Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Theory’s Empire: Activity Elsewhere
A quick update on posts about Theory’s Empire that aren’t up on this site. First, there’s Mr. Berube‘s contribution on the same Bauerlein article Jonathan discusses below. (Why that particular article’s such a lightning rod should be the mandatory topic of the next post written about it.) Then there’s Tim Burke‘s discussion of Theory’s cultural moment and how Theory’s Empire confronts its legacy. Finally, there’s Scott Eric Kaufman‘s discussion of the now infamous “erudition exchange” and how it’s led a little boy astray in the wide, wide academic wilderness. (Not to ruin the ending, but...he dies.)
UPDATE #1: John McGowan‘s response has yet, despite our best efforts, to garner the attention it deserves. Chop chop, people! Chop chop!
UPDATE #2: John Emerson has a piece, taking a book entitled The Empire of the Text to task for being unprofitably Theory-encrusted. Sort of a case study in how trickle-down metaphysical mannerisms can hurt, rather than help. - the editor
UPDATE #3: Ray Davis has a piece up at Pseudopodium about how Theory’s Empire probably is, and is not, a topic worth getting in such a lather about. - the editor
If I’ve missed any of the other articles, it’s entirely out of malice. Still, you may want to email me with a link to your contribution.
Don’t forget John McGowan. He was a reader for the volume when it was under consideration at a different press.
I think Holbo already linked to his essay earlier, no? Anyhow, I’d add him, but every time I try to reach his site, I get an unreadable batch of html code, so maybe we ought to wait on the link…
That HTML’s perfectly readable.
But this will work better.
Mr. Berube, indeed. That’s Michael to you . . . and thanks for the link.
My god, that was quick! I only had time to make four revisions before the link went up.
Thanks for the link
“It would be interesting to see Connery apply the tools he has used to analyze text formation within the Chinese bureaucratized elite to the rules for text formation in the bureaucratized academic world of today."
An opportunistic and self-serving self-citation. Link at my URL, or above in the post.
Here’s an oblique look at Theory on the way up:
The article is about the English Department of SUNY Buffalo as it was in the late 60s and early 70s. It was an important Theory Site back then, and an interesting place to be. The article is written by Bruce Jackson, a folklorist and documentary film-maker and photographer (and whatever else) who was there at the time, and still. Jackson is a bona-fide skeptic about Theory, as am I.
Now the thing is, while Theory was strong at Buffalo back then, it wasn’t the only thing going on there. Nor was it obvious, back then, that Theory would become as institutionally successful as it apparently has been.
And so you didn’t have to study Theory as a graduate student back then. You could do so, there was a lot of it, but you didn’t have to.
I’m greatful to that department simply because they granted me a PhD. I studied theory, lots of it. But not Theory. I did cognitive science in the Linguistics Department. In its way, that was a lot more arcane than Theory. And no one in the department really knew what I was up to. But they respected me, they respected my mentor, the late David Hays, and so they let me write this dissertation that they didn’t understand and they didn’t hassle me too much over the fact that my knowledge of literature itself, the primary texts, was a little thin (there was a lot of that at Buffalo back then).
That is to say, they were generous to me. For that I thank them. (And many of them were into Theory).
Interesting to see SUNY Buffalo (not UB, as the essay has it, along with some bad spelling of names) raised here. My advisor was at the center of Buffalo back then, and I’ve spoken with about a dozen people who were there at the same time. Not a single one of them had a good thing to say about theory in its post-1990 form.
UB is the local name. Before the SUNY system annexed it, the school was simply the University of Buffalo, hence UB. When you were there, that’s what you called it.