October 24, 2020:

Thus our assimilation of "French Theory" was always ambivalent.

Because of Althusser we were more anti-Structuralist than Poststructuralist, while because of immersion in the movements our Althusser was more militant than the academic version, who in any event barely existed. Our readings were more real-world, more centered on that "concrete analysis of a concrete situation" which we assimilated from the get-go. We were closer to the Liberation Theologists than the Comparative Literature departments, much of whose emphasis seemed to us to be on a playfulness — they called it being "ludic" — we seldom shared. Where French Theory in its Americanized expansion was necessarily text-centric in its institutional settings, we were focused on the street. This is the major reason why our assimilation of "French Theory" revolved more intensively around Althusser and his circle than the Americanized stars: Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, Irigaray, Baudrillard, Lyotard, Kristeva and the others. We were conversant with "French Theory" earlier than most, but it was a particular corner of French Theory which was somewhat isolated from the others and to a degree hostile to them.

Johnston played almost no role in this. At school, our one-man Literature Department was largely immune to the French imperialism currently conquering academe, while his Falstaffian colleague, the Philosophy Department, seemed immune to all things apart from wine, undergraduate X chromosomes, and ironic posturing. The Philosophy Department often carried a copy of The Order of Things, the 1973 Vintage edition with the green and blue cover, although it was never clear to me granted how frequently he carried it whether he'd read it or was simply striking a pose. The two of them as a team brought us Braudel. Everything else we found on our own.