May 26, 2009

The Death of Literary Studies [Dan Collins]

Yesterday, Darleen wrote about the dust-up over graduate student putz Sean Parrish’s typically stupid assertions regarding what the academy is all about, and as others point out, if he’s right, then all literature departments ought to be made portions of social studies and political science departments. Approaching this subject, I feel like Jeff does whenever he feels compelled to make the same arguments regarding intentionality with respect to the endless dopey provocations of the left. But, since this creature is a product of Duke’s English Department, and since my background is in literature, I’m going to recapitulate an argument that I’ve been making for 20 years, now.

There was a time in literary studies in the not-too-distant past when it was still possible to speak of the “pleasure of the text,” and when the pleasure derived from the act of reading (and all the concommitant questions of deriving meaning) was considered important enough to justify the study of literature in and of itself. In fact, it’s likely that most people are still recruited to the study of literature in large part by their own experience of that pleasure. Somewhere along the line, though, the academy decided that that in itself was not sufficiently relevant. It became necessary to justify the project of literary criticism with respect to its efficacy as a motivator of social change.

This was a function, in Jeff’s terminology, of cadres of interpreters arrogating to themselves the determination of meaning, which they are entitled to do by virtue of moral superiority. Once meaning is detached from the idea of intentionality, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring to bear a critical methodology that bears little relation to the ideas and issues that the author himself might have regarded as informing the work at hand. So, for example, it’s not unusual for students just beginning to learn about formal criticism to be handed a copy of Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction, to discover that in fact all literature is, at least subconsciously, obsessed with class relations, and that works of literature are literary to the extent that they enunciate those relations well with respect to Marxism. To the extent that they do not, they are manifestations of false-consciousness or what the critics like to term “quietism.”

In order to advance up the ladder of sophistication, it becomes necessary therefore to substitute close reading and understanding of whatever arguments the author appears to think he or she is making through the text with epistemological precepts derived from afar. One of the first casualties of this relevance-mongering in literary academe is stylistics, the study of how authors achieve the effect of literariness. In fact, it is necessary to cultivate a jaundiced eye toward the motives of various writers who may be arguing in bad faith in order to prop up the status quo. So, we have the phenomenon of graduate students (such as, presumably, Mr. Parrish) teaching students who do not yet have a sufficient expertise to decode a text on its own terms, insofar as that can be done, the joys of resistant reading, in which the text (or, at any rate, the dreaded classic text) is seen as a kind of rhetorical bully whom one must bully back.

To return to my original point, where has the pleasure of the text gone? It’s been sublimated into pleasure at one’s own superior ability to wrest unauthorized meaning out of the text by passing it through an ideological meatgrinder. Congratulations! You’re now ready to deliver papers to at any number of conferences with clever titles about “firing the canon.” You jackass.

Posted by Dan Collins @ 7:11am
193 comments | Trackback

Comments (193)

  1. [Insert ridicule]

  2. the joys of resistant reading, in which the text (or, at any rate, the dreaded classic text) is seen as a kind of rhetorical bully whom one must bully back.

    Ah! That makes Parrish’s sneer

    the As I see it, the point of academia is to take note of the simplified caricatures society produces – whether by the media, a variety of counter-cultural knownothings, or crusty intellectual posers like yourself – and try to complicate them by pealing [sic] away their layers of obfuscation.

    Clearer. A cigar is never just a cigar.

  3. Of course not. It’s a pretext to berate someone on the evils of smoking, Darleen.

  4. How does one get to graduate sneering school without knowing that it’s a banana PEEL you’ve been smoking?

  5. Parrish and SEK are teh suxXor.

    All your lit crit babbling are belong to me.

  6. If I were trying to gin up a simplified caricature, it would turn out much like Sean.

    Oh, Sean: I could be wrong, but I think “problematize” is the jargon du jour. “Complicate” is passe.

    Sarah: you make the common error of assuming that one must be literate to study literature. That’s an outmoded Dead White Male outlook. You really should do something about that “false consciousness” problem.

  7. “Somewhere along the line, though, the academy decided that that in itself was not sufficiently relevant. It became necessary to justify the project of literary criticism with respect to its efficacy as a motivator of social change.”

    Well said, Dan. Sometimes you sing like a nightingale.

    You go on to write, “This was a function, in Jeff’s terminology, of cadres […] arrogating […] which they are entitled to do by virtue of moral superiority.

    Insofar as this claim to moral superiority derives from belonging to a certain academic “discipline” either in search of, administering, or wearing its credentials, the simplest way to blunt that discipline’s creep into political advocacy would be to undercut the relevant departments’ degrees.

    Of course, the best place for this reform to proceed would be in adversarial, interdepartmental round-tables. Pitting the hard sciences against the soft ones within individual institutions will
    1. eliminate the tendency of whining minority-caucuses to run to raucous, national media (Mother’s skirts) in that well-worn losers’ bid to side-step majority attempts at reform, and…

    2. it will force faculty defenders of the Post Modern deconstructionist method to explain soft “interpretationism’s” solutions to intransigent global problems to their respected, hard-science peers.

    The peasants with their pitchforks need not pound on Ivy-League’s iron-clad doors yet. With their mult-hundred million dollar foundations, Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Brown can afford to clean their own houses.

    It’s the tax-payer funded, state-run university systems like Michigan’s, Arizona’s and California’s that may need the added, “Tea-Party”-esque nudge.

    Thanks again for the great post, Dan. Check’s in the mail (I means it!)
    -Steve

    This

  8. Thanks, Steve. There’s already built into deconstruction the argument that scientific discourse is phallogocentric, Western, and all other kinds of evil. They want the prestige of science, without all that other hard stuff.

  9. What you need is some historical example of an institution devoted to the elucidation of primary texts that gradually mission-creeped its way to the total displacement of those texts by a raft of epistemological and political meta-commentary on commentary on them that served only to flatter and empower the institution, then ruckus ensued.

    There’d be a lesson in it. Schooly types love lessons.

  10. Just off the top of my head, Madonna.

  11. Interesting…

    As I see it, the point of academia is to take note of the simplified caricatures society produces – whether by the media, a variety of counter-cultural knownothings, or crusty intellectual posers like yourself – and try to complicate them by pealing [sic] away their layers of obfuscation.

    This is the direct opposite of what I thought was the purpose of learning. You don’t create understanding by creating complication, you obfuscate, mask, hide things by making them overly complex.

    I guess if you’re trying to build a “Guild of the Learnéd”, an exclusive club with which to beat the “know-nothings”, then rogering Occam’s Razor makes sense. If, however, you’re attempting to beat back the darkness, to educate, to learn, then it’s the exactly wrong approach.

    Perhaps this is the problem with modern academia?

  12. The use of “he or she” and “ms.” (whatever that stands for) and the other PC ukases are the thin end of the wedge full implementation of which in time, some hope, will completely destroy the pleasure of reading and keep readers looking over their shoulders for the class war police. I object.

  13. Trade schools provide a better education in a better learning environment among more responsible instructors who actually know things. I’m sorry, that is simply a fact, and I say that as a graduate of the liberal arts mafia -er- system with an advanced degree.

  14. “the joys of resistant reading, in which the text (or, at any rate, the dreaded classic text) is seen as a kind of rhetorical bully whom one must bully back.”

    Not joyfully, but this is the way I have been forced to use, defensively, in reading all, so called, objective news sources and political pundits. The origin of my learning this form of reading did not come from any literary studies as I have never taken them. It came from a short course in propaganda techniques, political and commercial, and how to counter them.

    My memories of what departments were like in the political sense go back to the mid-sixties. The Social Sciences were already fully in the far left camp at my school. The English Department was beginning to be infiltrated by a reconnaissance-in-force, sit-ins, teach-ins, student strikes.

  15. What matters is the pose struck.

    One must look like a deep thinker, and mouth all the correct words. One must appear to be all the right things, and think all the right things.

    Consequences don’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. Only appearances matter.

    /sarc

  16. “Trade schools provide a better education in a better learning “

    You can fudge the talk but not the walk.

  17. After 24 years in and out of academia Lit departments, I know first hand how hopeless, empty, and dangerous contemporary criticism is. It is a pernicious and institutionalized form of textual necrophilia designed to destroy what authors have wrought for Marxist ends. And it is a violent necrophilia– the ‘critics’ cannot stand that there might be authors who can write, damnit. So let’s violate them however we can. I mean, DUH, it’s not like they’re here to defend themselves, right? As one PhD student bemoaned in a recent Early American lit class, “But we MUST get published, so what is left to say about this [literature]?” The obvious and encouraged answer from on high is: make shit up. Current academics have little regard or understanding for the mechanics, the stylistics, the sheer craft of narrative structure. It baffles them as surely as an honest days’ work.

    For two texts that do justice to literature, please see Nabokov’s “Lectures on Literature” (actually two volumes) and William Gass’s “Fiction and the Figures of Life”.

  18. Eagleton is a nasty queef of a man-bobber, a guffing little jizz trumpet. What he said about my old man, the minge.

  19. Dan:

    For the last five or six years, I’ve been walking a fine line, trying to combat this without endangering my shot at tenure. To do this, I have been requiring my students to arrive, through reading mostly American lit, at their own “personal literary aesthetic.” Though I would rather they engage in what generations of readers have acknowledged is beautiful, I know that’s just impossible in this atmosphere, so I figure that the second best alternative is for them to take control over their own perception of literary value.

    Last semester, I taught a topics course that paired “canonical” texts with pieces of literature from the same period that were best-sellers, but not canonized (and usually delightfully flawed and trashy!). For example, we read Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (itself a pretty risky choice) with a temperance novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room. Then we talked about the differences.

    Lots of fun and, hopefully, the kids got to come up with their own ideas, rather than having them crammed down their throats.

  20. ProfShade:

    As one PhD student bemoaned in a recent Early American lit class, “But we MUST get published, so what is left to say about this [literature]?”

    This is, I think, at least part of the reason English Departments co-opted (usually badly so) ideas from philosophy, political science, and anthropology. There was a certain frustration wrought by the idea that there was a finite number of useful things one can write about Wordsworth . . . coming up with ideas can be so hard.

  21. Cowboy: “…coming up with ideas can be so hard.”

    Damn straight. And actually reading the text is even harder.

  22. As one PhD student bemoaned in a recent Early American lit class, “But we MUST get published, so what is left to say about this [literature]?” The obvious and encouraged answer from on high is: make shit up.

    I believe that captures a lot of what’s wrong with academia today. It’s not about teaching, it’s about publishing.

    Fetish pseudo-intellectualism.

  23. Clever, slightly subversive approach there, Cowboy!

    I got Shakespeare on my own without all the coaching. Really, it’s a matter of getting students to tune out the iPods and CNN long enough to engage literature.

    Right now, the fact that there are so many distractions actually assists fuzzy academics. A rise in the use of pop-culture, media allusions in many post modern professors’ lectures might illuminate this downward trend.

    To make my point, imagine a Ward Churchill anthropology course called “Colorado’s Indigenous Peoples” that doesn’t need to rely on juiced-up ad hoc comparisons to modern “etch-a-sketch” icons like Brittany Spears or “Bush Lied” to make it’s progressive point.

    Pop-culture references join references to foreign nations’ court decisions and appeals to “collective guilt” on the growing list of indicators that, when they appear in theaters such as “objective” media, America’s courts, academic forums or civic “works” committees, hint that corruption, usually pressed by ex-parte (or outside) interests, is afoot.

  24. Dishman,

    I love your comment (#16)…

    Wspwcially the opening line! It succinctly tells all, about the poseur-like nature of many, both attending and instructing, at the academy…

    Best Wishes

  25. oops!

    Wspwcially = Especially…

    Forgive me, I had the crutch of an assigned typist for too many years!

    Regards to all

  26. # 16 is truly the Tao of O!

  27. #19 Cowboy: If you mean to go on with that subversive s*t, I would suggest that you investigate the genre called “boys’ books” ca. 1870-1920 or so. I know of them because they are the true ancestor of “Golden Age Science Fiction”, but if you really want to stretch your students’ skulls a bit, hunt down some of that stuff, particularly The Rover Boys and (manymany) sequels. The pairing goes with Jack London, etc.

    Regards,
    Ric

  28. Where’d that academy word come from anyhow? Just that.

  29. Only appearances matter.

    Leftism’s an affliction, not a position.

  30. I believe that captures a lot of what’s wrong with academia today. It’s not about teaching, it’s about publishing.

    Fetish pseudo-intellectualism.

    Or “Cargo Cult Intellectualism”: “So-and-so is a respected authority on [a subject] and well-liked. So-and-so publishes a lot. Therefore, if I publish a lot, I will be a well-liked, respected authority.”

    Much like the archetypical cargo cultists, all the hard work that went before the actions visible on the surface gets ignored, if it’s ever even noticed.

  31. So-and-so publishes a lot. Therefore, if I publish a lot, I will be a well-liked, respected authority.

    My boss explains it more like “Publish a lot, and maybe you won’t get fired.”

  32. In Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” the educated classes never studied things or original sources. They studied and wrote about other studies, of studies, of speeches, on studies, of tracts written about some original source from hundreds of years ago. Incestuous un-knowledge.

  33. I think Robert Heinlein said it best:

    “A critic is someone who cannot understand a simple English declarative sentence.”

  34. My approach was simple: show the students what “theory” can do in order to show them how easy it is to use “theory” to rob one of his intent.

    If I could plausibly suggest that Curious George was a homoerotic fiction, I could pressure anything they wrote in a way equally as disingenuous.

    That scared them. And turned them into intentionalists.

    Man, could I ever churn ‘em out.

  35. Does any of this theory talk answer the most important question: Was Deckard a replicant or not?

  36. #35 answered by last paragraph of #23.

  37. Don’t the students ever openly mock some of these theories in class?

    Beyond the pleasure of the text, there is also the pleasure of making fun of silly nonsense. Sure, the professors do the grading but you’d hope there would still be a great number of subversive comments made during discussion.

  38. Somewhere along the line, though, the academy decided that [“pleasure of the text”] in itself was not sufficiently relevant.

    What happened was, they found they could not teach what they could never conceive because they had never experienced it. In order to get those rarefied degrees they have to do so much dreary, soul-destroying reading by their dreary, soulless professors that any joy they might have potentially found in reading just for the joy of reading, is not only gone from their present and future, it has been erased from the past.

    Therefore they look at people capable of “pleasure of the text,” as Walmart-shopping, pulp-paperback-reading rubes whose influence over anything at all worthwhile must be marginalized and destroyed.

    Those who never enter their classrooms are beyond theirn reach, but anyone who does, WILL BE ASSIMILATED.

  39. poon is a pussy.

  40. According to Ridley Scott, Deckard was a not a replicant in the original theatrical version, but was one in the “director’s cut” version. So YMMV.

  41. I was talking about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? cranky.

    I assume when an author is purposefully vague about something, we’re allowed to interpret it however we want?

  42. Like the President, poon?

  43. i dunno blowhard… i always did. but then i delight in being an irl troll that way. sometimes, anyway. >_> back when i was TAing and teaching recitation sessions in grad school the only undergrads who ever mocked the idiocy of some of the material i was forced to teach were two republican/conservative dudes. (and i was glad to have them in my sections, doing my job for me. *wink*) but that was more than 10 years ago, so i dunno now. my sense from my interactions with college students (there are a lot of them in my jrock fandoms, and they tend to be the type who were in gifted and AP classes all their lives) is no, most of them question no authority. they just want their A’s, and they don’t think they should have to work very hard for them either. or rather, they think their ‘effort’ and whether they are ‘good’ people counts more than the quality of the work they produce. it something i find endlessly distressing.

    fwiw, i like to think that my finest moment in academia was also in grad school. there was a book which was a big deal core text at the time. the sort of book you end up reading, or at least reading parts of, many times in many different classes if you stay in the discipline. and i had read most of the first part of this book many times over. but i didn’t do more than skim the second part of the book until i was assigned to read it as a phd student. so i read it and i read it and i read it. trying to make some sense of it. and i realized finally that it was totally incoherent blather. i totes wish i had a polaroid of the professor’s face when she asked me for my thoughts about it in class. and i told her that i thought that while the first part of the book was valuable, the only explanation i could come up with for the second part was that the author must have written it piss stinking drunk sitting in some cafe blowing the advance money he had received on the strength of the earlier chapters.

    also, this is kinda… weird funny stupid. but thinking about how few college students seem to question authority (in my experience, ymmv) i remembered something. back in the punk rock days in the 1970s i had a ‘question authority’ button on my leather jacket. and for a long time i didn’t get it. i actually thought that the button meant i was some sort of an authority on asking questions. and it was quite the revelation, requiring massive amounts of drugs to achieve, when i finally figured out the actual intention of that button. DOH!

  44. You’re a delight, louchette.

    It’s a shame if college kids no longer act like college kids. When professors adopted a “fight the man” persona, I always thought, “Sure, buddy. You ain’t foolin’ nobody. You’re the man.”

  45. So what class in college should one take if you want to study well-crafted sentences and interesting yarns? Literature doesn’t seem to be involved with that any more.

  46. Don’t the students ever openly mock some of these theories in class?

    No. They wouldn’t dare. From their perspective, they’re learning some strange new Truth that only their Tribal Elders can teach them. They don’t possess the maturity or experience to effectively criticize what they’re hearing. If they did laugh, that would be construed as evidence of their profound ignorance and immaturity. And brainwashing by the patriarchy.

    There’s an additional dimension beyond the pleasure of the text: there’s vicarious experience, in which you can learn about the human condition beyond what your limited life can bring you. From Dickens you can get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in squalor when there’s no welfare state to help you out and a class system keeping you down.

    For example. And then there’s just learning about how people used to think in the past and determining if there’s anything useful to learn FROM them, and not just to club it to death with a hammer and sickle.

    The current “discipline” of literary analysis ensures that the practitioner will never have his world view challenged by an author. That right there is reason enough to burn the edifice to the ground and start anew.

  47. Well, it seems I picked the right major then.

    Studying econ at the U of C was almost the exact opposite. I think the professors were scared of us, not the other way around.

  48. I assume when an author is purposefully vague about something, we’re allowed to interpret it however we want?

    Nonsense. The author has left the text open to a breadth of possibilities, but, eg, were you to conclude that Deckard was a tranvestite hooker in a coma, and that the whole story had been the result of her swallowing some bad jizz, Philip Dick might dig himself out of his grave just to kick your ass.

    So what class in college should one take if you want to study well-crafted sentences and interesting yarns?

    You can still take lit classes. Just learn how to use them, is all.

  49. So what class in college should one take if you want to study well-crafted sentences and interesting yarns?

    It’s called the library. Find a reading list online and go from there.

  50. One of the first casualties of this relevance-mongering in literary academe is stylistics, the study of how authors achieve the effect of literariness.

    Oh, I wanted to comment on this as it’s my running joke that I just come here to steal Jeff’s techniques.

    But, maybe fifteen years ago, I read an essay in a collection that discussed how stories were considered to be most satisfying if the denouement resolved the greatest possible number of open questions all at once. If that rings a bell with anyone, please give me a cite because I’d like to reread that collection.

  51. The methodology might have involved having people rank O Henry type short stories based on satisfaction and comparing it to how much was resolved simultaneously. Then it went on to speculate about the long form.

    Something like that. My memory fails me.

  52. what dicentra said @49: if you want to be a good writer, read. a lot. especially the classics and stuff from the canon, when the canon was still about good writing and not about ‘social justice.’

    and BH, TY. =D if you’re ever in nyc we’ll have to take you out someplace grand for some tasty meats and liquor.

  53. bh – I think louchette is hitting on you. Lucky SOB

  54. I’ve been known to enjoy tasty meats and liquor, louchette. To make it fun, I’d have to grow out my hair for a bit first so I could rock an egg white mohawk.

    Nah, JD, louchette can simply tell that I’d make a good lookout when she goes out culture jamming.

  55. i am JD. =D but only on his brains. i’m still a dreadful flirt, but i’ve been retired from slutdom for over 20 years. which, oddly enough is how long i’ve known my hubby. (shakespeare fans insert your own kate tamed joke here.)

  56. I used to give one of my physics profs a lot of mockery when he talked about “hole flow” (if you don’t know what that is, be glad). I was unrelenting, and had references to toss back at him. We never did agree.

    I got a “B”.

  57. I used to give one of my physics profs a lot of mockery when he talked about “hole flow” (if you don’t know what that is, be glad). I was unrelenting, and had references to toss back at him. We never did agree.

    “Hole flow” that runs opposite of electron flow in semiconductors?

    Most of our arguing with profs had to do with the… vagaries of the lab equipment.

    “Um, why is there a 1200 volt difference between the case of this device and ground?”

    “The cap changed value since we last measured. Oh, wow, I think we discovered a flux capacitor!”

  58. Chaired a multi-party lecture on the literary value of “Twin Peaks.” Ok, well, I happened to love it, and it was worth playing with. Some stupid broad’s lecture was on license plates.

    License plates. That’s right. And not even license plates in “Twin Peaks.”

    One of the great huge baggy monsters of litcrit is its dumbass insistence that everyfuckingthing in the world is a fucking “text.” Madonna, as Dan noted; the FUCKING SPICE GIRLS; license plates; the eggs on a blue plate special; what the significance is of “blue” and “plate” in lower-middle class metaunderstanding and cognitive value; the fact, fact I tells ya, that Queerness is in everyfuckingthing ever made or not made; Queerness in John Wayne westerns; Queerness in all other movies, especially ones with “iconic” “male” “western” “white” “stars;” visible bra straps and “invisible” ones that repress the natural state of The Fe/Male Wo/myn-man; Super/Imposing a couple of mean sadistic French fags’ counter-interpretation of whatever the fuck the French mean when they be a-smokin’ their tiny cigarets and a’tiltin’ their little black berets; the fact that I, a “western” per/son-daughter, just insulted Derrida and that FUCKER Foucault; slapping racism on writers who prolly never thought about it because they never met anyone from another race or were writing about “universal” (HAH!) values, and of course writers who never met someone of another race or ever thought about it are EXCLUSIONARY in ther meta-racism, and blah blah fuckitall blah.

    It’s all seemingly so trivial, and yet the leftist freaks in academe have succeeded in making everyfuckingthing both of immense importance–such as the positioning of Madonna’s nipples in a photo in “Sex”–and immense triviality, such as value systems and ethical and moral mores. Even in a writer such as Henry James, who is all about the morality.

  59. Sometimes this doesn’t get stated so I’ll state it. Though it seems like it’s a professional nightmare, it is nice to know that collectively we haven’t totally abandoned the field and some of you have/are fought/fighting the bullshit in this area.

  60. If someone reads my fiction and concludes that hardened criminals are in many ways better human beings than most of our elected leaders, I will not consider my opus a waste.

  61. ushie — i wouldn’t normally pimp my web art on jeff’s site, but this is for you hun. it’s more than 10 years old now. (and sheesh where does the time go?) but i think it’s still germane. ;-)

  62. When I wrote this God and I knew what I meant. Now God only knows. JD Salinger said that, I think.

    It’s like sayin’ “The death of the Ball Turret Gunner” is about abortion. When in fact it is about the horrors of war. War is horrible. Abortion is horrible. Horrible is the only connection. I got, like, zero sleep last night.

  63. From louchette’s link:

    The FROMAGE staff has a reputation as a rigidly elitist, insulated clique, yet we welcome input from those with expertise in most academic fields and all sexual perversions. Staff members attend private biweekly screenings where we chain-smoke Gitanes, feign boredom, drink heavily, watch underground “art” films, and theorize about the sex lives of our absent colleagues.

    Heh.

  64. louchette, that was a scream!

  65. Somewhere in my basement storage is 4 or 5 years worth of “Wrapped in Plastic” starting from the 1st issue IIRC. Still like it but my taste in video has been considered a bit strange by my friends.

  66. Thanks for this post. it amazes and disgusts me that someone would spend their lives studying literature and apparently be incapable of appreciating it in any intelligent way. Rather, it’s just the excuse for some pathetic pseudo sophisticated onanism. Why don’t they just read owner’s manuals or catalogues, and leave the world of great writing alone.
    It’s often said that literary types can’t do science or math and it might be true, I’m one of them. These types, however, can’t do sciences or math and apparently are ignorant about art as well.

  67. Cowboy: This is, I think, at least part of the reason English Departments co-opted (usually badly so) ideas from philosophy, political science, and anthropology.

    Let’s not forget psychology. Usually hundred-year-out-of-date Freudian crapola, but sometimes something from the Outer Limits Fringe.

    Dicentra: Find a reading list online and go from there.

    Here’s one. Further contributions from any non-troll regular are solicited and will be accepted with gratitude.

  68. And as I have said, once a text and its meaning is divorced from trying to determine what the author meant, then it means everything and nothing. Every interpretation becomes valid. Once a group with enough firmness of purpose arises, then all texts mean what they want it to mean, no matter how much their needs of meaning change from day-to-day. See ‘1984’ for a description of where that leads.

    As an ‘academic’ enterprise it is harmless, but as an actual means of ordering a society? The late Soviet Union, and the Islamic nations, demonstrate the actual implosion that happens when theory goes head-to-head with reality.

    Stultification, stagnation, implosion, fire, consumption.

  69. ty ushie. =D *blush* i made a new friend today i think. heh, indeed. =]

    i wrote that fromage thing, i dunno, probably ’98 or ’99 or so. some years before i ever found PW, years before this blog existed even. so, you can imagine how happy i was when i did discover this place, jeff’s writing, and not a few kindred spirits here.

    and geoffb – i still have all my original copies of ‘high frontiers’ magazine. XD;; and a box somewheres fulla ‘film threat'[s]. oh and a much cherished hardcopy copy of the script for an ‘aliens’ film william gibson wrote, but which was never produced. packrat is my middle name. >_> howeva, i no longer do have my original first printing ‘fabulous furry freak brothers’ comix collection. cuz i sent them all to one of my (stoner) gamer/haxxor kid friends for a birthday gift one year. the young must be taught the great aesthetic and philosophical traditions, doncha know.

    i really do love great literature, and great film, and great painting and great art and great human cultural production of all kinds. including great science, and math and engineering too. and i’m not a snob about what i consider to be great, sublime even. but i do refuse to ever allow my metrics of what constitutes human creative genius to be influenced by anything beyond the work of art or text itself. i’m funny that way. =P

  70. I read all the freak bros comics and much else in the mid/late 60’s,Fat Freddie’s cat cracked me up, but too many moves to too many apts with god knows who for roommates left me with little left from that period of my life. Even the record collection I hauled around finally had to go to friends. Then I settled down, bought a house and became what my father had put in my blood.A pack rat. My wife is also so we now have a packed 2000 sq ft basement that I need to organize, better. Books, magazines, videos from as far back as 1978 when I first got that miracle device a VCR. Fansubs from when I watched anime because US TV mostly stunk. I think you have me beat but NYC makes collecting things a bit easier. At least that is my opinion based on a couple months in 1969 spent in, I think, the East Village, E.11th St. IIRC but those days I probably don’t RC.


  71. Comment by dicentra on 5/26 @ 12:34 pm #

    Don’t the students ever openly mock some of these theories in class?

    No. They wouldn’t dare. From their perspective, they’re learning some strange new Truth that only their Tribal Elders can teach them. They don’t possess the maturity or experience to effectively criticize what they’re hearing. If they did laugh, that would be construed as evidence of their profound ignorance and immaturity. And brainwashing by the patriarchy.

    There’s an additional dimension beyond the pleasure of the text: there’s vicarious experience, in which you can learn about the human condition beyond what your limited life can bring you. From Dickens you can get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in squalor when there’s no welfare state to help you out and a class system keeping you down.

    For example. And then there’s just learning about how people used to think in the past and determining if there’s anything useful to learn FROM them, and not just to club it to death with a hammer and sickle.

    The current “discipline” of literary analysis ensures that the practitioner will never have his world view challenged by an author. That right there is reason enough to burn the edifice to the ground and start anew.

    Oh clam it, ya God-hustling airhead. Eagleton’s little intro paperback does nothing more than break down the differing schools and any and every one knows he’s a Marxist flamer from the start. It makes no difference. BTW, Dickens was a socialist.

    Three Guineas, rags, petrol, matches, Virginia Woolf would have burned your garden down, filcher.

  72. BTW, Dickens was a socialist.

    Celine was a Nazi.

    So, what was, thor? Jail? Mental institution? Detox? Hospital due to taking a well-deserved steel-toed boot to the yapper?

    Some of us have a little pool going.

  73. Hi thor. One Dickens I read and it made me cry. It was the one about the two cities. I can’t remember any other Dickens what was really particularly all that moving and I think I read all of them and when you do that they really a lot blur together. But he’s amiable enough and very good with words. Didn’t know he was a socialist exactly though, what how he invented syndication practically all by himself.

  74. geoffb — whoa an another truly kindred spirit. =D

    the first anime i ever saw, a few weeks after its original release in japan was ‘akira.’ it had no subs and my friend who had miraculously acquired *cough* the laser disc and i had to make up a narrative based on the images alone, neither of us speaking japanese at the time. when we finally did see it with subs, maybe two years later at film forum, oh how disappointed we were. our cobbled together story was so much more interesting, tho no less bizarre. but either way the film was so visually stunning and sophisticated and full of novelties that it created a kind of compelling obsession for us both. and from that jumping off point i got really into anime, including the big classics of the time way back then (like ‘kimagure orange road’ and ‘urusei yatsura’ and ‘vampire princess miu.’) and i especially love the lum movies, like ‘beautiful dreamer.’ but i’m not as up on the recent anime stuff as i should be. and my intimate over-familiar knowledge of anime ends sometime around the height of ‘sailor moon’ popularity. unfortunately (or fortunately maybe,) jrock has stolen all of the japan part of my attention focus for quite a while now. tho i do also get some sense of what’s cool in anime and manga realms from the jrock fangirls. and fansubs totally rule. OMG yesh. in anime. and in jrock too. even when they are teh suq they are still useful, and entertaining even. IYKWIMAITYD. ;D

  75. Beautiful Dreamer was my intro to Anime. I had recently gotten into Laserdiscs and haunted the cutout bins to get them at less than $40 per movie. I saw it and thought Hmmmm, maybe my son, then about 11, would like it. I decided to watch it first to make sure it was ok for him. Blown away is too mild. I’d never seen anything like it. I found AnimEigo online and started ordering UY,movies, OAV’s and the TV series. and other series like BGC and KOR. I’m one of the people who signed on for and bought the KOR-TV LD set. I’m not upon recent (last 5 years) anime. Utena, Cowboy Bebop, and Excel Saga were the last things I bought complete series and watched. Miyazaki’s movies are a continuing favorite to watch. Also grew to love J-pop. Many of the voices are/were amazing. In music I don’t need to understand the words to get the song. Have some cels and a number of books of the art.

  76. geoff, it scares me that one can experience later adult onset pack rat-itis. I assumed I was out of the woods. Currently, I am renowned for my compulsion to give away almost all my possessions before moving day.

    louchette, we often did that with foreign films. Turned off the subtitles and made up our own story. You’d always catch that one scene where your fake story and the visual story intersected in a really bizarre way and you’d stare at each other in showck before busting out laughing.

    SBP, if you gave some guidance on the reading list maybe I’d add a couple. I assume the idea is to look at the master list and to add new ones that have been missed. But what’s the general theme? Classical liberalism itself, books classical liberals might like, books all people should read at some point in their life?

  77. bh,

    I think I always had it (genetic from my Father)but moved so much in late teens/twenties that I couldn’t keep much. I did haul 4000 record albums around as my only ball ‘n chain. They went when I got too tired to move that weight again.

    If you can give everything away at a move you should be fine always.

  78. geoff, that’s my story too, though I was never awesome enough to have 4000 records. Kick ass.

  79. I loved cutout bins even then.

  80. But what’s the general theme? Classical liberalism itself, books classical liberals might like, books all people should read at some point in their life?

    People have been using different criteria, I suspect, but the goal for my list was to assemble a collection of books that would lead to what used to be called a “well-rounded liberal education” (without the time restriction of completion in four years).

    I tried to go with books that would have educational value for non-specialists — thus, I have Knuth’s Concrete Mathematics, rather than his TAOCP.

    I had hopes of setting up some kind of discussion group/reading club where people would volunteer to lead (or “facilitate”, in eduspeak) the discussion and study of one of their books. That may still happen.

  81. Thanks, SBP. It’ll take some thought.

  82. The division of labor is such an odd thing, SBP. I’m constantly embarrassed that I don’t have a better classical grounding yet I have a hard time even figuring out how to speak about the things I do know something about to others.

  83. I, for one, look forward to seeing what you will recommend.

  84. And SBP, I never could figure out how to put my list in a link like the others are there.

  85. Oh, this may go without saying, but I avoided books that were on other people’s lists.

    I just wanted to make it clear that Shakespeare kicks serious ass, even though he’s not on my list. :-)

  86. The little globe-and-chain icon doesn’t show up for you, Geoff B.?

    If you use the Zotero thingie, it will save the link for you. You can find it under the “Attachments” tab for the item. Open it up in another tab, then copy and paste the URL.

  87. Come on, when Marlowe wrote Shakespeare he had to do it drunk as a loon so he could talk all flamboyant and shit.

    Sorry, that’s clearly crazy talk but my all-time favorite crazy talk involves Bacon or Marlowe writing ol’ Shakes.

  88. Oh, Geoff B. I think I misunderstood. You were asking about adding your list to the front page. You can edit that, too.

    I just fixed it and added yours… sorry about missing it before!

  89. “Shakespeare may have been a genius, but the the motherfucker wrote funny.”

    — Richard Pryor


  90. Comment by SBP on 5/26 @ 7:04 pm #

    BTW, Dickens was a socialist.

    Celine was a Nazi.

    So, what was, thor? Jail? Mental institution? Detox? Hospital due to taking a well-deserved steel-toed boot to the yapper?

    Some of us have a little pool going.

    I suppose you boys sitting in a circle yanking away at each other would create quite a pool in due time.

    A jury pool of his peers decided he was not the big bad Nazi as some claimed, but then again you wouldn’t know that seeing as you only read from r-wingered Nazi approved reading lists. Celine claimed capitalist intent as his defense, doing the pamphleteering merely for the gold coin during touch economic times. Shan’t you doubly salute him in keeping with your faux capitalist’s pride?

    But you wouldn’t salute, of course, being in that small select group of mere capitalist claimers, you know, the ones who live a life of anything but capitalism’s risk reward course while howling and preaching as though you do. What a phony little fucker you are.

    Jeff Goldstein might even own copies of books written by Celine and Limonov, scary men, potent men of dangerous words, men from the flammable stir, men of the dark beyond! What an outrage, that!

    Are your emotions still in the balance from my continual kicking of your website? Oh well. May the rot and the abyss fall over me. At least I don’t tolerate fools easily.

  91. YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP!

    And what do you mean “kicking my web site”?

    If you’ve been anywhere near any of the multiple sites I operate, I haven’t noticed.

  92. Very strange. It has never showed up for me just going there not logging in. Even just a while ago. Then I went there and logged in and there my link was. I logged out and it was still there.

    Sometimes I think computers will drive me insane but they are just machines, complex ones yes. Politicians however Arrrggghhh!!! Madness ensues.

  93. Oh, I just put the link in for you, geoffb.

  94. Now I see it was your doing. OK.

  95. Thanks.


  96. Comment by happyfeet on 5/26 @ 7:09 pm #

    Hi thor. One Dickens I read and it made me cry. It was the one about the two cities. I can’t remember any other Dickens what was really particularly all that moving and I think I read all of them and when you do that they really a lot blur together. But he’s amiable enough and very good with words. Didn’t know he was a socialist exactly though, what how he invented syndication practically all by himself.

    Dickens and Wilke Collins are two of my least favorite. It’s the on and on and on with their petty tales that slay me. Dickens had that ability for spectacular pronouncements but, and with Tolstoy the most guilty of ‘em, their winded slow pace are a cause for tears of a different sort in my book. Two Cities was good though while Great Expectations – barf.

  97. I think I missed the part where anyone said I was supposed to toss Journey to the End of the Night onto the fire.

    Pound though? That guy sucked. I think we can all agree with that. “petals on a wet black bough”. Racist!

  98. #

    Comment by SBP on 5/26 @ 11:01 pm #

    YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP!

    And what do you mean “kicking my web site”?

    If you’ve been anywhere near any of the multiple sites I operate, I haven’t noticed.

    That was meant for Jeff.

    Websites you operate? My, what time you have to waste, Stromfront must keep you so, so busy.

    As if I’d care of your dumb sites, ha.

  99. YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP!

    It’s old, thor. You’re a washed-up one-trick pony.

    Sorry.

  100. Comment by bh on 5/26 @ 11:09 pm #

    I think I missed the part where anyone said I was supposed to toss Journey to the End of the Night onto the fire.

    I guess you missed what was implied in calling Celine a Nazi directed toward me, a Celineophile, and my post’s point entirely.

    The r-wingered ragers, take dicentra, hate them leftist oh-so much they can’t help but mimic them. Maybe it’s subliminal, that Leftism. Or maybe once The Manifesto touches the hand the universality of the human experience burrs into the skin and you awake at night speaking in tongues, Eagleton, Fowles, etc.. Hahahaaaaaaaaa, it’s all so silly. The cartooning of imaginary evilness in them thems.

  101. #

    Comment by SBP on 5/26 @ 11:13 pm #

    YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP!

    It’s old, thor. You’re a washed-up one-trick pony.

    Sorry.

    Try and sell one of your tricycles on Ebay for a profit. You’ll figure out that buy low sell high thing eventually, maybe.

  102. I guess you missed what was implied in calling Celine a Nazi directed toward me

    He was easily as much of a Nazi as Dickens was a socialist, yippy dog.

    Certainly he was anti-Semitic.

  103. Dickens was a socialist, ya dumb butthole. Does that upset you? Maybe read a book on Dickens. Ask Collins for one. That book he recommended on Shakespeare was excellent.

    Celine was a anti-war type, therefore he wasn’t a Nazi’s Nazi, but he might had a grudge against the Jews, who knows, but the Jews didn’t seem to care much, outside of assassinating his publisher, ha!

    You know who hated Monsieur Celine? The Commies! They tried to march on his home and burn him alive. He insulted Stalin by rejecting Communism, but, then again, details of such wouldn’t make it in that retardo’s reading list of r-wing propaganda you claim, fuckin’ silly knuckles’a draggin’ boy. You claiming imagined ownership to Adam Smith, that’s just too rich in lunacy.

    Bye. The enemy of mankind, the one who called it early for O!, the one would not bend, who proudly threw his vote down for the winner, the honorable President Barack H. Obama, the one all the wingers couldn’t hang goes to to sleep now.

  104. Yeah, I picked the right major.

  105. In regards to Celine and Dickens personal politics (and many, many others), I tend strongly towards louchette’s approach, “but i do refuse to ever allow my metrics of what constitutes human creative genius to be influenced by anything beyond the work of art or text itself. i’m funny that way.”

    Beyond this, I took SBP’s statement on Celine as a rhetorical reversal on thor’s statement on Dickens. As in, if I should be bothered by Dickens (possibly) being a socialist then you should be bothered by Celines (possibly) being a Nazi.

  106. And in regards to grammar and punctuation, I’d hope you’d all respect the fact that I clearly have a brain lesion.

  107. And I wish I’d taken a course Jeff taught so I could just ask him these questions for a few hours a week without being a pain in the ass.

  108. All good students are a pain in the ass. Good thing good teachers don’t mind.

  109. Good night bh.

  110. Night, geoff.

  111. Dickens was a socialist, ya dumb butthole.

    That’s funny. ‘Cause in the Dickens works I’ve read it’s always the public institutions (e.g., workhouses) that take the brunt of the criticism. Not a big fan of that whole liberté, égalité, fraternité outfit in France, either, as I recall.

    Oh, and there’s the niggling fact that he was apparently a Tory, although he did write for a Whig paper for a while. No evidence that he belonged to any of the proto-socialist organizations around.

    Moron.

  112. I haven’t read much about Dickens’ politics, but if you look at his books, you can see that he does not posit the Marxist division between oppressors and the oppressed. His enormous casts of characters consist of people from all walks of life, and you find virtue and malice in all of the socioeconomic classes. Dickens does not reflexively make his rich people into cruel oppressors, nor are all his poor people The Noble Oppressed.

    The arch-villains are often gubmint institutions: the courts in Bleak House, the Circumlocution Office and debtor’s jail in Little Dorrit, workhouses in Oliver Twist.

    His novels reveal the societal structure of the time, wherein you rarely see a rags-to-riches story that results from hard work and perseverance (except for Daniel Doyce in Little Dorrit, whose invention makes a fortune in Russia). People are rescued from poverty by unexpected inheritances instead. Or they are thrust from riches to poverty by similar circumstances.

    Even so, as shown in Little Dorrit, going from prison to riches does not spell happiness.

    If Dickens was a collectivist or whatever, those beliefs never percolated into his fictional worlds.

  113. I think thor is operating from the (common, but idiotic) assumption that anyone who is genuinely concerned with poverty MUST be a socialist.

    Never mind that socialism has proven to be the best possible recipe for generating poverty over and over again.

  114. SBP – Anyone that is genuinely concerned with collective poverty MUST be a socialist ;-)

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  116. I figure this thread is probably dead, but I wanted to invite “Protein” parents to send their college-age cretins to me (email for exact, otherwise undisclosed location: mathew1421 at hotmail dot com). I just put the finishing touches on an Honors program that is based on two semesters of Great Books Foundation courses. In each class, chronologically organized, we read ten texts/writers determined to be among the best, most significant texts in WESTERN culture. This past semester we finished the first class: Old and New Testament, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Beowulf, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare.

    Send ‘em to me, and I promise to serve also as their “unofficial” advisor, helping them avoid the worst professors and find the best.

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  118. Bless you, Cowboy.


  119. Comment by SBP on 5/27 @ 12:52 am #

    I think thor is operating from the (common, but idiotic) assumption that anyone who is genuinely concerned with poverty MUST be a socialist.

    Never mind that socialism has proven to be the best possible recipe for generating poverty over and over again.

    I assume you’re a typical wingered retard who has never taken even a basic British Lit class.

    (Spot on, mate.)

    Of the poverty strife in Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the UK, why don’t you expound, R E T A R D.

    Are extreme R-wingers simply the dumbest animals in the barn or just a collective of ill-educated creeps. That’s a toughy as many tend to be both.

    See dicentra pull out her denialist God shield. OK, Sister di, if you say so, if that’s the way you interpret Dickens, because there’s much malleability in interpretation, eh Jeff. And socialism is the great evil that goes against Christian teachings therefore GOD fuckin’ forbid pulp hero Dickens to be such, as you see it, anyway, with all your deftness and tonal deafness. If it was possible for humans to yawn to death you’d be walking-talking genocide, dicentra. My opinion.

    The toxin antidote to dicentrics is the snapping bullwhip of hellbent madness. Celine was divined for just such a task. Putridness of mankind’s rot! Add some Baudelaire for poetics, maybe a some Burroughs to give that hellish whip an Americana sear. Face it, if the dicentras of the world don’t demand your imprisonment and torture you’re of little value to letters. It’s the stifling zealotry of dicentric cathartics counters what meaningful art is. That rhymes, all the proof you need.

  120. It’s the stifling zealotry of dicetric cathartics that counters what meaningful art is.

    Profound statements can’t have typos.


  121. Comment by Cowboy on 5/27 @ 6:09 am #

    I figure this thread is probably dead, but I wanted to invite “Protein” parents to send their college-age cretins to me (email for exact, otherwise undisclosed location: mathew1421 at hotmail dot com). I just put the finishing touches on an Honors program that is based on two semesters of Great Books Foundation courses. In each class, chronologically organized, we read ten texts/writers determined to be among the best, most significant texts in WESTERN culture. This past semester we finished the first class: Old and New Testament, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Beowulf, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare.

    Send ‘em to me, and I promise to serve also as their “unofficial” advisor, helping them avoid the worst professors and find the best.

    Do you privately tutor varying topics of censorship too? You might mean well, though I doubt it, but I don’t really think today’s students need to avoid the big bad world outside so as to be carefully channeled into a preferred form of human-parrot. Man is meant to burn his castles down and to fill moats with shit and piss. Every thing you hold dear is under attack, and for reasons poetically justified. You do like a good poem, no?

    “Flaubert, shut your big mouth!”

  122. Do you beat on your chest and fling turds around the room when you type these, thor?

  123. Chest? No.

  124. I assume you’re a typical wingered retard who has never taken even a basic British Lit class.

    Funny. I assumed, that having been shown yet again to be a pig-ignorant dipshit, you’d go off into one of your dullwitted and repetitive rants.

    I was right.

    Seen it before, thor.

    You’d think a super-intellekchual lit’rary type could come up with something original now and then, but you never do.

    I could write a program to play you.

    Hell, I did write a program to play you once, now that I think about it.

  125. Note that any evidence for Dickens’ alleged “socialism” was conspicuously absent from thor’s yipping.

    I sure hope you got a felllowship for that MFA, thor, ’cause otherwise you got ripped off. Badly.

  126. thor:

    “Do you privately tutor varying topics of censorship too?”,/i>

    Are you suggesting that I censored other texts? There was an Honors Council made up of representatives from all schools of the university that surveyed other such programs. The council arrived at the top twenty texts/writers from the beginning of “Western” culture to as close to today as possible. Those twenty were divided into two semesters, leaving enough latitude to insert other texts according to the instructor’s desires.

    So, unless there’s censorship involved in any decision about what goes into the syllabus and what doesn’t, no–there wasn’t any ulterior motive. Instead of lobbing bombs, why don’t you do something constructive instead and reommmend another text that was more important to Western culture?

    You might mean well, though I doubt it, but I don’t really think today’s students need to avoid the big bad world outside so as to be carefully channeled into a preferred form of human-parrot.

    The other part of the curriculum requires the students to take the values imparted by the Foundation Classes and impart them into their major, their discipline, and the local community. More than any other students in my university, they are pushed to design and participate in service to the community–but importantly, they are to determine a need in the community and defend their choices. They cannot merely accept the default “victim” classes to serve as a fall back. They must defend their choice of a group to help as a part of their project.

    Man is meant to burn his castles down and to fill moats with shit and piss.

    That’s part of what a man is meant to do, you’re right–but another part (things are always more complex than “shit and piss,” no?) is the impulse to sift through contemporary bullshit to find pieces that will endure, that resonate with the human condition.

    Every thing you hold dear is under attack, and for reasons poetically justified.

    Sorry, thor, you don’t know me well enough to know what I hold dear. I started grad school in the mid-80’s, though, and my love for literature has been under attack from the first day I started my studies. So far, it hasn’t waned because I can pass it on to my students without the extra baggage of ridiculous, impenetrable, and in the end ugly literary theories.

    You do like a good poem, no?
    Yes I do, thor. And I like a good poem so much more than one of the filters you would employ to “understand” it. In fact, when I think of the current state of Literary Studies, the poem that comes to mind is “Wasteland.”

  127. Comment by Cowboy on 5/27 @ 6:33 pm #

    They cannot merely accept the default “victim” classes to serve as a fall back.

    As in serving those victim-persons who live in Dickensian poverty? Wouldn’t that be a crime, eh, so socialistic, so Red Cross-ish, so Salvation Army-esque, so Jesus-eey, to feed the hungry and help the sick merely upon recognition that those hungry and sick might be of need. You are a giver, dear friend! If the victimized meets the curriculum, that is. Must the victims need to repent for their sins, accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, give a testimonial to the greatness of God before you extend them a hand?

    Accusatory I am for my eyes have seen the glory of the coming of dicentra’s Lord!

    Here’s a poem for ya:

    The Golden Wings!

    A God Who counts pennies and minutes,
    a desperate sensual God,
    who grunts like a pig.
    A pig with golden wings,
    who falls and falls,
    always belly side up,
    ready for caresses,
    that’s him,
    our master.
    Come, kiss me.

    Ferdinand de Céline

    I like that poem, Cowboy, because it’s all bite. No need to discuss the intent at great length. The intent is all in the beautiful specter of the ferociousness. It’s meant to hurt the emotions of some. Down to the bone!


  128. Comment by B Moe on 5/27 @ 2:30 pm #

    Do you beat on your chest and fling turds around the room when you type these, thor?

    Only the cat turds. The morning after my pet lion eats a Christian you’d swear only terribly rotten meat could cause that foul a stench. And his turds are huge! One can throw a tight spiral with such grand-sized cat patties. Go long and I’ll hit you right in the hands at 50-yards.

  129. Shorter Céline:

    I hate Daddy.

  130. thor’s a dick.

  131. By the way, politically Dickens was a proud Socialist!

    It burns, it burns, oh how it burns the eyes of a winger to see those associated words, Dickens and Socialism!

    But why?

    Study. Discuss.

  132. By the way, politically Dickens was a proud Socialist!

    By the way, you are a liar.

    A bad one.

    So, what “career” will be next in your long line of failed endeavors? Brain surgeon? Fry cook? Double Naught Spy?

    You’re a joke, Jethro.

  133. that’s like the third time you’ve posted the poem about the flying little pig what likes to have his belly scratched. I had a dog like that once. I miss her.

  134. I don’t think thor has posted anything original in at least a year, hf.

    Like I said: one trick pony.

  135. It burns, it burns, oh how it burns the eyes of a winger to see those associated words, Dickens and Socialism!

    But why?

    It’s your winger, you tell me.

  136. I think you’re getting socialism and egalitarianism mixed up. You know who’s a socialist though is that Barack Obama. What a dick, really.

  137. Somebody deleted it the first time I posted it, hf, otherwise you’re correct, third time exactly. See, and that there is proof enough of the power of poetics. It’s needles in their eyes. Even the post count burns into the memory of some.

    Reminds me of Oxford philosopher Hare’s The Language of Morals and his explanation of how we learn words such as “not.” One is supposed to temper their wrath, not be wrathful, we are told. When one so openly declares God Is Hell it pummels the Victorian disposition built on tempered wrath and metanarratives. It’s an unexpected uppercut thrown from afar.

    All you God-huggers can go back to your warm blankets. I’m done mocking your narrow binds. God is good, is Love, all merciful. But Dickens, on the other hand, was a card carrying Socialist!

  138. Still not seeing any evidence, Jethro.

  139. thor:

    I’m mostly American Lit, and sad to say, Dickens doesn’t make the cut in the second semester of my Honors Foundation courses. Here’s the second semester of two in our program, thor, I’m sure you’ll find it as inferior as you did the first:

    Milton
    Darwin
    Marx (OH, NO!!!!)
    Nietzsche
    Freud
    Einstein
    Orwell
    Sartre
    Solzhenitsyn
    King

    Complaints? Suggestions? I see a number of your heroes listed here.

  140. God = good

    Socialism = bad

    Rush said so.

  141. Still not seeing the evidence, Jethro.

  142. thor’s list would look more like this …

    Marvel
    Collins
    Seuss
    Groenig

  143. I’m sorry, thor, I’m sure you’re being erudite, but #140 is above me. Are you referring–in some sort of weird shorthand–to my #139?

  144. oh. I don’t think so about the burned into memory thinger and also I remember weird things. The shock value of that poem has worn off thor. It wore off years ago. That’s how NPR gets away with being so flagrantly anti-Christian. It’s called post-modernism or somesuch. Days are it’s dirty socialists like Barack Obama what expect their dirty socialist media to rub their belly. God I imagine is a lot resigned to the whole dealio.

  145. God I imagine is a lot resigned to the whole dealio.

    Expected it actually.

    It’s all there at the end of the book.

  146. Hey, Cowboy, I gave myself an out when I stated you might mean well. Looks like you do, IMHO, but that new and old testament had me thinking maybe you were part of Sister dicentra’s r-wingered-to-the-extreme God parade.

    I can be wrong. I can admit it when I am.

    On this day, 2009, I erred in questioning Cowboy’s r-wingered intentions in literary curriculum.

    Maybe. But probably.

    Cowboy, do you see that mess on the carpet, that little wet fart of a man, SPB? Have you seen his little toy reading list? Do adults, in your book, act as he?

  147. You know who’s turning hardcore Christian at an astonishing rate?

    The Chinese.

  148. Still not seeing your evidence, Jethro.

    You do have some, right?

  149. #143, no, just being base.

  150. thor:

    Thanks. The real challenge for me is in presenting texts like the Manifesto in an objective way so that the students can make up their own minds about it. Regardless of my own inclinations, I am totally married to the idea that they must be presented with choices…with a chance to say (probably, hopefully, for the first of many times) this is what I believe, this is why I behave as I do.

    The students often ask me, “but what do you believe”? And I always tell them, “this is not about what I believe–it’s about the belief that you arrive at. I just want to be sure that the belief you adopt is fully informed.”

  151. …oh, and thor, I didn’t actually see a list proferred by SBP.

  152. We Americans are a backward lot in some respects. Socialism, so what, it’s the definitive gray. The Manifesto, dated with so many 19th and 20th century economic class predictions and opinions. Nothing too alarming of the document nor was Marx scary philosophically. All in all it’s good to know of Marx and Freud because of how they seemed so historically important then, but not so much today. Dated Christian quackery is an an duck in the same way. Burning witches in our rear view mirror reveals how cultural rivers flow.

    Any one for a milk shake? See ya.

  153. an = odd

    quack

  154. oh. speaking of shakes this might be a tasty beverage. I haven’t tried them yet. I got some but they’re not to where they’re cold. I’m intrigued though.

  155. feets–are you by chance a middle child?

  156. …oh, and thor, I didn’t actually see a list proferred by SBP.

    I think thor was talking about this.

    It was compiled by a number of people from this site, and is still very much a work in progress.

  157. I saw that SBP, I wanted to add Louis L’Amours Bendingo Shafter and The Walking Drum, but I’m always procrastinate when it comes to signing up to things like that.

  158. Do it, lee. It’s easy!

  159. I’m=I.

  160. thor:

    I think the point you’re making in the first few sentences of #152 is that to determine a writer’s intent the reader has to be fully aware of his or her historical context. Right? This is precisely the value of such courses as I’ve developed. And, I disagree about Marx and Freud being less than valuable today, because their views must always be deterministic. In that sense, we can discuss the principle of free will which (certainly along with Darwin–and maybe to a lesser degree, Nietzsche) has been a topic since the beginning of the first semester.

    Dated Christian quackery is an an duck in the same way. Burning witches in our rear view mirror reveals how cultural rivers flow.

    Sorry, again above my pay grade. Are you saying that Christianity is dated? That its influence is merely historical? Sorry, but both my personal and professional selves say that’s just not so.

  161. So do a hell of a lot of Chinese, Cowboy.

  162. I’m not sure. I have an older sister and a little brother. But there’s not a year between me and my brother and my sister is like 13 months older than I am.

  163. #162 was referring to “Sorry, but both my personal and professional selves say that’s just not so.”

  164. thor seems to be under the illusion that infantile caricatures of religion make him seem sophisticated, Cowboy.

  165. SBP:

    Thanks for the link! Of course, you understand that such a list couldn’t be taught in a year to undergraduates. However, there is enough lee-way in my list that I can offer some of these in excerpt, or even in whole.

    Please, if you have the time, take a look at the two semesters and make suggestions.

    Though it might seem strange, your comments and those of the rest of the PW commentariat will appear as required or suggested texts in a midwestern university Honors Program.

  166. I see your point, SBP. I wasn’t aware that so many Chinese had embraced Christianity.

    And, though many of my colleagues have complained, I make no apologies for the Western-centric nature of these courses. To be frank, almost none of my students (mostly freshmen) have any understanding or appreciation of Western culture.

  167. I’ll tend toward the New Historicists school more often than not, Cowboy. With certain texts I’m not sure they’re understood well if taken too far outside their historical framing. And I dig Foucault, charming twist of the arm he was, maybe I’m even a Francophile philosophically.

    Certain of Christianity is dated, I believe. Morality as agreed principles makes for an efficient society, yes, but moral boundaries change with time as history shows, all I’m trying to say. Arguments without end, pay graded issues, endless Beckettian open doors, I have a limited appetite. Good medicine for an insomniac, overall, with Existentialism being bid daddy Benedryl.

  168. Oh, and ‘feet, I asked if you were a middle child because, like you, I don’t like to see (or read) dissent between disagreeing friends. Whenever I read you writing about Patterico, SEK, etc., I see myself trying to assuage conflicts!

    BTW, I have shamelessly stolen your writing style in my online classes!

  169. Certain of Christianity is dated, I believe. Morality as agreed principles makes for an efficient society, yes, but moral boundaries change with time as history shows, all I’m trying to say.

    If that is what you have been trying to say, you have been doing a profoundly poor job of it.

  170. #

    Comment by SBP on 5/27 @ 8:41 pm #

    You know who’s turning hardcore Christian at an astonishing rate?

    The Chinese.

    Chinese Commies wear flag pins.

    You know who is turning to wearing flag pins?

  171. I think that rings true mostly. Also that’s neat and flattering about your online classes. I’m playing with the idea of getting a masters in lit with an eye to teaching high school in my retirement. For sure I’d do that if I moved back to Texas but not sure how that would work here.

  172. thor:

    For a brief shining moment I thought I was a New Historicist! My research interests at the time involved transctiption of previously undiscovered manuscripts and setting those manuscripts in a historical context.

    Then I learned that the historical context was–by default–a Marxist one. How dissappointing. What started out as a method to truly understand, for example, Twain’s use of the word “nigger,” was relegated to such a pedantic and narrow level.

  173. Of course, you understand that such a list couldn’t be taught in a year to undergraduates.

    Oh, absolutely. This is shaping up to be a list for a life-long education, I think. My ulterior motive in setting it up was to get good suggestions for my own reading and further education. I still feel like I got ripped off by most of my “gen ed” courses.

    Please, if you have the time, take a look at the two semesters and make suggestions.

    Heck, I’m planning on mining your list for more entries for this one — or you’re certainly welcome to contribute any or all of your selections to the group list.

    Though it might seem strange, your comments and those of the rest of the PW commentariat will appear as required or suggested texts in a midwestern university Honors Program.

    Holy cow. That should bring out the angry mobs with pitchforks. Heh.

    Thanks!


  174. Comment by B Moe on 5/27 @ 9:35 pm #

    If that is what you have been trying to say, you have been doing a profoundly poor job of it.

    Are you bucking for a Buckeye sticker on your helmet or what?

  175. ‘feet–

    Let me know when/if the idea of becoming a h.s. teacher becomes more “real.” I have been working with people who are in the professional world and then making the transition to teaching for about 6 years and would love to help you.

    High school teachers make so much more difference in a student’s life than I can ever accomplish in college.

  176. SBP:

    I have been teaching and thinking about these texts/writers for a longer time than I care to admit. Do you think there’s some place in this list for “notes”? I have scribbled down ideas about this stuff forever and would be more than glad to share it with anyone who could find value in it.

    [Please don’t think this would be anywhere near the level of what Dan has done with Shakespeare, ok?]


  177. Comment by Cowboy on 5/27 @ 9:39 pm #

    thor:

    For a brief shining moment I thought I was a New Historicist! My research interests at the time involved transctiption of previously undiscovered manuscripts and setting those manuscripts in a historical context.

    Then I learned that the historical context was–by default–a Marxist one. How dissappointing. What started out as a method to truly understand, for example, Twain’s use of the word “nigger,” was relegated to such a pedantic and narrow level.

    Basic Lit theory seems graspable, suddenly it’s a whirling circular dervish of extensions and contractions and paragraph long definitions of theoretical codings, as if cave drawings of an antelope and a man with a spear require a book length explanation. The spear Freudian. The animal his mother. The hunt a seduction. Coital fury! Blood! Death! Regal is the carnivore!

  178. Hmm…. I think it would be better to keep the master list as a straight MLA bibliography, but it’d be great to add side links to annotation pages. Have you used wikis before? It’s really simple to create new pages.

    -OR- you could start your own list linked from the main page, as the rest of us have done, and add your notes to that page along with the citation information.

    Sure, the more material the better!

    Also, I don’t see any reason to limit this to “serious literature” — stuff aimed at kids is fine, too, or even light fiction if it illuminates an important aspect of classic liberalism (or its opponents).

  179. Exactly, thor–are you arguing for a more immediate response to text? Upon what would that be founded? Value? Beauty? Political worth?

  180. Definitely, SBP! I taught Louis Lamour as part of a “Trash and Treasures of American Lit” class last semester, and we found all sorts of passages that supported the actual American Dream, i.e. Classical Liberalism.

  181. “It all begins and ends in the street.” Celine

  182. I will, Cowboy. The future is too out of focus for me to know much. I imagine I’ll give another job here a try and then head to Texas when it either sucks or just gets stale.

  183. I don’t get 182, thor.

    You’ve been quoting Celine so long, give me a single work that I can read to get the “gist,” OK?

  184. Many questions, many answers, but I’m not the definitive type, Cowboy.

    I ride toward the sunset. Understanding why ain’t in my bag.

  185. Fine, hf. I have many friends in TX. So, if it gets stale in CA, let me know.

    Of course, if it gets REALLY stale, you could try Indiana. JD can’t be all wrong, right?

  186. OK, thor, I understand. I’m not sure I could do the same if someone asked me!

  187. Death On The Installment Plan

    He’s dark and rotten and fun. And just a little profound.

  188. OK, thor, I’m on it!

    Dark, rotten, and fun suits me just now–not sure how profound I can manage when I’m elbows deep in dirt, grass, and mulch–but I’ll try!

  189. Good night, folks.

    A thunderstorm has come up to serenade me to sleep.

  190. Night, podnuh.

  191. Thanks SBP, I’m in…

  192. Pingback: Steynian 358 « Free Canuckistan!

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