The Hypocrite Reader publishes reportage, criticism, history, sociology, theory, creative non-fiction, translations, manifestos, leaks, analysis, popular science, synthesis, verse, wedding announcements, and Viking-themed erotica. Just because something doesn’t fit into any of those categories doesn’t mean we won’t publish it.
We are currently assembling our March issue, “Scriptio Defectiva,” and our April issue, “Animals.” Please submit article prospectuses for the former to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15; by March 15 for the latter. A prospectus is a paragraph or so explaining what your article is going to be and giving an approximate word count. If we don’t already know each other, it would be helpful to have a few sentences about you, including any areas of expertise and previous writing experience, but no need for a full cover letter or anything like that. At the Hypocrite Reader we practice activist editing and pay our writers only in sincere appreciation. Please see our Writer’s Guide for more information.
In 1979, from his wistful seat on the Estonian margins of the Soviet Union, semiotician Yuri Lotman penned the following:
Let us attempt to describe some features of the autocommunicative system.
The first that distinguishes it from the 'self-other' system is the reduction of the words of this language -- they'll have the tendency to become signs of words, indices of signs. In [Decembrist] Küchelbecker's prison journal there is a remarkable note with regard to this: "I've noticed something strange, curious for psychologists and physiologists: for some time now I have been dreaming not of objects, nor events, but some kind of odd abbreviations that relate to them like a hieroglyph to a picture, like a book's table of contents to the book itself. Does this come from the paucity of objects that surround me, of events that happen to me?"
The tendency of words in a 'self-self' language to reduction is also manifest in the abbreviations we use in notes to ourselves. Ultimately, the words of these notes become indices decipherable only by those who already know what is written. Compare scholar Krachkovsky's description of the early written tradition of the Qu'ran: 'Scriptio defectiva. Lacking not only short, but also long vowels, and diacritic marks.Can only be read if already memorized."
We find a clear example of this kind of communication in the famous Kitty/Levin proposal scene in Anna Karenina, which is all the more interesting in that it reproduces Tolstoy's own proposal to his fiancée Sofya Bers:
" 'Here,' he said, and wrote the initial letters: w, y, a, m: t, c, b, d, i, m, n, o, t? These letters meant: 'When you answered me: that cannot be, did it mean never, or then?'
'I understand,' she said, blushing.
'What is this word?' he asked, pointing to the n, which signified the word never.
'That means the word never,' she said."
In all these examples we are concerned with cases when the reader understands the text only because he knows it beforehand (for Tolstoy, Kitty and Levin are already spiritually one being; the fusion of addresser and addressee takes place before our very eyes).***
The privacy of thought can seem a bit of a myth, because thought is conducted in language--the very public language that everyone knows. We think in our "mother tongue," the tongue we learned from our mothers--inter alia, of course, but at any rate not from ourselves. Even our most private thoughts, unlike our most private feelings, must take the long road through universal intelligibility in order to return to us as our own. For this reason Wittgenstein said, rightly enough from his perspective, that there is no private language; language is a convention, a contract, and one really can't contract with oneself. At that limit, about the extreme case, Wittgenstein is surely right. But there are many approaches to this limit, as Lotman and Tolstoy point out. Some languages are more private than others. Can be read only if already memorized, in increasing order:
1) Between old friends certain terms take on a weight, or rather a density, that new friends cannot appreciate. Things which would take a great deal of time to say--which have, in fact, taken years to say--can be said between old friends in two words and a glance.
2) Lovers have dense terms, to be sure, but they also have virtually meaningless terms: pet names, for instance, and pillow talk. Tolstoy's initialism advances the lover's dream: to not need to talk at all, to be understood even in silence. Lest we become sentimental we ought to recall: lovers can be cruel to each other so quickly, too, with few words or significant silence.
3) The limit case of private language would seem to be the diary. In most cases the diary is nothing like this--it's kept for posterity, or it's the keeper of temporarysecrets. But one might imagine a diarist who writes only for herself, who has no need to be understood--paragraphs become initials, initials become hieroglyphs, hieroglyphs become--well, what? Blank pages?
4) Madness, of course, comes last here. The "idiocy" of the "idiom." Is madness the ecstasy of language or its ending?
We would love to receive prospectuses by February 15th! on any relevant theme, including:
- Scripts, scripture
- Rote and "by" rote
- Things subvocal
- Broken writing
- The Kitty/Levin proposal scene
- Inside jokes; jokes about inside jokes ("10!").
- Lacan's advice to aspiring psychoanalysts: do all the crossword puzzles.
- The progression (or regression) of Joyce's career, ending in illegibility. The concept of "experimental" literature: experiments can disprove a hypothesis too, they can fail. The allegation against Finnegans Wake.
- The prison journals of various Decembrists. The keeping of journals. The audience of journals. Is it possible to write, really, to oneself?
If you’d like to provide thematically appropriate illustrations for a future article (photographs, collages, digital art, etc.) please send us a sample of your work at email@example.com. If we like you, we’ll suggest an article in the upcoming issue for you to illustrate.
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We no longer publish wedding announcements.