Academic journal article Borderlands

Feeding Greedy Corpses: The Rhetorical Power of Corpspeak and Zombilingo in Higher Education, and Suggested Countermagics to Foil the Intentions of the Living Dead

Academic journal article Borderlands

Feeding Greedy Corpses: The Rhetorical Power of Corpspeak and Zombilingo in Higher Education, and Suggested Countermagics to Foil the Intentions of the Living Dead

Article excerpt


'False words create evil in the soul'.

(Attributed to Socrates)

Many thinkers have responded to the effects on language of the incursion of inapt ideology-laden vocabulary and collocations. George Orwell's (1949) 'Newspeak', Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant's (2001) 'NewLiberalSpeak', and Don Watson's (2003) 'weasel words' demonstrate from different perspectives the virulence of language used to promote agendas of, respectively, war and power, neoliberalism (as defined below), and corporate interests. Communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio (2012) and economists Mariana Mazzucato (2013) and John Quiggin (2012) have noted the effects within their areas of expertise, while educationalist Henry Giroux (2002, 2006), and linguists Norman Fairclough (2000, 1993) and Alison Phipps (2007, 2009, 2010) have focused on the impact on education of languages of the dead. I have dubbed these languages 'Corpspeak' and 'Zombilingo'. The methods employed in this essay are argumentative and textual, approached by means of 'theory shopping' (Amad cited in Hartley 1996, p. 6) from a range of contexts. It is also a transdisciplinary exercise in that the fictive mode with which I became familiar as an author and reader of fantasy and horror fiction informs my argument and style of presentation.

The term 'neoliberalism' (also called economic rationalism or market liberalism) is a mutable one used to enhance a variety of ideological viewpoints. In this essay a neoliberal perspective, following Paul Verhaege (2014), is one that demonstrates implicit faith in the ability of market forces to regulate social, political and cultural activities. Bourdieu describes it as 'a sort of universal belief, a new ecumenical gospel' (1998 p. 126). The fear of the consequences, should we be seduced into worshipping any other idol, is caricatured by that esteemed zeitgeist-meter and cultural monitor, television series South Park: '"There are those who will say the Economy has forsaken us. Nay! You have forsaken the Economy. And now you will know the Economy's wrath"' (in Shenker-Osorio 2012, p. x). Like a monotheism, our economic monoculture dominates through the power of image-making and through logos: the terms of reference used to describe and promote its narrative, whose 'single perspective [has become] so ingrained as the only reasonable reality that we begin to forget our other stories' (Michaels 2013, p. 13).

Bourdieu and Shenker-Osorio have identified a peculiar kind of religiosity at the heart of neoliberal economics. By 'religious' I refer to the suspicion that it is a belief-based rather than an evidence-based ideology that supports market suprematism, or what McKenzie Wark and Jennifer Mills have named 'thanaticism', after the Greek daemon personifying death: 'Thanaticism: like a fanaticism, a gleeful, overly enthusiastic will to death. The slight echo of Thatcherism is useful also' (Wark 2014, np). This essay is concerned primarily with how the language of the dead--or rather 'undead'--supports this creed that continues to dominate almost every aspect of human endeavour today.

Zombilingo and Corpspeak are means of disseminating a worldview maintained by faith in market forces, belief in individualistic striving, and anxiety associated with fear of displeasing the deity. The idea of the transformative ability of language is hardly new. According to the Greek sophist Gorgias, words artfully selected and arranged for rhetorical effect act as 'a means of fascination, peculiar psychogagia, spiritual seduction and a magical effect' (in Kisicek and Zagar 2013, p. 129).

Occult philosopher Cornelius Agrippa tells us that 'the power of ... verses is so great, that it is believed they are able to subvert almost all nature' (1650). Much later, Pierre Bourdieu speaks of language as a symbolic system that has 'the power to construct reality' (1979 p. 79), while Lakoff and Johnson identify metaphor as a linguistic form that is capable of 'creat[ing] realities for us' (1999 p. …

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