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Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

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Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

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Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

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JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Rosenbaum and ACTA on Shakespeare; also, an Announcement

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/14/07 at 01:01 PM

I composed this a couple of weeks back, but never posted it because it seemed too nit-picky.  Mark’s follow-up makes me think otherwise.  As Mark notes, the tone of Free Exchange on Campus’s response to the ACTA report leaves much to be desired.  However, I think there’s something valuable about being an “insider” on this particular issue.

On a personal note, this is the probably the last substantive post you’ll see from me here until sometime in 2008.  I’ve explained why over here, but I’m sure it’s no mystery why someone in the final push to finish his dissertation doesn’t have time to write formal posts.  I’ll still be blogging research notes and ESPN-inspired parodies of academic life over at Acephalous, however, so I hope you’ll stop by.  If not, I’ll see you when Battlestar Galactica returns.

Ron Rosenbaum has spent the past month battering English departments for the continued existence of what he calls “The Relic,” i.e. a professor still influenced by literary theory.  His particular complaint is that theory has driven out the teaching of Shakespeare:

In the post I lamented the disappearance of the study of Shakespeare from the teaching of literature in American universities (due largely, I believe, to the repellant force of the addled, jargon-ridden rhetoric of antiquated postmodernists of The Relic’s ilk).

The aforequoted post—which Mark Bauerlein brought to my attention—reprinted a comment by a physicist lamenting the disappearance of Einstein from the curriculum.  Upon learning why general relatively is no longer a requirement, Mark updated his post—I hope Ron will follow suit.

But I want to address the notion that “the repellant force of the addled, jargon-ridden rhetoric of antiquated postmodernists” is responsible for Shakespeare’s “disappearance,” which I scare-quote because Miriam skillfully dismantled that particular claim.  (Did I neglect to mention that ACTA is responsible for all this chatter about “vanishing Shakespeare“?  Would you have continued reading if I hadn’t?) As Miriam demonstrates, Shakespeare is as integral a part of the standard English curriculum as ever; but if he were evanescing, would Rosenbaum’s “Relic” be responsible? 

The answer, as anyone in the humanities knows, is absolutely not.  A quick search for UCI’s resident Shakespearean, Julia Lupton, reveals this site.  Scroll down and you find a picture of this chap.  That he would be “thinking with Shakespeare” is typical of Shakespeare’s status among self-identifying theorists—although “thinking through Shakespeare” might more accurately describe the situation.  In his rush to condemn the literary critical establishment, Rosenbaum not only misses the attention theorists have and continue to pay to Shakespeare, he also attacks his “Relic” for having repudiated close-reading in the name of ... in the name of ... in the name of Paul de Man

Say what you will about his checkered past—Rosenbaum does—but the claim that someone who identifies him- or herself as an acolyte of de Man has renounced close-reading is absurd.  The standard complaint against de Manians is that they are uncomfortably close-readers who cannot see the forest for an acorn which had been pissed on some years back by a rough terrier of the hills.  Yet Rosenbaum writes:

It is my Theory of Theory which I adumbrate in The Shakespeare Wars: that the so called New Critical revolution in reading, “close reading”, attentiveness to Empsonian ambiguity, had brought those who embraced its attentiveness to poetry such as Shakespeare’s to an almost dangerously disturbing closeness to the generative power of the language, to the virtually radioactive beauty of the words.

And had caused an abreaction in certain of those exposed to it: the terror of pleasure. A terror that had led them to flee to, to fabricate, elaborate scaffoldings of French literary theory to shield themselves from having to stare into the abyss of pleasure close reading opened up, to give themselves an illusion of control over, indeed superiority to the literature.

Because, you know, de Man had no interest whatsoever in ambiguity.  None at all. 

But that’s neither here nor there.  If forced to press the point, I’d say Shakespeare’s study more now than ever before.  New historicism may have been many things, but for long stretches it seemed like little more than a cottage industry devoted to all things Shakespearean.  (Didn’t this little number nearly win a Pulitzer?)


Here’s what another of my pseudonyms (Linval Thompson) posted over at the ACTA website:

I’m no Theory-head, but these dim-witted attacks on Theory are so, like, last century. Let’s begin with RR’s defense of New Criticism as an approach to literature that allows the reader to see the sublime depths of art. In fact, we could unravel this argument through Beardsley. Take the intentional fallacy. New Critics rightly asked readers to deal with the text at hand, but by bracketing off all discussion of authorial intention, they were the first and still strongest supporters of the Death of the Author. As Michaels and Knapp demonstrate in “Against Theory,” interpretation that fails to view meaning as the author’s intention basically falls into the other New Critical fallacy: the affective fallacy. New Critics, by unwittingly severing meaning from intention, make meaning a function of how a critic experiences a work of art. They ask not whether a strain of meaning in a poem was put there by the author, but whether they can find it in the text. So while Beardsley wished to attack intentional and affective readings, Knapp and Michaels show that without intention, New Critics ultimately read for affect. But unlike reader-response critics, New Critics sought to project their experience of the text onto “the text itself.”

Not only did New Critics bracket off a huge area of art’s power – authorial intention and affect – they too often reduced artistic complexity to tired declarations of “irony” or “ambiguity.” It’s like coming to a fork in the road and squinting to make the diverging roads look as one. In fact, the Yale critics – Hartmann, Bloom, De Man, Miller – all founded their versions of “deconstruction” not through French theory, not through Derrida, but through an extreme version of the New Criticism with which they all matured as critics. But rather than stop at a point of condensed meaning and declare “ambiguity!,” the Yale critics pulled on all the various threads of meaning in a text and followed them where they led. While the New Critics assumed that all art forms a unity, the Yale critics saw art as a tense fusion of sometimes straining meanings. It wouldn’t be pushing it to see the Yale critics as the true heirs to New Criticism, unlike those second and third generation formalists whose readings became so predictable, so tired.

And while De Man’s Nazi-sympathizing past is deeply troubling, let’s not forget that the New Critics – and their forefathers, the Fugitives – were often unrepentant anti-Semites (T.S. Eliot) and Southern racists. De Man at least left his Nazism behind in Europe, forging intellectual ties with some of the brightest Jewish thinkers of his day (including Derrida and Levinas). In any case, all of this is mere name-calling, a childish variation on the genetic fallacy. Why do conservatives get so bothered when a lefty critic rightly sees certain artists as racist or sexist, but then have no problem undermining De Man via his wartime sympathies? The double standard is horrifying.

Then let’s take RR’s thesis: Theory rose to power because critics were afraid of the sublime power of art. Well, as I’ve already said, any critic who severs art from intention and affect is already running from art’s power, so the New Critics are as guilty of this as anyone. But of course, theory did not rise because of art. Theory – Foucault, Lacan, Derrida – is not art criticism, not aesthetic philosophy, not hermeneutic method. Foucault was an historiographer; Lacan a psychoanalyst; Derrida a philosopher. Furthermore, Derrida, for instance, harshly criticized both Lacanian psychoanalysis and Foucauldian historicism. So the real target of RR’s attack is not Theory but the construction of something called “Theory” in the American literature departments of the 70s and 80s. Furthermore, RR’s thesis is simply a variation on Freud’s idea of psychological defense, of how the mind reacts to overwhelming and dangerous experiences. In this sense, RR is more Lacanian than New Critical: he isn’t closely reading theoretical critics; he’s psychoanalyzing them. (Check out his use of badly translated Freudian jargon: abreaction!)

RR also gets the Death of the Author thesis completely wrong. When critics speak the “author function” rather than the author, they are doing the same thing that film critics did when they criticized the auteur idea. A film, as is obvious, is not made by the director only. It’s a collective effort, and each member of the crew puts an individual stamp on the finished product. These stamps are often at odds with one another. Now, a novel or a poem is not as obviously a collective effort. But the goal of bracketing off the individual author was to contextualize the work of art. For example, when The Scarlet Letter was written, there were countless other works of what could be called Puritan gothic. Hawthorne did not write in a vacuum, and while his novel is much better than these other novels, we have to understand what Hawthorne and his readers well-understood: that his novel was part of this discourse about the Puritan past in post-Jacksonian America. No one objects to this when it’s called “intellectual history” or “the history of ideas,” because these earlier disciplines still restricted themselves to a series of individual geniuses. But the new generation of historicists and theory-heads wanted to view the field of culture out of which a work of art arose in more complexity: what were the popular discourses circulating at the time? How does high art relate to the popular art and culture of the time? The politics and social tensions? The economics? In fact, what these critics often did by default was show, in rich detail, the genius of the author: how an author effected and was affected by the divergent ideas and cultural rhythms of his time. Thus, Greenblatt’s work moves from Foucauldian New Historicism to best-selling Shakespeare biography. (And as I wrote earlier, the first critics to kill the author were the New Critics.)

Let’s also recall the limitations of the New Critics. Romantic art was almost entirely neglected during the reign of the New Critics. It took the Yale critics – along with historicists like M. H. Abrams—to make Romantic poetry a viable field of study once again. The study of the novel also dwindled, because New Criticism didn’t have the same palette of formal angles from which to study fiction as it did poetry. It was the work of Russian formalists recovered by American structuralist and post-structuralist critics that breathed life into the study of the novel through the rise of narratology. In fact, one of the best close readings of a novel available is Roland Barthes breathtaking S/Z. Michael McKeon’s groundbreaking work on the history of the novel wouldn’t have been possible in the atmosphere of the New Criticism. Even the type of poetry valued by the New Critics was clearly defined by the limitations of the methodology: that is to say, the methodology of the New Critics defined what art was deemed best. If that’s not running from art’s power, I don’t know what is! The long, narrative poem was devalued in relation to the complex, but relatively brief and compact lyric meditation. Renaissance, Restoration, and modernist poetry was held up above the epic, the visionary (long Blake, Whitman), the poetic essay (of, say, Pope), and the experimental (Eliot over Pound, say).

I’m not saying that the New Criticism wasn’t a powerful and necessary approach to literature. I teach it today, and I use its techniques every time I read. But I also use old-fashioned rhetorical techniques; and structuralist ideas (of binary opposition); and deconstructionist ideas (of not forcing an artwork into a unified meaning); and dialectical materialist methods (Burke’s and Jameson’s ideas that artistic form relates at one level to social conflict); and old and new historicist ideas. Bad theory criticism was no worse than bad New Criticism parroting. Every paradigm ultimately begins producing repetitive, unexciting, uninspired criticism. For every Pater there were countless schoolboy copycats who thought that fawning and mooning over art was the best criticism. (Harold Bloom’s recent work is that of a Pater character actor.)

Finally, none of this tells us why some English departments no longer require – or never required in the first place – a Shakespeare class. The shift to Theory led to a huge increase in Shakespeare studies, which led to a huge increase in Renaissance studies and thus hires of Renaissance scholars running Shakespeare courses. So it’s not Theory’s fault. As I’ve written in the past, curricular changes are more about changes in funding. When departments have to compete for funding, and once competition is based on popularity and enrollment, departments often make their majors into McMajors: “Have it your way.” The student becomes a consumer, and departments sell curricula as commodities: marketing, spinning, appealing to base urges and not to intellectual needs. Another possible cause is the intellectual labor market. Despite a hard job market for mid-level scholars, the top scholars still have their pick of jobs. Departments compete for these top hires. And many professors would rather have total control over their teaching than be forced to teach the same required courses over and over again. Departments with strict curricula will be less competitive in appealing both to top students and top professors. The market mentality tends to get in the way of serious intellectual work.

By on 05/14/07 at 03:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

L.B.—So is the proliferation of Theory courses, projects, and specialists part of this consumer/McMajor model?  That is, is there any correlation or relationship to be drawn between the rise of Theory as a major—if not essential—component of literary study and this “competition” you describe?

By on 05/14/07 at 04:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

My thanks to Scott for featuring my website, thinking with Shakespeare.org. Shakespeare, far from being eclipsed by theory, has had a vital second life in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and political theory.

By Julia Lupton on 05/14/07 at 05:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Luther: oh, if that were all it took…

I have to say: as far as I understand it, the real objective of these ACTA reports is not to start a dialogue, although they’re not categorically opposed to dialogue; the point is to make a case for more conservatism and less radicalism in the academy, period.  If one method doesn’t work in practice, they’ll try another.  This isn’t a cynical political agenda that undercuts their work: this is something they see as an actual, positive, culturally robust, possibly self-evident end in itself.  In the end, who cares that Theory isn’t the same thing as canon reform, if “radicals” are behind both phenomena, and both thus form part of a comprehensive political agenda that the ACTA sees as hostile and is, however ineptly, trying to combat?  It’s a political problem, not an intellectual one, and it is endlessly tiresome for anyone without political investment for or against it.  To me it’s quite alien: I can’t imagine feeling strongly that the biggest problem with universities and education in this country is a lack of conservatism.  But people seem to.

Those political convictions don’t come from the mistaken belief that canon reform and Theory are causally linked; they come from somewhere else, to which I’ve never had access either imaginatively or rhetorically, so I don’t know where I would even begin a productive dialogue.  On that note, I’d better get back to my tentative Quevedian translation of Thomas Browne’s “Urn Burial.”

By pica on 05/14/07 at 06:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mike, I’d say Theory contributed to the McMajor shift at the inter-collegiate level.  That is to say, at the height of Theorysaurus Rex—the big-time scholar of Theory—it behooved every major institution to invest in hiring at least one of these Theorysauruses.  Universities wound up paying wild salaries for rather limited scholars, such as Homi Bhabha, all because having a big name Theory scholar upped the cultural capital of that school—thus increasing grad school applications, grad school admissions, grad enrollment, thus enabling these schools to handle the freshman comp demand from increased undergrad enrollment, etc.

By on 05/14/07 at 09:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

LB: Readers might be interested to follow the train of debate between “Linval Thompson” AKA “Luther Bissett” and myself on the ACTA blogsite. Alas, nothing I’ve read on this site by ESK (and by his references, and especially the specious arguments and sheer garrulity of “The Little Professor") routinely touting “Theory” impugns Rosenbaum’s and ACTA’s sound and sensible points.

At any rate, perhaps facile analogies between courses of study in the “humanities” (and perhaps especially courses taught on the post-human planet “Theory") and in the hard sciences are a bit risky, as red-faced “theorists” found out in the Sokal hoax and in Sokal’s and Bricmont’s follow-up book, Impostures Intellectuelles, in which the authors anatomize clearly and with no small admixture of humour the sway-dough scientific rubbish peddled by “theorists” like Lacan, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, Kristeva, Irigaray, Latour, etc., all favourites on this site.

Good luck on the diss, ESK. Avoid Menard’s Syndrome and existential trances.

By on 05/16/07 at 08:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

“ . . . “theorists” like Lacan, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, Kristeva, Irigaray, Latour, etc., all favourites on this site."

This site, you mean The Valve? Not really. Some of us look on some of those folks with favor, but not all of us. Some of us are indifferent to Theory, some opposed to it.

Scott—That abreaction quote is priceless. “We have seen the Gorgon and we are blind. Oh woe is us, oh woe is us, oh woe, oh woe, oh woe.” What a hoot.

By Bill Benzon on 05/16/07 at 11:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

” . . . although “thinking through Shakespeare” might more accurately describe the situation. “

Or thinking through Homer, or Virgil, or Dante, or Donne, or anyone else. The rough idea being that the critic uses the text as a vehicle for the critic’s thoughts (thereby summoning canonical authority to those thoughts). The suspicion that that’s what’s been going on all along, even with good old close reading, is one of the factors that precipitated the disciplinary self-consciousness of the 60s and 70s. We can natter on all we wish about sticking close to the text and respecting the author’s intentions, but such incantation doesn’t, in fact, give us the power to do so. How can we be sure we aren’t discovering our own thoughts and desires in the words of a given text?

By Bill Benzon on 05/16/07 at 12:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill, that’s not quite what I meant by “thinking through Shakespeare, at least not when it’s done well.  It’s no accident I landed on Julia Lupton’s Shakespeare site: when I took her Shakespeare/Marlowe course a few years back, her approach was to read a work like The King’s Two Bodies, The Philosophy of Right or The Origin of German Tragic Drama and then see how elements of Marlowe and Shakespeare challenged the theories set forth in the secondary texts.  The literary text wasn’t a vehicle for the critic’s thoughts, it was a challenge to the rigors of a Kantorowicz, Hegel or (to a lesser extent, him being a more literary-minded thinker) Benjamin.  It was an acknowledgment that Marlowe and Shakespeare may have intuited more than they’re given credit for, that the conflicts inherent to a literary text can teach us something about the world beyond it.

Luther, more pseudonyms?  The specter of talking to you when I don’t think I’m talking to you looms even larger now.

Jacques, you write:

Alas, nothing I’ve read on this site by SEK ... routinely touting “Theory” impugns Rosenbaum’s and ACTA’s sound and sensible points.

This sentence fails to make sense on many levels, from the grammatical ("nothing I’ve read on this site ... impugns Rosenbaum’s and Acta’s sound and sensible points") to the material ("SEK ... routinely touting ‘Theory’").  Of course what is generally written on the Valve doesn’t address the specific points made by Rosenbaum and ACTA.  As this was the first post here on the subject, this goes without saying.  However, when I addressed Rosenbaum’s argument, I did offer a direct challenge to his narrative of literary studies: he claims de Manians aren’t close-readers, when everyone inside baseball knows they are. 

As for your dismissal of Miriam’s arguments because—I can only guess—the thoroughness with which she dismantles ACTA’s claims, I’m not quite sure how to address that non-argument.  I mean, I could take your non-engagement as an indication of your unwillingness to participate further in this (or any) conversation in which people refuse to take ACTA’s claims at face value ... and I suppose I’ll have to, since you offer no alternative explanation for why we should take ACTA’s numbers seriously (even though they don’t discuss how Shakespeare’s taught) but not Miriam’s (even though she doesn’t discuss how Shakespeare’s taught).

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/16/07 at 01:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

With Homer, Vergil and Dante (and even Donne) the old philological method is pretty enlightening: learn the works in their original languages, then at least the major editions with their textual variants and the historical/biographical/literary- historical/rhetorical/genre contexts, then the most influential translations and the idioms, forms, etc. used to convey them. 

To those who dogmatically assert an author’s intentions are unrecoverable: tu quoque. As Hegel has it somewhere, any denial of the possibility of knowing something is itself a claim to know and can be examined accordingly.

By on 05/16/07 at 01:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

For while I was convinced that J.A. was another persona of the ToS.  Perhaps not, but that’s not important when the style is the same.  Delete and ban, I’d say.  Don’t wait for the inevitable response, only to have to clean that up, etc.

By on 05/16/07 at 01:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

One cannot help deploring Monsieur Albert’s too-extensive acquaintance with the foreign languages…

By on 05/16/07 at 06:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sorry, SEK, I stand corrected on your initials. But nothing you’ve written above impugns my comments on your and “The Little Professor“‘s opinions about Rosenbaum’s and ACTA’s justice in deploring the replacement of properly contextualized study of Shakespeare through traditional close-reading techniques by theorrhea, and especially not Fraudian or Lacanian psychANALysis, as Karl Kraus had it, a pseudo-science that is part of the disease of which it pretends to be the cure. Or as Nabokov has it: “Let the credulous and vulgar continue to believe that all their woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts”. Ditto for its invocation in literary studies. Good minds are a shame to waste on it . . .

By on 05/16/07 at 10:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, I suspect Rich is correct, but on the off-chance that he ain’t, I offer you this selection of links.  You’ll find no greater psychoanalytic skeptic around, and yet you still insist on beingn confrontational.  You’re compounding the error Bill pointed out earlier.  The world is full of shades, friend.  You’d do well to acknowledge that the facts, the irrefragable facts, ain’t on your side in this one.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/16/07 at 10:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The references to the Sokal hoax prove that what we think might be the case here, is actually the case. It’s far more reliable than hand-writing analysis or even IP logging.

By Joseph Kugelmass on 05/17/07 at 02:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques is James DeLater, not the Troll of Sorrow.

By on 05/17/07 at 07:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott, glad to hear you’re a sceptic about a movement (and myth) that has ruined thousands upon thousands of lives (no, I’m not a dissatisfied customer--never “bit"--but I did have a couple of years’ work in a psych ward). Nevertheless, I’ll peruse your website’s discussions of psychoanalysis as we prepare to take up ex-pat status for a time. Further, I realise intention, meaning and truth are problematical and know that I do try to avoid the shoals of dogmatism when I’m not trying to redress some perceived imbalance. Thanks for the links.

By on 05/17/07 at 09:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s right, Jacques, cuz the treatment of the mentally ill *before* Freud and Lacan was so humane and effective.  And the mass over-medication of the mentally ill (and non-ill) as a result of the neo-positivism in psychology has been a huge success.  (Tell that to my students who can barely stay awake in class because of their ADD/ADHD meds.)

I’m no fan of Lacan—but let’s not write off psychoanalytic theories and research en toto.

By on 05/17/07 at 10:16 AM | Permanent link to this comment

If people think that “Theory” has either enhanced or destroyed the teaching of Shakespeare, they need to get out more. Theory is such a rarefied phenomenon, confined so much to a select portion of higher ed, that its effects are miniscule compared to other influences. Yes, it may trickle down into community colleges, small liberal arts schools, satellite campuses, and the thousands of other places of learning that happen to serve a much, much larger portion of students than do schools on the US News list. But the trickling so waters it down and homogenizes it that it hardly counts as Theory anymore. Furthermore, it mixes with other forces, such as multiculturalist outlooks that derive absolutely nothing from Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida. Julia Lupton’s remark about theory providing Shakespeare a “vital second life” is nothing but another self-compliment theorists and humanities scholars so readily pay to themselves.

ACTA’s report does, to be sure, focus on the top schools, but the primary aim isn’t against theoretical approaches, but against the loss of broad reading requirements, the loss of sustained exposure to the corpus of Shakespeare. If a department had a basic Shakespeare requirement, but also offered several special, theoretical seminars on Shakespeare, ACTA would not complain.

By on 05/17/07 at 02:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques rarely bothers to engage the content of arguments made by actual people, from what I can see. He’s too busy having arguments with people who are not present in the conversation.

If you just take even one of the basic points that Miriam makes about the ACTA report, namely, that ACTA has no idea whether what the impact of requirements or the lack thereof is on enrollments, let alone on scholarly or intellectual interest among academics, it’s hard to see what ACTA (or Jacques) could say in response. I think this is largely because ACTA’s model of education, and I think from what I’ve read, some ACTA supporters like Mark Bauerlein, is a command-economy model. They simply don’t believe that students will study what ACTA believes they ought to study if they’re not made to study it.

Enrollments at many institutions I know personally suggest otherwise: Shakespeare courses, along with “core” 18th-20th century survey courses that include many canonical literary works, are as high as they’ve ever been, and certainly vastly higher than the multicultural or crit-theory courses that get ACTA’s defenders in such a froth. If that’s the case, then where’s the crisis? A “market” is producing the results that ACTA seems to think can only come about through compulsion.

By Timothy Burke on 05/17/07 at 02:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

LB: I’ll send you off to Professor Szasz for a few incisive analyses of Fraud’s “work” (e.g., treating morphine addiction by administering cocaine!) and that of his whole pack of bizarre devotees. Or F. Crews. Or R. Webster, for Fraud’s own serial abuse of his “patients”. Yes, LB, incarceration without criminal charges, lobotomies, shock treatments, dehabilitating sedatives--psych treatments sure improved after Fraud! I can describe actual “treatments” I witnessed while working in a psych ward if you like, LB, but you might not find them exactly palatable subjects for conversation here. . . .

Tim: My reaction (and yes, I count myself a reactionary for whom, to paraphrase Orwell, the label is not synonymous with anything not generally desirable) is to the arrogant dismissiveness on the part of those who don’t really engage us supporters of ACTA, FIRE, the NAS, David Horowitz, et alii in their calls for higher education reform, but parade their mandarin disdain (aped by their fulsome epigones in grad schools) before each other while condescending to dabble in occasional damage control when the current crisis in humanities teaching and scholarship is brought before the general public. Granted, dropping a Shakespeare requirement for English majors is only one of a host of measures taken by grad schools that allow English grads to avoid serious engagement with our language’s greatest and most challenging writers, thinkers and artists. A specific example: at my doctoral school, the resident premiere Milton scholar decided that she’d replace the fusty ol’ Great Bogey with a trendy seminar on Lacan’s “mirror stage” (an interesting “theory” that Dr Tallis shows that Lacan either didn’t know or care a whit about actual primate behaviour) instead of sticking to her actual area of teaching and scholarly competence for which she was hired to begin with. Another: when as a post-doc I expressed (at a meeting of grad and doctoral students with faculty) my concern to the grad studies director about having no bib and research methods courses available (luckily, I’d done mine at another institution without a doctoral programme), he replied, au contraire, that “RS” taught the course. “And wasn’t the last time he did teach it EIGHT YEARS AGO?” I replied (Exit grad studies director and secretary). One last example: the abysmally low foreign langauge requirements for English majors and grad students. Care to check the stats and reqs on this, Tim?

By on 05/18/07 at 10:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, Szasz deals more with medical psychology than with Freudian therapy.  He opposed shock therapy and lobotomies, neither of which were treatments Freud used in his own practice. 

He also thought schizophrenia didn’t exist.  Now we know that many cases can be regulated with medications.  Szasz is more like Foucault than you might care to think.

Szasz also helped the Scientologists in their campaign against medications for mental problems.  It’s hard to take anyone seriously who takes Scientology seriously or is willing to be at all associated with such a fraud.

And again, I don’t think Freud was at all the last word on the subject.  But his ideas are (a) of the utmost historical importance; and (b) still contain kernals of truth currently being explored and testing by neurology and other scientific fields.  Freud, like any science, should be tested, challenged, and adapted.  By Szasz is no better than RD Laing and Foucault and Scientology in the “there’s no mental illness” sweepstakes—what I like to call The Doors Syndrome: “Being crazy is more real, man!”

By on 05/18/07 at 02:32 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques: can I ask what the hell “engagement” means in your dictionary? I get the feeling that in your dictionary, it means “fulsome and complete agreement”.

I think you’re right that foreign language competencies are rarely a requirement in top-tier US universities, though many require incoming students to have had some foreign language instruction in high school. But again, a historical point rather like the one Miriam Burstein raised about the Shakespeare requirement: I suspect strongly that many US universities did not have such a requirement in the past. So this is not a situation of loss, it’s a situation where you have to make a forward-looking argument about a new allocation of resources, which is a kind of argument that has a different logic to it. If you accept the pedagogy that is standard for language instruction in many top-tier institutions (daily classes, sometimes with additional immersion class time), it’s a non-negligible shift in what we ask of students. Any discussion of requirements has to also be a discussion of what you’d like to get rid of. In the case of foreign language instruction, you can’t just go around anecdotally cherry-picking all the intellectual trends and people you don’t like. You’re not going to get the space for a required program of demonstrated competency in one or more foreign languages just by kicking out a Lacan scholar here and there. To require it, you’d have to make a systematic choice about what to slight in a curriculum, either a whole department or area of study or to consciously decrease the requirements for completion of any and all majors.

By Timothy Burke on 05/18/07 at 02:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

On “close reading” and the current implosion of appropriate scholarly standards for grad education in English lit:

As I implied above, perhaps grad education programmes in English could do with some practical reforms, e.g., not only toughening up their foreign language requirements for their students and candidates, but requiring them to DEMONSTRATE their scholarly use in e.g., translating, editing or glossing. Competence in two foreign or ancient languages was de rigueur for my MA programme in history only a few decades ago, and one prof teaching Renaissance history (a political leftist, by the way) allowed grad students to pick from a pre-selected list of works in foreign languages pertinent to the course (including Greek, Russian and Arabic). Perhaps translating and editing work are the most demanding in terms of “close reading”, for, as the 17th century classical translator and editor Anne Dacier had it, when we translate we read not only for ourselves but for others as well. This sort of tough but rewarding language and philological work perhaps compares favourably with inventing cleverly-hyphenated sexual puns for our diss topics and theory articles worth a quick smirk from our peers. . . . In anticipation of objections that I deem language training important because I (no gifted linguist) studied them, I respond: au contraire, I studied them BECAUSE I deem them important.

By on 05/18/07 at 02:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Foreign language competency in graduate programs is a different thing than undergraduate programs, which is what the main thread of this discussion is about (and which the ACTA report concerns itself with). Most history programs I know still require doctoral students to demonstrate the ability to at least read and roughly translate documents and materials in two languages besides English. I’m not sure why you think that this is no longer the situation.

By Timothy Burke on 05/18/07 at 03:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

LB: Actually Szasz devotes whole chapters of his books to Fraud ("the Jewish avenger”, according to Szasz) and what Szasz calls the surrogate religion of psychotherapy. Start with his classic, The Myth of Mental Illness: 86 pages are keyed to Fraud in Szasz’s index. In Karl Kraus and the Soul-Doctors: 14 pages plus a 26 page chapter. In A Lexicon of Lunacy: 12 pages. Scratch his many other books and you’ll find hundreds of pages on Fraud and his followers. Further correction on this point should be unnecessary. And of course Fraud didn’t use lobotonmies and shock “therapy” (i.e., mutilation and torture, the latter of whose effectiveness Selznick and Alexander approve in their popular and standard history of psychiatry, for, inter alias causas, it terrifies the patient or victim!)--they hadn’t been invented yet! Szasz doesn’t deny that feeding people phenothiazines (AKA insecticides) and the like doesn’t change their behaviour, but that’s no proof of illness (scotch works for me, gratias Deo!). Szasz is an atheist libertarian, so I suspect this has much to do with his championing of marginal groups and his ridiculing the APA for “voting” on the absurd notion that homosexuality is a mental “disease”. LB may be right on the connexion between Szasz and Foucault’s (In Madness and Civilization) superficially similar championing of socially marginal groups (of which he was a member, unlike Szasz), though their reasoning is worlds apart on this score, for Szasz seems a contract-theory rationalist and enlightenment partisan. And I’ll grant to LB Fraud’s (as Marx’s) importance in the history of ideas: I agree, read and know him--and mark him well. Perhaps someone can confirm or deny the story that when A A Brill brought him to the States to lecture at Clark U, after Fraud’s address and the resultant applause Fraud’s said to have turned to Brill and said, “Why are they clapping? I’ve brought them the plague!” Szasz’s position is complex but hinges on one contention: no physical pathology, no illness--mental illness is a tragically reified metaphor. Perhaps like LB, I’ll close with a paradoxical joke: “Anyone who goes to see a psychiatrist oughtta have his head examined!”

By on 05/18/07 at 05:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Tim: Please don’t get me wrong. It’s just that often my mode of argument tends toward the traditional agonistic or adversarial found in ancient rhetorical or law schools (or modern law schools and courts, for that matter). Sometimes, however, I opt for the schediasmatic idiom (from ho skhediasmos, an informal kind of writing, or written form of “table-talk"--were it possible, I’d prefer the actual table-talk over a few scotches). I’ve learned much from my debates with other scholars on a variety of issues and look forward both to testing theirs and being tested on mine. If I might be permitted to quote from the introduction to my Translation Theory on the Age of Louis XIV:

“This adversarial procedure of arguing opposing cases (causae) was a valued aspect of rhetorical and legal training in schools from Greco-Roman antiquity through Huet’s [Pierre-Daniel Huet, 1630-1721, whose treatise on translation theory I edited, translated into English and annotated] own age. Casaubon [17th c. scholar and fictional interlocutor in Huet’s dialogue] affirms its value just after Fronton [another interlocutor and actual historical personage] has concluded his case, when he commends Fronton’s efforts and reminds him that the truth ‘more easily shines forth after a vigorous effort has been made on both sides’”.
(p. 15)

I suspect that fifty years ago and before, humanities professors could count on their students being trained up in Latin surely and perhaps Greek, as was the case with my colleagues trained in European universities (prior to university, often 8 yrs. of Latin and at least 4 of Greek, in addition to several modern foreign languages, which were either studied, or simply “acquired"). This training in ancient and modern languages has many ancillary benefits in literary and historical studies, and I think deserves special emphasis.

By on 05/18/07 at 06:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

At my university, it’s the engineers, not the Lacanians, who hate language requirements.

By Julia Lupton on 05/18/07 at 10:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, I’ve a review forthcoming of Crews’ Follies of the Wise.  I can’t link to it, obviously, but it goes without saying that I’m skeptical of psychoanalysis’s utility in the world at large ... but in terms of literature, I’m increasingly convinced that Freud adds to the quality of the conversation.  I say this not as a devout Freudian or Lacanian, but as someone who wrote off psychonanalytic interpretations a few years back. 

That said, I have to agree with Prof. Lupton.  It’s not as if English majors are running away from Shakespeare ... or any other of their requirements.  Those classes are always over-enrolled, even if they aren’t required.  I don’t know why, mind you, but I think it speaks well of the student population, despite the tizzy it sends you into.*

*And for the record, I don’t know Greek, but I have Hebrew, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish and German under my belt.  Most of the people I know and/or are married to—that may not be a fair comparison, as my wife’s fluent in 21 languages, being one of those linguistic/musical savants—can read and translate works in other languages.  All of which is only to say reiterate, you’re shadow-boxing ... only sadly, you’re the only one who hasn’t noticed.  Maybe there’s somewhere else your complaint is valid?

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/18/07 at 11:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott: I’ll look forward to reading and perhaps critiquing your review after I’ve read FC’s Follies of the Wise. With LB, I’ve already acknowledged Freud’s influence in the invention of psychoanalysis (a mon avis, mostly for ill), but then likewise one can point to the influence of other pseudo-sciences, say astrology or phrenology, on the history of ideas (Martin Gardner’s books on pseudo-scientific humbugs are due for a reread)--what earns Freud’s (or Marx’s, for that matter) pseudo-science a special place in your (I’d say jaundiced, but today quite conventional) vision of literary studies is beyond me (even one of Freud’s pet terms, the “Oedipus Complex” reeks with absurdity, for as we all know, Sophocles’s Oedipus evidences no conscious or unconscious desire to kill his father or marry his mother). Perhaps there’s some unacknowledged truth-value for you and so many others lurking beneath vague justifications like “the quality of the conversation” or “interesting”? Is it perhaps just Freud’s calumnies on religion as dangerous neuroses? His or his dogsbody Jones’s hack-work on Hamlet? His risible back-psychoanalysing of artists like Michelangelo based on faulty translations (even though he insisted on years of direct psychonalysis for his “patients” and followers for them to be adequately assessed--excepting himself, of course). His finely cultivated aesthetic sense rivaling that of the brothers Goncourt? Just what really DOES so commend his works to literary scholars?

It’s also beyond me how English majors, grad students and doctoral candidates can absorb the traditional British canonical works in Old and Middle English, the English Renaissance and Shakespeare, the “long” 18th c., the Victorian c. through literary modernism in addition to studying the rich Anglophone literatures elsewhere (e.g., that of Commonwealth countries, America, India, etc.), the history of English, English and Germanic linguistics and grammar, rhetoric, bibliography and research methods, genre studies, etc. as well as all the languages and literatures most pertinent to English literature, especially Latin, French, German, Italian, etc. all the while dabbling in other disciplines like philosophy, history, anthropology, psychology and the like. Well, of course, it’s beyond all but a very, very few of us as well. No wonder so many seek refuge from these apparently tyrannous demands in pop culture, film, “rhetoric” (most often without benefit of classical languages, alas!), ethnic or “gender studies” or “theory” (for given its mostly impenetrable, babylonish jargon, endless either/or fallacies, non-sequiturs and rhetorical tricks, one can merely sit back and watch the words go by).

I’m pleased that you and your coterie are so apparently gifted in languages ancient and modern. Had I such gifts and training, I’d have opted for ancient Near Eastern languages and history long ago. Perhaps then, Professor Burke’s concerns that picking up a few foreign languages (and using them in editing, translating and glossing) while an undergraduate and a few more as a grad student are exaggerated and not an onerous burden for English majors and grad students? Since translation (history, theory and practise) is one of my specialties, I’d be keen on looking up some published translation work (poetry or prose) of yours or your group’s out of the Greek, Latin, German, Italian, French, or Dutch. Or from English into the above modern languages.

By on 05/19/07 at 11:22 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Yeah, Szasz’s brilliant idea is this: “illness” is a metaphor when used about mental disorders.  Which is why Freud didn’t really talk about therapy in terms of germ-theory.  Of course, the more we see that mental disorders often arise from hormonal and chemical imbalances, the more we can connect mental “illness” to physical illnesses such as hypergonadism and hyperthyroidism and such.

Szasz, like Foucault and Laing, wanted to preserve the schizophrenic’s right to wander the streets spouting wisdom.  Because to do otherwise would be to step on the schizo’s rights.  There’s not a big line between Szasz and Foucault (and Laing and Deleauze and Norman Brown) here. 

Adjustments to Freudian therapy—such as Beck’s cognitive therapy—have resulted in rather stunningly positive results.  That Freud was often wrong makes his work no more “pseudo-scientific” than the fact that Darwin (or Galileo) was often wrong. 

Finally, Jacques, your ideas about the training necessary to be a literature scholar is open to a reductio.  You could simply keep on adding to the knowledge supposedly necessary to master a field, to the point where we all just throw up our hands and declare that no one’s ever a master.  Which is fine with me.  I’ve had 18 year old students who make arguments about novels that no scholar had ever before noticed.  So I don’t think one need master every period and genre of literature before branching off into history or philosophy.  (Only idiots draw sharp lines between these anyway.  Emerson: literature or philosophy or theology?  Burke: literature or history or philosophy?) And anyway, very few artists or writers had such a comprehensive knowledge of languages or world literatures. 

And people don’t study film or pop culture because they are afraid of the demands of, say, being a Victorianist.  They study film because it’s the most popular and influential art form of the twentieth century.  They study pop culture because it has a greater effect on most people’s lives than some obscure 18th century novel.  If the purpose of the humanities is to examine and explain the sheer variety of human behavior, then pop culture and film are essential fields for humanistic scholarship.

By on 05/19/07 at 03:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yes LB, Freud talked of the “talking cure” and talked his devotees into believing it. But he said that wanted to be judged as an empirical scientist, not as a figure in literary history or “theory”, and I think we should take him at his word. And on that score, I think Raymond Tallis, MD (head of a British neuroscience centre and professor of medicine as well as a philosopher and literary critic of note, in praising F Crews’s Unauthorized Freud, sums it up well for me: “Crews is able to demonstrate that: Freud invented the data on which his major theories are founded; that he lied repeatedly about the outcome of treatments based on those theories; that his incursions into his patients’ lives often exceeded the bounds of permissible clinical practice and had disastrous consequences; and that he secured his reputation as a fearless pioneer by careful image management, reinforced by a steely authoritarian manner that cowed his inner circle into submission and insulated him from direct challenge. In short, Crews exposes once and for all the groundlessness of Freudianism, reminds us of its catastrophic consequences for patients, and explains how Freud’s pernicious mumbo-jumbo managed to command acceptance among so many for so long”. Biology Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar surmised that psychoanalysis was quite possibly the greatest intellectual confidence swindle of the 20th c. The retreat into bio-chemical-hormonal mysticism as the next “great psychological breakthrough just round the corner” is treated in Szasz’s Meaning of Mind (1996), Freud’s and his followers’ bogus “cures” in The Myth of Psychotherapy and the problem of society’s unwanted or “disturbing” population in Cruel Compassion (1994, 1997). If the above judgements by scientists are true, this obviates LB’s third point.

I noted the intellectual abyss separating Szasz and Foucault, but LB chooses to fixate on their common opposition to coercive psychiatric interventions.

Susan Haack’s philosophical fallibilism in “Staying for an Answer” (TLS, 1998) and her work on pragmatism are admirable correctives to LB’s reductio and the either/or fallacies (e.g., we must know all to know anything) opined by all too many “theorists”.

Roger Scruton’s work in aesthetics is also a convincing corrective for those who fancy film and photography are arts in the full sense that painting, sculpture, music and poetry are.

“Pop culture” is actually an oxymoron if by “culture” one means the intellectual, moral and aesthetic development of the individual through education. Pop culture, youth culture, street culture, drug culture, counter-culture, etc. are vulgar journalistic shorthands for whatever people like and do in certain groups. . . . The vitality and spontaneity of so-called “pop culture” evanesce when superannuated “hip-pops” at university drone on about it in lectures. . . .

By on 05/19/07 at 07:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The perfect irony, Jacques, is that Szasz’s latest book, on Virginia Woolf, is completely Freudian, even as he views it as debunking psychology.  Szasz argues that Woolf wasn’t “mentally ill,” but rather that her wants and needs came into conflict with a Victorian [sic] society that forced her to repress those desires. 

That’s simple Freudianism, with a bit of 60s RD Laing thrown in.  Freud saw emotional problems as the collision of self and society—what Laing would call “double binds,” where one’s society demands two contradictory things of one.  Whereas Freud hoped to help the patient adapt to the society, Laing (and later, Szasz) wanted to change the society in the interests of the patients.  For people like Laing and Deleuze and Szasz, the “crazy” are really the most sane, and acts of insanity are actually willfully chosen acts. 

So Szasz reads Woolf’s suicide as a completely rational response to the prisonhouse of Victorian [sic[ society.  As if no one in Woolf’s day—not Djuna Barnes, not Mina Loy, not H.D., not Ma Rainey—had any other choices besides patriarchal oppression and suicide. 

Szasz also likes to describe depression as a rational response to one’s terrible life.  But that’s exactly *not* clinical depression.  The difference between overwhelming sadness and depression is that depression has no clear object.  Just as the difference between normal anxiety (a man confronted by a grizzly) and a panic attack (a man freaking out in his office cubicle) is the lack of any clear or present danger. 

Ultimately, Freud has a noble goal: to help people love and work better.  His techniques were radical: talking.  As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, we read about every one of Freud’s crazy speculations and mistakes precisely because he’s such a dominating figure in the history of ideas.  Freud was wrong about a lot.  (Melanie Klein, on the other hand, took F’s work in all sorts of interesting directions.) Many of his followers were idiots.  (Just as many medical doctors are idiots today—look at the malpractice cases.) And Szasz is right to challenge the forced medication and physical torture of many supposedly emotionally disturbed people.  But Szasz operates from a premise that itself is unempirical: that the mind is independent of the brain/body. 

All told, though, Jacques did what he does best: lead the conversation away from where he and ACTA are obviously wrong and onto huge issues where he can cite his 10-book reading list of Szasz, Haacke, and Tallis (and that Indian guy who loved British imperialism).  Jacques goes after Freud for irrationalism, and then pats himself on the back for going to Mass!

By on 05/20/07 at 11:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ah, the right-wing idiots are at it again.  Who cares about facts?  Let’s just talk smack!

This, from the Phi Beta Cons site (which Mark Bauerlein doesn’t mind being associated with):

“Two pieces related to that this morning. The first comes from Anne Neal, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times. Anne as you know is the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which has just released its crucial Vanishing Shakespeare report, which shows that the man who founded a goodly portion of what we know today as the English language is hardly even studied anymore.”

I’d like to think this is typical conservative lying.  But I’m beginning to think conservatives are just stupid, that this fool cannot tell the difference between a course not being required and a course not being taken by students. 

But Jack Delater will tell us it’s the fault of Derrida, Said, and Freud that conservatives are stupid.

By on 05/21/07 at 08:53 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Haven’t yet read Szasz’s book on Woolf, but Szasz’s point seems to be that what distinguishes Fraud here is his misguided attempt to medicalize the effects of societal repression of marginal groups. That hardly makes his view “completely Freudian”. But from LB’s first post, when he smirkingly reported his (heh, heh) wicked little foray into the ACTA blogsite to his chums over here, his posts seem to have more and more degenerated into hoarse, senile shouting at those he fancies as “idiots” (e.g., some of Fraud’s followers, many physicians today, Anne Neal, conservatives in general) or their fellow-travellers (e.g., Professor Bauerlein) or delivering pointless and vulgar anti-Catholic insults. Hmmm . . .very interesting, LB . . . How long half you felt zis vay?

By on 05/21/07 at 11:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, I’m not anti-Catholic.  I hate all religion equally.  (Driving from Philadelphia this weekend, I listened to some Christian lunatic talking about how Christians should not practice yoga.  Best piece of comedy in a long time.) If you believe in spirits and gods and the dead coming back to life and virgin births and talking shrubbery—on fire no less!—and gods dreaming the world into being and anything else the religious believe, then I really cannot respect your evaluation of other people’s rationality. 

And Freud didn’t attempt to medicalize repression.  He attempted to examine, among other things, how the mind deals with desires that are socially verboten.  That some people become “sick” because of the repression was exactly Freud’s point: it’s not *real* illness, it’s psychosomatic illness.  Freud read bodily symptoms as almost literary signs, not in terms of germ-theory.  While he posited possible chemical/hormonal causes for emotional problems, he always treated such problems—when and where they got in the way of someone’s desired life and they *elected* his treatment—through talk.

Finally, insofar as ACTA, Phi Beta Cons, and their followers refuse to get basic facts right, I find them ridiculous.  In many ways, I sympathize with some conservative reform ideas in education.  But groups like ACTA want it both ways: they demand more “intellectual diversity” while at the same time trying to discredit any and all liberal or leftwing scholars and scholarship.  And then they misrepresent data and pass shoddy research off as definitive studies.  Check out ACTA’s latest gaff on the subject of student perceptions of bias. 

I’d like you to present any evidence that my rhetoric in this thread is either hoarse or shouting.  I’d say my tone is one of bemused irony.  Read the quotation above from Phi Beta Cons and tell me it isn’t moronic.  Why shout when you can point and laugh?  I don’t think Anne Neal is an idiot.  I think she, like her Republican politician husband, is an opportunist.  Likewise, Bauerlein is definitely not an idiot.  I’m just amazed that he hangs out with so many.

(And it’s it precious when Jacques, who thinks the “Fraud” pun is funny in its 182nd iteration, gets his panties in a bunch when I throw around the word “idiot”?

By on 05/21/07 at 10:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Again, Szasz and Tallis are professed atheists like you LB; Sokal is a professed far-left partisan.

Your anti-religious prejudice shows in your willingness to discount completely the religious--this must make your great books reading list conveniently small and modern.

And allow me this short disquisition or rhetorical analysis of your diction, or lexis: Now Anne Neal’s husband’s political affiliation doesn’t seem quite pertinent to this discussion, does it? Nor do your constant references to those with whom you disagree as idiots, morons, lunatics, opportunists and liars? How about adding criminals, syphlitics and buggers, while you’re at it? This belies your professed pretentions to irony (the liberal and genteel weapon, as Aristotle has it) as opposed to what it seems, i.e., meretricious left-buffoonery.

By on 05/22/07 at 11:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Nope again, LB. Repeating the pun’s aimed at establishing a conditioned response. . . . Or just call it a Fraudian snip. . . .

By on 05/22/07 at 11:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, you are right.  Yesterday, on the road to the adult book store, I was struck down and had a vision of a giant plate of spaghetti.  And the giant plate of spaghetti did speak unto me.  And the giant plate of spaghetti did give me True Knowledge.  And now I will base my actions on things told unto me by the giant plate of spaghetti.

Luckily, my “great books reading list” is not affected by my opinion of people today who believe silly things.  A great poem or novel can be written about riding dragons, let alone many-armed gods and virgin births.  Unlike, you know, religious people, who ban books and shit.  The giant flying plate of spaghetti (saucy be His Name) told me to burn all copies of Harry Potter.  Cuz muthafucka’s a witch!)

As far as my pejoratives go: I calls em as I sees em.  Anne Neal didn’t go by “Neal,” her maiden name, until she went in with ACTA.  It’s reasonable to suspect she did so to disguise her connection to a Republican politician.  (They learned from the Al and Tipper problem, where Tipper’s anti-free-speech movement was seen as a private branch of her husband’s politics.) And yes, Neal’s “close affiliations” with Republican politicians are very pertinent.  (Jacques should know this, as an avid defender of Whorowitz’s Discover the Network.) Also, the Flying Spaghetti Monster told me that Anne Neal is a sign of the Last Days.  Her name is, obviously, an anagram for “an eel ann,” and eels are, as we all know, the nemesis of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pestoed be His Name.

The Phi Beta Con writer *is* obviously dumb, or else he wouldn’t have drawn such an obviously dumb conclusion.  To say that no one studies Shakespeare because it’s not required at some colleges is just plain dumb.  Plus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster told me he was dumb, and I believe everything I learn from imaginary plates of pasta.

People who believe that Christian yoga will undermine Christian faith *are* lunatics.  People who even worry about yoga are lunatics, in a world with so many more important things to worry about.  (See http://www.carylmatrisciana.com/caryl/?cat=20 and have your blood curdled with this woman’s idiocy.)

Insofar as irony is the perceived difference between two levels of knowledge, my posts were and remain ironic.  There’s my level of knowledge—so great, so high, so all-powerful, what with my belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster all praise his noodley appendages—and there’s the level of knowledge of people who try to hide their marriage to politicians and people who can’t draw basic conclusions from data and people who think Harry Potter is one of the Last Signs.

But I need to learn humility.  Not all people are lucky enough to believe in gravity-defying bowls of linguine.

By on 05/22/07 at 01:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Yesterday, on the road to the adult book store, I was struck down and had a vision of a giant plate of spaghetti.”

LB, your words are heretical, and offend me deeply.  Everyone knows that the FSM is depicted with two meatballs and no plate, in congruence with the inerrantly written holy visions.  By giving this false and blasphemous description, you harm the faith of all of your readers.  When will you learn the proper respect for religion?

By on 05/22/07 at 01:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bravo, LB! Shades of Hemingway’s anti-Catholic parody! As for your “religious people, who ban books and shit”, you might have a quiet word (as I did recently) with Puchalsky, who wanted me banned from this site, just as I’ve been banned, censored and deleted ONLY from left blogsites. How cum, if you guys on the left are so opposed to censorship, you don’t use your loose rhetorical shotguns on blogsite banning, campus speech codes, PC intimidation and the like? Perhaps cuz you like it?

If you read more of Szasz than you apparently have, you’d see that Fraudianism for him really bears all the marks of an evil persecutorial religion (though begun as a kind of Jewish intellectual club) that is inquisitorial in its zeal for discovering, inter alias res, everyone else’s secret sexual preferences and toilet habits. As Karl Kraus has it, “when I tell the psycho-anal-ists to kiss my arse they tell me I have an anal fixation!”

You guys do get me to muse nostalgically a bit on what some faculty and students at Christendom College in Virginia some time ago proposed: that what America needs are good Catholic monarchs, say, like Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella of Castile (of blessed memory), ably advised by His Grace, Cardinal Ximines. Hmmm, perhaps . . . what say you, LB n’ RP (song and dance!)?

A bientot et n’oubliez jamais: Vive la Bastille!

By on 05/22/07 at 02:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich, you blaspheming son of a pigdog!  My One True Vision of the FSM is now The Only True Vision.  All others must accept it on good faith.  So take yr sons out to the mountainside, get a sharp santoku knife, and get sacrificing!  (I’ll take the blood of a female virgin—hold the blood! ba-dump-dump.)

Jacques, you keep on identifying anti-religiosity with anti-Catholicism, I guess because you think being anti-Catholic is like being racist.  But of course, to oppose a religion is to oppose a thought-system, a worldview, an ideology.  To be racist to assume that everyone with a certain distant origin is the same and to hold that against them.  There’s a big difference.  But thanks for the Hemingway comparison.  The Flying Spaghetti Monster says you will receive a garlicy kiss in the Pasta Faglioi of Eternity.  (Cue Frank Zappa’s “Catholic Girls.")

Why I continue engaging Jacques is beyond me, but I’ll bite: insofar as any system of thought becomes inflexible, ignores evidence, results in violence or torture, I oppose it: whether it’s Freudianism or the Bush regime.  But there’s nothing inherent to Freud’s psychoanalysis that would make it resistant to change, ignorant of evidence, or sympathetic to violence and torture. 

Now that Jacques has come out of the closet in monarchist drag, I wonder why I’ve ever taken anything he said seriously.  I mean, he clearly has read a lot, and he far surpasses most humans in his knowledge of languages, but Flying fucking Spaghetti! if all that makes one open to jacking off to the thought of kings and queens, well, maybe Americans need less Shakespeare.  Jacques: get thee to a Renaissance Fayre!  (And quick, help, Cardinal Ximines is playing hide the chorizo with the choir boys!)

By on 05/22/07 at 03:17 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It is well known that the FSM is but avatar to and harbinger of the full glory of the GNF. Come home to the WAAGNFN Party and be saved.

By Bill Benzon on 05/22/07 at 04:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Your description of a system of thought you supposedly abhor is precisely Freudianism tout court, as Szasz, Tallis, Crews, Webster et alii have amply shown. I addition, R S Peters’s The Concept of Motivation is another deft little dagger in Fraud’s ribs (esp. Chapt. 3, “Freud’s Theory"). Or take H J Eysenck’s Uses and Abuses of Psychology, where the author, a prominent psychologist himself, judges psychoanalysis to be “essentially non-scientific and to be judged in terms of belief and faith, rather than in terms of proof and verification; and that lastly its great popularity among non-scientists derives precisely from its non-scientific nature, which makes it intelligible and immediately applicable to problems of ‘understanding’ other people”. Yep, faith and belief are all that’s required to join Fraud’s Holy Rollers in the Temple. O Sancte Sigmunde, ora pro nobis! “Infantile sexuality forever!”, shout LB n’ RP. Then, guys, back to your super-annuated hippie bacchanalia to fill your ears with cultural sewage!

Once gave a college lecture promoting monarchy as contrasted with Robespierre’s egalitarian reign of virtue and terror, and as deftly anatomised in Professor Talmon’s The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. Won over a surprising number of students and even a few faculty who originally came to gainsay “His High-Knee”, as some of their posters in the lecture-hall read. Other than the obvious political/theoretical attractions one reads in works of the sublime political philosopher Joseph de Maistre or the admirable academician Charles Maurras (an atheist, by the way, LB, till late in life), just admire monarchy as a kind of grand political opera in fancy dress. . . . After my lecture the die-hard sceptics and obdurate egalitarians collected outside for a protest to my message and even my campus presence, and at my appearance this ragged mob began moving forward to annoy and importune me with the usual half-literate plebeian insults, whereupon, quelle surprise pour eux!, as arranged, I gave the signal for the Queen’s own hussars to draw sabres and ride them down! Scherzo, cuccioli! E maladetto e distrutto sia da Dio lo primo punto ch’io incontrai di quelli gonzi!

By on 05/22/07 at 04:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques, let’s see if I can put this in terms simple enough for you to understand:

I’m not a Freudian.  I’ve read a great deal of the man’s writings, but I don’t find a lot of his ideas convincing.  I acknowledge that Freud made many unscientific mistakes, and that his followers were often more like priests than scientists.

At the same time, I don’t there’s anything inherent to Freudian psychoanalysis as laid about by Freud himself and by his better students (such as Melanie Klein) that precludes a more empirical psychology.  Many neuroscientists are currently researching connections between their ideas and Freud’s, as the technology catches up with Freud’s speculations.  Furthermore, I think Freud’s influence on our idea of mental abnormalities was largely humane and humanizing.  That behaviorists and other psychologists after Freud turned back the clock isn’t Freud’s fault.

Finally, I’m glad you’ve confessed to being a monarchist.  It’s basically fascism with a hereditary Leader.  So we know where you stand.  Or, should I say, where you kneel and whose ring you kiss.

But kudos on diverting all attention away from the topic at hand (ACTA’s flimsy research on disappearing Shakespeare)!  If Shakespeare isn’t on the core curriculum, the terrorists have already won.

By on 05/23/07 at 09:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Check, LB. On your recommendation, just yesterday bought Crews’s Follies of the Wise, as well as Mussolini’s Intellectuals by James Gregor. I’ll take ‘em with me to our next destination on the Continent. I agree with you that “Freud” is worth reading, and really quite as funny as Lucian the satirist or the mighty Swift (whose “A Digression concerning Criticks” in “A Tale of a Tub” is six pages of exquisitely distilled vitriol against the whole critical tribe you revere). Jes’ gotta read ‘em right, non e vero?

As for my political philosophy, one can easily reread the preface to Gautier’s Mlle de Maupin for that (while listening to the lambent strains of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, please!). For, as Pascal has it somewhere, if someone says something’s white, I’ll say it’s black, and vice-versa, so I can understand it in my own way. Since you chaps on the left think our president’s a fascist, that gives us chaps on the real right a great deal of leeway, doesn’t it ("You should’ve distinguished”, says Austen’s Anne Eliot)? Thanks much for that. But for convenience, I’d rather my king or queen’s advisors sort the political differences while I contemplate whether Ingres’ beauty in “La Source” actually slept with the painter. Je pense que oui--que pensez-vous, LB?

Multa cetera desunt.

But I’ll be haunting Le Cafe de la Paix (across from L’Opera) this summer, so I’ll gladly stand you a Pernod or two if you can make it in August, LB. You’re a well-read chap and a worthy opponent, and for that, I salute you and shake your hand, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere . . .

By on 05/23/07 at 12:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This document is a recycled version of a 1996 document called “The Shakespeare File: What English majors are Really Studying” published by the same group under a different name, the National Alumni Forum.  It got national attention at the time.  The Chron of Higher Ed did a story on it. (If you check the last page of the Vanishing pdf file, you’ll see that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni includes as memebers Lynn Cheney (dick’s wife), William Bennet (secretary of Education under Reagan before he became the drug czar and has more recently been exposed as a major gambler), Irving Kristol, Martin Peretz (editors of the conservative magazine The New Criterion), and other notable neocons.  They were the ones active in the culture wars of the late 1980s and into the 90s. 

I wrote about the “Shakespeare File” in my book Unspeakable ShaXXXspeares (St. Martin’s, 1999).  Why the neocons should recycle this attack on English Departments now puzzles me. They lost the battle.  David Horwitz lost when he tried to limit free speech on campus in the name of protecting students.  Laura Bush has been pushing Shakespeare initiatives that involve the very kinds of pop culture the neocons believe that Shakespeare is somehow opposed to--and even in the first version (the 1996 report), they praised Hollywood film adaptations of the plays.  For Bush, see
The NEA’s Shakespeare in American Communities is part of the same initiative.
Even neocon “cakewalk” Kenneth Adleman has been pushing Shakespeare.

So there is already a massive amount of government funded Shakespeare. The necocons seem to want government mandated Shakespeare too.  Their argument seems like a non-starter to me. I can only surmise that Vanishing Shakespeare shows that the necons have exhausted their bag of tricks and so have to recycle a used argument, as it were, in order to distract the public from the larger problems caused by the neocons.

By Richard Burt on 06/01/07 at 09:58 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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