Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do It In French

People prepare for long trips in different way. At this moment, Mother Anonymous is packing and organizing and arranging and looking forward to seeing her friends. Being already packed and having no friends, Father A. is working on the infernal breviary and intermittently googling terms like "Ernst Robert Curtius."

The latter activity just brought up this clever paragraph, from a 2008 post by one Micha, then apparently a graduate student at Berkeley, describing his lessons learned thus far:

Critics of literature gather, particularly in the highly-professionalised American academy, into one of three clubs: the aesthetic, the historical, and the political.
The politicians are by far the worst; they reigned from the sixties to the early nineties, but are still around because they unionised. The only enquiry they seem to pose and understand is the ethical one: Should we be reading this text? Consider: studying and/or reading a work is a tacit stamp of approval. Are social injustices are represented in or by this work? Should we bequeath it to our children? Does it represent the world as it is, and, if it does, does it represent the world as we think it should be? It goes without saying that “quality,” “standards,” and the “canon” refer here to a long-standing posthumous conspiracy by white male Europeans to oppress everyone else. Harold Bloom, who has shouted himself almost hoarse at this “School of Resentment”, lands a solid blow: “the idea that you benefit the insulted and injured by reading someone of their own origins rather than reading Shakespeare is one of the oddest illusions ever promoted by or in our schools.”
And finally: when in doubt, obfuscate. History shows that you will be given the benefit of the doubt as long as you do it in French.
That last bit has been on target for about a thousand years now, but it still works.

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