The meaning of clichés

Grimwood, Tom ORCID logo ORCID: (2016) The meaning of clichés. Diacritics, 44 (4). pp. 90-113.

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There is no shortage of 19th, 20th and 21st century literature condemning the generic, the formulaic, and the banal as not simply bad writing, but as a broader symptom of cultural stagnation; a topic which has recently re-ignited in debates over ‘anti-critique’ or ‘post-criticism’. But is it possible to write a history of the cliché, which the cliché itself is not automatically excluded from? Is it possible to critically think through that which expresses the absence of critical thought? This paper pursues this question by exploring what is meant by the ‘time’ of clichés. It builds on Boris Groys’ concept of ‘anti-philosophy’ to suggest that a straightforward ‘history’ risks privileging a particular critical viewpoint that mistakenly insists on the cliché as a mark of difference, rather than a peculiar and perturbing sameness which is both superfluous and tyrannical in equal measure. Instead, the paper suggests that, the time of clichés should be viewed through particular sites where the boundaries between philosophical meaning and non-meaning – and, in turn, technological and human, archival and visible, intellectual and everyday – are contested and underdetermined. The paper explores the concept of the rhetorical ‘commonplace’ as one such site where the marking of cliché exposes a range of specific material and contextual configurations that shape the conditions for the suspicion of cliché as tyrannical, stupid or stagnant.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Diacritics
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
ISSN: 1080-6539
Departments: Institute of Health > Psychology and Psychological Therapies
Depositing User: Tom Grimwood
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2017 15:33
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 16:16


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