I was just marking a student paper last night where I suggested that she avoid the use of complimentary modifiers like, “As Author X so incisively claims…” or “Author Y makes the particularly brilliant suggestion that…”. I realized that I was really talking about scholarly writing as a whole, rather than a kind of repeated stylistic issue in student writing. A lot of us write like that, particularly when we’re writing about scholarly peers that we’d like to compliment or about theoretical and intellectual progenitors with whom we’d like to be associated.
So it’s not as if this kind of writing is without purpose: it builds professional networks, signals to readers about intellectual orientations, advances careers. Still, the obsequiousness of it is somehow grating on me lately. Plus this sort of thing just seems kind of florid. If you’re quoting someone in the body of the text, obviously you think the quote is interesting, well-written, telling, or better than you could put it yourself. Or you just want to cover your ass because the other guy said it first and you want to show that you know that.