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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Teeny note: recommended

If you have an interest in literature, what's happened to English studies in post-post-modern period, and the soul-sucking ideas some mainstream professors might be inculcating in our children, you might just take a look at Lisa Riddick's article at The Point, "When Nothing is Cool."
Clip: "I have spoken with many young academics who say that their theoretical training has left them benumbed. After a few years in the profession, they can hardly locate the part of themselves that can be moved by a poem or novel. It is as if their souls have gone into hiding, to await tenure or some other deliverance."


  1. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that article in its entirety, but I think its author is on to something; there are glimpses of awful truths in't. A few influential medieval-lit scholars have embraced "object-oriented ontology," arguing that we've accorded undue privilege to the perspective of human beings rather than, say, that of boulders or other inanimate objects. These humans admit that it's literally an anti-humanist approach.

    But then that's the thing: if you study medieval literature, you may be reluctant to admit that you discern kindred spirits in it, lest your peers suspect you of finding a worthy nugget of humanity amid the persecution, anti-Semitism, misogyny, fanaticism, and Islamophobia; deriving pleasure from the awful past simply isn't an option. It does help explain, though, why I see quite a few grad students and young scholars pursuing fan activities and side publications in pop-culture studies with more genuine fervor than the work they supposedly plan to build careers around. What a strange, sad time for the humanities.

    1. "Glimpses of awful truths": yes. Everything you say here makes sense to me. And it is strange and sad.

      I think she did a good job of being lucid and reasonably tactful, which must have been a challenge. She did not mention how much some of these attitudes can stress a young man or young woman of 18, sitting in a college classroom. But I've noticed that among young people as well.

      The Ontological Truth of Boulders in the Medieval World!

  2. I was warned by a professor in grad school that my passion for reading would probably be diminished or even destroyed by immersion in lit/crit and theory; the warning nearly came true for me, but the destruction was complete in too many contemporaries. When English departments began falling in love with lit/crit and theory in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, they were sealing their own doom. It makes me long for the days of New Criticism.

    1. Postscript: Yes, I am at my core an unrepentant New Critic; but I am nevertheless polluted by more recent theories (and I wish there were a cure).

    2. I was lucky to be in a graduate program that was only beginning to be transformed from a mix of literary historical focus and exegesis in the style of the New Critics.

      And I find that a bad memory is extremely helpful in the matter of theory. I have jettisoned great swaths of reading that way.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.