Frauds/freuds 5: ontological preliminaries and angry penguins


After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the“many” that is negatively  referred to through the “count-as-one”  posited by the gendering of “the” woman. Maintaining the openness of this “many” is an interweaving philosophical endeavour. It is also a political  task for any theory receptive to the oppressive load proper to the institutions of sexuation, as  deployed through modern capitalism–that is, any queer theory. In its second step, the paper will therefore expose the adequacy of the Badiousian ontology to provide theoretical resources for articulating the field of a genuine queer nomination.

The abstract of an article entitled, “Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non-) Being-Queer” in a journal dedicated to the thinking of the philosopher Alain Badiou. The thing is, the author, Benedetta Tripodi, doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax, a parody written by two philosophers,  Philippe Huneman and Anouk Barberousse, who are critical of “a certain way of doing philosophy…[Badiou’s] fame and philosophical reputation  appear to us illegitimate.”

Gert loves jargon, and she loves hoaxes. This certainly does sound like a load of codswallop. But it’s a pretty pointless way of attacking Badiou.  Why not just ignore him ? And what’s the point of parodying him in a journal that’s read by people who do admire him?

Huneman and Barberousse may be in the strange situation of the Australian poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart in the famous Ern Malley hoax of 1943.  As an attack on modernist poetry, they sent poems they had deliberately concocted to be nonsensical to the avant garde magazine Angry Penguins under the name Ern Malley. After Angry Penguins devoted an entire issue to Malley and proclaimed him as an undiscovered genius, they revealed the hoax.  The situation got even more farcical when the editor of Angry Penguins was hauled up in court for obscenity. Here’s one piece of the evidence:

The symbols were evident,
Though on park-gates
The iron birds looked disapproval
With rusty invidious beaks.

Why would the iron birds in a park at night  be looking disapproving unless something obscene was going on? (This was Australia in 1943, remember).

Angry Penguins, and modernist poetry in Australia, suffered from the hoax, but thirty years later Ern Malley was being hailed as a surrealist poet, and his  name is now more famous than the names of his two creators. Perhaps the same fate awaits Barberousse and Huneman, McAuley and Stewart to Badiou’s Ern Malley.

Peter Carey’s 2003 novel My Life As A Fake is based on the Ern Malley hoax.You can read Ern Malley’s poetry here:


13 thoughts on “Frauds/freuds 5: ontological preliminaries and angry penguins

  1. This sounds way too much like a lot of the stuff I have to read for school. It may be a fraud, but as you noted, it could easily pass for the real thing.

    Thanks for the between-semesters shudder of recognition.

    1. Yes, I can imagine you stub your toe on many an ontological preliminary. Just between you and me, I have never been able to understand a single thing Derrida says, and if you can’t pass that test it’s goodbye post-modern thinking.

      1. Here is my favorite sentence of the semester (taken from an assigned collection of essays for which I had to lead a book discussion; this essay by Kazim Ali was titled, “Genre-Queer” (the emphasis of the collection was on Queer Theory). “Is it because in the heteronormative world of patriarchy, economic marriage and inheritance we must use language and forms of thought (‘genres’) in order to construct ourselves at all?”

        Derrida would be proud? I think, although I don’t really know.

        1. And what was the right answer, yes, no, or maybe? It does occur to my simple mind that we do need to use language, but that’s just a wild stab.

          1. Wild stab, but useful. The thing about lit crit, as far as I can figure out, is that it’s a way for a group of people to talk to each other three or four levels of abstraction removed from say Gerard Manley Hopkins, or Basho, or P.G. Wodehouse. And if you learn their language, you also can talk with them about the topics in which they are interested.

  2. I had heard the name, but knew nothing about her, so looked her up. Apparently she didn’t have any children, and she did mostly make her living (not always profitable) by writing plays (that were performed on stage), fiction, poetry, translating, and the like.She was also apparently a spy for the crown at different times as well.

    Edith Nesbit who wrote children’s books in the late 1800s and early 1900s had several children and a husband who was a cheat and a ne’er-do-well. She wrote “Five Children and It;” our younger daughter Anthea is named after one of the main characters in that book. Edith co-founded the Fabian Society. A couple of those children were her husband’s by another woman who was their housekeeper; Edith adopted the kids and raised them as her own. Despite the husband’s peccadilloes, apparently Nesbit lived and worked with him until he died; he was also politically active, and they had a large circle of acquaintances and political allies (Wikipedia again —

    1. That’s interesting. I wonder who I’ve mixed up with Aphra Behn. There’s someone who took up writing to make a living when her husband either died or ran away and left her with the kids. I had read about Edith Nesbit- there must have been something in the LRB I think because I remember the bits about the rather too lively husband.

      1. Someone must have written a book, or at least an essay about women who wrote/write to pay the plumber and the nanny and the tutor, and the household bills. One of my mentors at Antioch has just published a memoir, “Harley and Me,” about how she took up riding Harley Davidson motorcycles as her children were fledging and her marriage disintegrating. She wrote during the marriage to pay for tuition, camps, and other expenses for things she thought the kids should have — not quite the same as putting bread on the table. I may ask around at the residency in June — probably two-thirds of the students and faculty are women, so some of them might know.

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