CLASSICAL GAS --
In Memorium: Raul de Womynn, The Father of Desensification
To some, Raul de Womynn was a consummate scoundrel. To others, he was a liar, a cheat, a bigamist, a fascist quisling, a monstrous villain, a vile rogue, a snake-oil salesman, a Jerry Sneak, a chalatan, a mountebank, a saltimbanco, a medicaster. The beloved chairman of New Haven University's Literature Department was the inspiration for, and leader of, a generation of literary theorists.
Raul de Womynn and his followers reinvented the study of literature. Their banner was an intellectual theory known as desensification. Their slogan was "Stop Making Sense." They showed scholars that the most powerful way to criticize a piece of text is to read the words in random order.
de Womynn's death leaves a gaping ache for thousands of scholars who despised the love of books.
The details of de Womynn's early life provided ammunition for his enemies in academe. Five years ago, a French rural newspaper revealed that, as a young man, de Womynn served as a speechwriter for Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, that he sold obscene post cards to children, that he embezzled money from an orphan's fund, that he smuggled drugs into France, Belgium and Italy, and that he committed a string of grizzly murders. He also married and abandoned seventeen women in thirteen countries before emigrating to the United States in 1954. He married and abandoned another seventeen women in America.
de Womynn's colleagues and admirers were heartened by the charges against their master. Using the desensification techniques that de Womynn had taught them, they explained that history is a random confluence of irrelevant events that carry no significance whatsoever. de Womynn, they concluded, was really the twentieth century's archetypal victim.
de Womynn himself often said that "History is ultimately a fiction, a predicament of language, a joie d'esprit that is subject neither to sensible interpretation nor to moral judgment." Thus, his supporters say, by committing unspeakable atrocities, de Womynn became the embodiment of random goodness. A generation of literature students agrees.
Raul de Womynn died, at the age of 74, in a style consistent with the tenets of desensification. He was gunned down by New Haven police while committing armed larceny at a convenience store. The Modern Language Association plans to hold an annual commemorative seminar at the site.
© Copyright 2002 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
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