April 16, 2009

Theory wars

The Greek god Hermes, presumably the patron of hermeneutics. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero did not realize it at the time, but apparently a tempest raged in academic teacups in the 1980s and 1990s about literary theory of all things. It even had political overtones, as long as you strip the word "political" of most practical meanings.

And, while partisans marched on the English department, the right wing was taking over the country. Nice job, guys.

Anyhow, for a hoot I went on a jag of reading about literary theory a few years back. Aside from traditional, Marxist, and Freudian schools of interpretation, there was all kinds of wild stuff. There was structuralism, post-structuralism, post-modernism, semiotics, deconstructionism, post-colonial criticism, identity-based theories, cultural studies, hermeneutics and more. I even tried reading a little Derrida.

It was kind of fun, as long as you treated it like science fiction.

Some "texts" were found guilty of things like logo-centrism and, God forbid, phallo-logo-centrism. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when people talk about works of literature as texts, the better part of valor is to retreat immediately.

I think it worked like this. Late at night the literary police would pound on the door of a Jane Austen novel. The suspect would be interrogated and tortured until its author was convicted of not being an anti-imperialist revolutionary.

Well, no $%*#. I don't think there were any anti-imperialist training camps open to English women circa 1815.

Anyhow, I found the world of literary theory a nice place to visit but no place to stay. The stories, however remain.

I PREFER COFFEE TO TEA, CONTINUED. Here's an analysis of the astroturf tea party tendency.

UNEMPLOYMENT. Some are hit harder than others these days.

INEXCUSABLE. Here's the latest court decision on the 2006 Aracoma mine fire which resulted in two fatalities at this Massey Energy subsidiary.

CELEBRATE (NEANDERTHAL) DIVERSITY. There may have been several sub-groups of them.


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