbreviated and subordinated to a floofy middle name. By way of example, R.-L. Etienne Barnett has more cachet and élan and atelier than Richard Lawrence E. Barnett.

R.-L. Etienne has chosen to invest his prodigious talents in the dual literary métiers of (a) "Solicitation of Submissions to Guest-Edited Volumes", and (b) "Unpublication". Here is one of his productions in the former forté, an invitation of analyses of “anguish and art” in the works of Sam Beckett, for a forthcoming volume “Bleeding Jewel”:
To negotiate the Beckettian ontology is to encounter texts that often slither into transgressive recesses, slake into subversive gorges, into linguistically-intoned chasms where spiritual deadlock overtakes all but visions dissolute, allot no space to other. The discourse so birthed — extradited to the margins, to interstices, to gaps barren and unbridged — over-determines a kind of non-emergent embeddedness and challenges the very constructs of representationality. A universe of fissures, in sum, of breaches, of stultifying contraventions, critically branded as metaphor and thus perilously minimized. And yet the “poetic gleam” is everwhere apparent, unmistakably present in this universe of elegantly haunting refrain. Anguish and art: are they reconciled? Can they be? Should they be? How does each function in juxtaposition with the other? What is the ultimate vision that proceeds from a work at once so rich and so barren, so universal and so involuted, so alluring and so distancing, so stunning in its beauty and so disarming in its portrayal of vacuity?
All those chasms and gorges are a bit Third Duino Elegy, but otherwise this splendid hortatory exordium is enough in itself to vindicate Barnett's choice of inspirational sobriquet; it needs to be read aloud while looking at Jacques-Louis David artwork. The entire treasury of exegesis has been poured into it and then set in aspic in the manner of an Arman accumulation. We have requested a copy for the Riddled Library, and since the deadline for submission of manuscripts closed in September 1, 2012 --and then closed again with a deadline of April 30 2014 -- surely the final publication cannot be far away!
In a second production, R.-L. Etienne invites submissions to the guest-edited forthcoming volume “DE-BUNKING THE MUSE: LEADERSHIP IN HIGHER EDUCATION RE-ENVISIONED — NEW CONFIGURATIONS”. Such perfection must be quoted in full; one can no more truncate it than one could cut short the stream of saliva in the spittoon joke:
American higher education continues to wrestle with its own condition of never-desisting evolution. In almost every arena of university life, change is rampant. The quest for fixedness fails to yield significant results. Variables have usurped the place where constants once resided. In this optic, leadership at all levels must at once confront and effectively embrace the thorny challenges that continue to proliferate. As consequence, the leader is called upon to adopt an introspective stance so as to adopt an extrospective vision. Emergent enigmas, unanticipated challenges, altered expectations must be pro-actively and effectually counter-balanced by a compelling regeneration of creative solutions, bracing perspectives, innovative programs, focused initiatives and collaborative enterprises, all framed and under-girded by a deep-rooted respect for tradition and a concurrent, genuine and whole-hearted openness to reform. Such guiding principles, faithfully embraced, will anchor a sustainable foundation, prioritize timely and solidly-grounded values, and, one might optimistically predict, address the paramount needs and hopes of the very students we engage.
The deadline for contributions closed in September 2012 and again in March 2014, so the volume must be incredibly close to publication now!

Bartlett's accomplishments in his Unpublication oeuvre are harder to itemise for they have recently leaped ahead. As documented by Retraction Watch, he has recently unpublished an entire bloc of 13 papers from the literary-theory journal Neohelicon on account of the close similarities between them and other papers by himself and other authors. More retractions may be on the way, with Michel Charles cataloging a far-from-complete  list of textual recycling here [via Retraction Watch again].

Unsympathetic readers might apply the harsh and pejorative term "plagiarism" but they would miss the whole point of the subtractive mode of literary performance. Charles considers the possibility that "R.-L. Etienne Barnett" is in fact a Bourbakian exercise in collaorative pseudonymity, or a Borges character gone feral; the possibility of a Sokal hoax also comes to mind... but here at Riddled, we believe that Barnett has plagiarised modeled his career on that of French theorist Henri Mensonge, whose impact on post-structuralist philosophy is in inverse proportion to his almost-nonexistent literary output. As with Mensonge, no photographs exist of Barnett, nor personal websites; his CV is nowhere confined to a single site, but is rather distributed in fragments across the Interlattice.

One is also reminded of Argentinean author Federico Juan Carlos Loomis. Until now, Loomis' feat of concision and condensation -- boiling each his six books down to their single-word titles -- has had no parallel, but now he must look to his laurels.
Anyway, Barnett bears no grudges against his erstwhile colleagues at Neohelicon, and even now he is inviting submissions to a special issue he is editing for them:
Call For Papers -- DISCOURSES OF MADNESS / DISCOURS DE LA FOLIE (Neohelicon, 43, 2016 / Guest Editor: R.-L. Etienne Barnett)
Contributions on any aspect of madness in (of, and) textuality are welcome for consideration. Possible areas of focus, among a plethora of other options: literary representations of the alienated mind; mad protagonists or mad writers; madness as a vehicle of exile, as a form of marginalization, of dissipation, of disintegration, of revelation or self-revelation; interpretations of madness as a manifestation of structure, style, rhetoric, narrative; madness as a reflection of cultural assumptions, values, prohibitions; madness, as prophetic, dionysiac, poetic, or other; the esthetics of madness; philosophical, ethical, ontological, epistemological, hermeneutic and esthetic implications of the narrative or discourse of madness. 

From an alternative vantage point, one might question: how does the deviant mind-set of authorial figures and/or fictional characters determine the organization of time, space and plot in the narrative? How does the representation of delusional worlds differ from the representation of other “non-mad” mental acts (dreams, fantasies, aspirations) and from other fictional worlds (magic, imaginings, phantoms), if it does. Contributors are welcome to address these and other questions in a specific work, in a group of works, or in a more general/theoretical reflection, in and across any national tradition(s), literary movement(s) or œuvre(s).
Another of Barnett's outlets for his exercises in Unpublication is the publishing house Éditions Degré Second. Self-citations in his surviving essays refer to two books from the Degré Second imprint — En Marge: Lectures d’Excentration, and Les Enjeux du Roman: Reprises Contemporaines — but outside of the illusive realm of References sections, contingent if not parasitical, neither book appears to exist. EDS is further listed as the intended publisher of Bleeding Jewel.

Also unpublished by Éditions Degré Second is a journal with a name (Exégèse: Journal of Contemporary Studies in Applied Critical Theory), and an Editorial Board whose members boast of that select qualification on their CVs, but no issues. Nor does the absence of any domain "" deter Barnett from inviting correspondence through an e-address there.*

Barnett is fond of excentrating his marginala; he has also unpublished Poétique des marges: lectures d’excentration, a work-in-press. This can be glimpsed as a self-citational spectre in two barely-extant 2003 papers in Revista Letras.** The purported publisher here was Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde, which does exist, albeit as an egregious money-grubbing vanity publisher with no university connection.

Indeed, Barnett himself is or has been “Director of Literary Studies for the Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde and the University Press of the South” [UPS is an alias of PUNM: they are two buttocks of a single bum***]. This allows him a leeway which might not otherwise be available with a conventional publisher, and the influence to ensure that his unbooks do not "tunnel through" from the Dark Matter cosmos of fictive irreal literature so as to be realised as physical, observable artefacts. It is understandable, then, that the janus-headed University or Di-versity Press has been the outlet for a number of Barnett’s books, all of a vaporous nature.

Fortunately the Riddled library procurement is not hindered by mere non-existence of tomes and the Library Pixies regularly send us overdue notices for loans of Whiffle's "On the Care of the Pig" and Volume 5 of Knuth's "Art of Computer Programming".
* Absence of room forces us to confine Virtualities: International Review of Distance Learning to the out-takes. Barnett has been unpublishing his work there since its inaugural non-issue in Fall 2009, and it continues to resonate in his various CVs in the manner of a virtual or potential particle... not to mention the CVs of its managing editor Mary Jo Muratore, and of co-editor Anju Kanwar, neither of them troubled by the absence of duties accompanying the title.

** Cauchemars Culinaires, Nausée Narrative les Enjeux Esthétiques de la Rétrospection. I am intrigued by R.-L. Etienne's recipes and would like to subscribe to his cookbook.

*** In this comment thread the proprietor of  University Press of the South springs to the defense of his company against criticism, deploying a stream of increasingly agrammatical and ALL-CAPS sock-puppets, whose eloquent testimonials for the probity and quality of of the publisher are robbed of some effect by the alternations in the recipient of the testifying.


H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

The text is in the mail. You shall have it by Thursday next.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

How dare people ternish Nonny's name!

rhwombat said...

(vermillion) Shades of Ern Malley and the Angry Penguins.

Smut Clyde said...

Shades of Ern Malley and the Angry Penguins

More financially successful, however. If the Gazoogle is any guide, the dude has actually translated his delusions and inventions into several decades of high-ranking jobs at a series of crappy little private universities.

rhwombat said...


Caveat emptor...and they don't come much more emptor than a series of crappy little private universities.

Anonymous said...

I have a photo of Barnett. It's at least fifteen years old. He's an enigma. Where can I send it?

Smut Clyde said...

I would suggest uploading the photo to a free picture-hosting services such as Photobucket or Imgur, then sending a link to the image to 'Retraction Watch' where they have addressed the Barnett phenomenon in the past. Or send it as a comment here.

Victoria Bigelow said...

R-L Etienne Barnett plagiat extraordinaire has switched from English/French to Spanish

This has to be a very old photo of him. He is 66 years old (3/10/1949).

I will post my photos of him. They are not of particularly good quality, but you can get an idea.

Smut Clyde said...

The Gazoogle informs me that Barnett's 2008 paper "LE VICE-CONSUL: DURAS Y MELANCOLÍA DEFUSIÓN PERDIDA" is stolen word-for-word from Rafael Guijarro Garcia. I suppose someone should notify the editors of Alpha / Osorno.

Smut Clyde said...

Editors notified. We'll see if they reply.

Emeritus faculty said...

Ran across this guy 20 years ago as an applicant for an academic position when I serving on a university search committee. Claimed some affiliations we could not document and left out some affiliations we discovered as I was vetting his application. Clearly the application was full of fictions of many sorts. Interesting to see these many years later that our impressions were accurate.

Smut Clyde said...

One can only speculate about how much the guy could have accomplished, if he had turned his energies into *writing stuff*... rather than writing prospectuses for *stuff he'd like to have written*.