Wednesday, March 01, 2006
That was Then
Rarely does something appear on BoingBoing that could be imported directly over here, but some months ago something did, a list of The 50 Most Cited Twentieth Century Works in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, 1976-1983. I offer the link, for your consideration. I’ll start by throwing out a couple of thoughts.
There’s plenty of evidence here of the ascendancy of Theory, that’s for sure, but note Frye. Does anyone complain that Theory pushed Frye out? & this is supposed to be all the Arts & Humanities: why does it seem dominated by literary concerns? Is that a sign of the newness of the field? Would the other disicplines would be dominated by older works? & finally, wasn’t Joyce the man? Of the handful of actual literary works on the list, he’s got the first two, plus another.
The core of my reading was based on the 4 great modernists. Perhaps you could add Eliot and Pound, but I think there is something wrong that Thomas Mann and Gide are not represented on the list. Perhaps someone here could explain why they have become devalued.
Well, Mann was boring as shit. That would explain part of it. Musil should be the token German (except that he’s Austrian).
Chomsky is way overrepresented; apparently there were a LOT of linguistics papers in the mix.
Finnegans Wake has some kind of ritual significance, I think. Perhaps people believed that invoking its name cured warts. I doubt that very many people actual read it.
I took me decades to get over my aversion to Joyce based on the adulation I observed back in the day. I still don’t understand what Hugh Kenner saw in Pound.
It would be even more interesting to see a decade-by-decade list.
Some real surprises (to me): EP Thompson, Wayne Booth. Culler’s book struck me at the time as the Cliff’s Notes for structuralism.
Mann is great! There should be two token Germans. (And I’ll respond to all your analytic philosophy stuff later, John.)
Mann is terribly afflicted with The German Seriousness, and on top of that, his stuff tends toward exhaustive realism and common sense. I find The German Seriousness slightly more palatable when it is violent and extreme.
Dude, you need to read “The Holy Sinner”. It’s teh funny.
Is it less than a thousand pages long?
Yes. But first you have to read “Felix Krull”, which is even funnier.
I love that Kuhn is #1, especially in light of this old thread.
Does anyone complain that Theory pushed out Frye?
From Lentricchia, “After the New Criticism”:
Frye then raises this important question: “Is it true that the verbal structures of psychology, anthropology, theology, history, law and everything else built out of words have been informed or constructed by the same kinds of myths and metaphors that we find, in their original hypothetical form, in literature?” The answer is a comfortable, “yes” .... All discourses are “verbal constructs,” he tells us, “and the further we take them, the more clearly their metaphorical and mythical outlines show through.” We must force him to add criticism to his list of mythic discourses - and especially the criticism which gives us the idea of a literary universe. And so he finishes the “Anatomy” by destroying his vast system, including its so-called scientific basis ... as he anticipates the new Nietzschean rhetoricians at Yale.” (p. 25-6)
As Nietzsche would say: its just the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, man.
Exactly. Isn’t Frye already doing Theory? I mean, forget Lentricchia’s exegesis here, just read the Polemical Introduction to Anatomy of Criticism—if that’s not Theory (High Theory in fact) in all its glory, then I don’t know what is.
Nevertheless, I’m not sure if we’re talking about Theory as kind of discourse or as an intellectual movement. I suspect a combination of the two, in which case Frye is one of those people who skirts the Theory thing.
Also see the career arc of Harold Bloom—who is, or was, one of those “Nietzschean rhetoricians at Yale”—for another example of this.
Curtius at #10 was the most surprising thing on the list to me.
I suspect that Curtius was part of the attempt to trace all of Western literature back to Christian or other Latin sources. I got that from Robertson’s “Preface to Chaucer” as late as 1979.
Doesn’t Curtius go hand in hand with Auerbach? The bigger surprise I think is that Auerbach is so much lower than Curtius.
Bob, I agree with John Holbo, Mann is undervalued, at least in the anglosphere. I think the culprit is Nabokov, who disliked all German writers, and didn’t know any Austrian ones—but would have hated them if he did. Nabakov was such a pure Flaubertian that his good taste turns into bad taste—hence, the dumb things he says about somebody like Balzac, a much better novelist than Nabakov or Flaubert, but a much worse stylist. Anyway, given the old academic story—modernity to post-modernity—the Germans are out of the loop. I mean, you just can’t use that schema and understand German literature. I think even second rate German (well, Austrian) novelists, like Ernst Weiss (who wrote a terrific novel about Hitler before anybody knew about Hitler) are still worth reading. But the only German known to your average bright high schooler is Kafka. Although maybe Hesse still has fans out there.
The German intellectual mind, if one might be permitted to generalize about such things, might lack the ability to compose great Romanzas; but there are those who might prefer Beethoven to Balzac, or Leibniz to La Putainculoir or whomever. Who needs romanzas when one’s occupied with Der Weltanschauung