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November 14, 2004


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» Blue Anti-Intellectualism from Muck and Mystery
The earlier post Anti-Intellectualism took exception to the common accusation that those outside elitist institutions were anti-intellectual arguing that they were squicked out by the narrow mindedness of those institutions and so pursued knowledge th... [Read More]

» conference from riting on the wall
this isn't my conference. i don't know how it will go. i do know that at least a few people are annoyed that it's in orlando and not, say, new orleans. no nightlife, you see. apparently, i'm in the biggest mariott in the world. go figure. disney, empir... [Read More]


chun the unavoidable

My, oh my. Were none of my teachings ever heeded? Let he who has ears, etc. That antepenultimate sentence is just astonishingly ignorant. You're never going to learn anything about literary theory from people who don't want to be made to feel bad about getting tax cuts. Go to a conference with people in the present, present your work, and listen.

Julian Elson

Hmm... now I no longer picture you as a 1950s-ish looking sci-fi astronaught with a spherical glass bowl over your head, like in your icon.

BTW, an
interesting snippet
on the Ohio anti-gay amendment (via Mouse Words):

"Many Democrats I know are fearful about the economy, but I feel that if you go back to the basics, things will fix themselves," said Marla Krak, a mother of three who said she believed that homosexuality was a choice."

I couldn't help but think of your most famous post on this blog when I read that.

Julian Elson

Hmm... now I no longer picture you as a 1950s-ish looking sci-fi astronaught with a spherical glass bowl over your head, like in your icon.

BTW, an
interesting snippet
on the Ohio anti-gay amendment (via Mouse Words):

"Many Democrats I know are fearful about the economy, but I feel that if you go back to the basics, things will fix themselves," said Marla Krak, a mother of three who said she believed that homosexuality was a choice."

I couldn't help but think of your most famous post on this blog when I read that.



I'm a big fan our your stuff. But you and Tim need to lose the facial hair. It's not 1993, and you're not 22. So your face filled out a bit. Big deal. Honestly, you'll look fine.

Timothy Burke

My daughter vetoes any attempts to change the configuration of my face, hair or otherwise. I will wait until I have the gumption to brutally override her 3-year old idee fixes.

We were wondering if John could get Chun to comment by bashing the MLA. It's like saying Lord Voldemort's name!



I am so glad to hear from you. No, really. Tim and I were talking about how much we missed you. No one else can do the Chun thing, and it is a thing that should be done. I wish I could prove to you that I'm not being ironic. Since I'm being a LITTLE ironic, that's tough. But mostly I'm just glad to know that you are still a reader. You are one of my most valued readers. In all seriousness. The world needs more Chun.

That said, yes, the antepenultimate sentence stepped over the line of good taste, on behalf of an only so-so Nietzsche joke. I don't believe that nothing good has happened since 1985. Fair enough. I will toss that one into the 'inadvisable' bin where it may lie beside 'bookchat'. Fair enough.

chun the unavoidable

Did you happen to ask Bauerlein what this, only one of many, happened to mean: "while the quasi-Marxist outlook of cultural studies rules out those who espouse capitalism?"

A Marxist, by definition, espouses capitalism. Precious few cultural students are Marxists, as I thought Terry Eagleton had explained to anyone listening by now. And let's please not argue that "quasi-" explains this AEI-shorthand.

peter ramus

Romancing the chun!

belle waring

my husband has the power to summon chun the unavoidable just by bitching about the MLA! take that, super-heroes with lesser powers! like Lint-Man!

Russell Arben Fox

Tim, last April I trimmed my beard, went a bit further than I intended, and so decided to shave the whole thing off, leaving just my mustache. I stepped outside, to confront my two older children with the new Me. Megan started to cry and ran and hid--and she's eight. These idee fixes last a long time.

belle waring

I don't care what "ooo" says, John looks good with a goatee. He didn't grow it until 1998, so he's either behind the times or way, way ahead. I prefer to think the latter.

Timothy Burke

If Chun can get grouchy about the MLA, I can get grouchy about a drive-by-shooting on cultural studies ("not really Marxist", aka the Thomas Frank cult-studs-are-trivial critique). I mean, first, this is practically the canonical, root-level, internal issue which constituted cultural studies as a semi-disciplinary practice in the first place--the question of whether the British model of cultural studies, which was most definitely derived out of a flavor of Marxist scholarship (primarily from the EP Thompson/Gareth Steadman Jones problematic of social history), was the single or valorized canonical model for doing cultural studies.

Even when cultural studies in its more common American forms departed in whole or in part from that more tightly constrained British approach, it retained at least a lot of the gestures of affinity and pose that from its antecedent. Yes, there's no sense in which Henry Jenkins (to cite one major example) is a theoretically committed Marxist, but on the other hand, the bodies of theory which underline his practice have all sorts of lineal and peripheral roots in Western Marxism or more recent flavors of Marxist thought (Jameson, most notably).

The major impact of Marxist theory on cultural studies of almost any kind is exactly what Bauerlein is alluding to: even the fairly common forms of American cultural studies which set themselves against a perceived, sometimes caricatured, mode of Marxist cultural analysis which was hostile to mass culture, even the fairly common set of postures and claims in American cultural studies which defend the autonomy and critical capacity of mass audiences, nevertheless set themselves against capitalist production of culture in various ways. Jenkins, for example, is arguing for the legitimacy of audience responses to mass culture by saying that they wrest meaning-making away from the culture industry, that they claim "ownership" in some sense of the texts they consume, etc. What Frank mocks (pre-Kansas) about cultural studies is in fact its tendency to find transgression and subversion everywhere, its belief that mass culture is meaningfully independent of capitalism--but the whole point of that belief is a leftist or anti-capitalist one. It's not complimentary to capitalist production of culture, with the very limited exception of people like Jim Twitchell. The critique Frank and others have offered is an intramural one within the left about where the critical force of Marxism or more broadly anti-capitalism properly lies--for Frank, you can't be a Marxist unless you're properly focused on mass politics, social movements, economic interests, etc.

So the Bauerlein quote is a quick and simple gloss that is reasonably accurate for all of that. It's for a short article intended to express a few major points: it's ridiculous to expect him to offer up half or more of such an article to a nuanced representation of the ways in which cultural studies as a disciplinary practice is more or less committed to a critical and oppositional position against capitalist production of mass culture. That's the essence of pedantry.

chun the unavoidable

You noticed that I wrote "Terry Eagleton," not "Thomas Frank" there, right?

I should also point out that Bauerlein teaches at the same university as Elizabeth "Hey, Hey! Opus Dei!" Fox-Genovese. This is only an instance.

Timothy Burke

Sure, I noticed. Eagleton's parsing of who's a true Marxist and who ain't is more strenuous and overheated than Frank's, and with less of a consistent connection over time to some attempt to assert a concrete sort of muscular-left praxis. On the other hand, it's also more sophisticated in its appreciation of why various theorists do what they do. In any event, if you're happy to accept Eagleton's entire perspective on theory--which includes a varied assortment of bashing of postmodernism/poststructuralism/theory as well as harsh critiques of the practice of literary criticism in American academia, sentiments that otherwise seem to draw a quick eyeroll from you, then go ahead. If you're just citing Eagleton to try and make a quick refutatory drive-by on cultural studies that refutes Bauerlein's quick drive-by sound more authoritative, then I don't know that it does much good to say, "Terry Eagleton says it, so it's so."

chun the unavoidable

Well, let's review the bidding: I'm considerably annoyed by the Bauerlein article because--well, let's look at it like this: you can find an interview conducted by the AEI with Eugene Genovese in which he says that many "liberals" favor abortion rights because it's the only way to keep Hispanic and Black populations down to a suitable level. Now if that's the type of sentiment you think academia needs more of--what with the stifling uniformity--then yes, I could see why you'd find the Bauerlein article pithy and trenchant.

It's telling that you left Bowling Green out of your genealogy, because, as your Twitchell example shows, libertarian glorification is not as a viable of an alternative as a return to socially unpretentious appreciation.

Look, I think more of the UMC professoriate should be more forthright about their self-interest. It would ease all of our burdens. And if it takes hiring people in comparison to whom you can safely regard yourself as liberal, then so be it.

Timothy Burke

I just think you're overreacting to Bauerlein--it's a cheap shot to say, "Oh, here comes more AEI propaganda." He seems to me to be unquestionably on the reasonable side of the fence about this general vein of complaint. The laager gets circled so aggressively now at the least hint of a suggestion that perhaps the humanities are conformist and narrow (whatever the ideology) in the postures and assumptions they expect to constitute the norm of practice in their domain. That seems to me to be largely an unexceptional observation, and one that could be met with some modest soul-searching and openness of spirit if it's offered in a reasonably open way. Which I think Bauerlein does: nothing he says about cultural studies, to go to the example we're talking about here, is seriously wrong or unfair, even if it's overly compressed and simplified.

For what it's worth, I'm on record as suggesting that the best road for cultural studies has nothing to do with an ideological attitude towards capitalism per se, but more towards socially unpretentious appreciation, as you put it. That umbrella seems to me to potentially cover a wide variety of stances towards capitalism as a mode of cultural production, including studied indifference to it. It also happens to meet Frank (and maybe Eagleton's) objections head-on: if cultural studies didn't drape itself in the noble quest for transgression under every inch of popular culture, it would be free from the charge of suborning the real business of political struggle to trivialities.

Jacob T. Levy

My goatee (http://www.theihs.org/images/people/75977.jpg) has long since morphed into a more standard-issue beard (http://polisci.uchicago.edu/~jtlevy/Levy3.jpg). But, Russell, if it's any consolation: I once shaved my beard off completely, to surprise my wife. She'd long insisted that she would prefer me clean-shaven; I'd told her that she wouldn't.

Her... utterance of surprise... sounded remarkably like a shriek of horror.

And then she asked how long it would take to grow back. (Answer: only about three days before it started to look like a beard rather than like shadow.)

It's not only kids who get used to someone looking the way they're used to them looking. No more changes in the foreseeable future...

Russell Arben Fox

Jacob, I also originally tried the goatee thing, way back in 1994 or so. Within a year I'd decided that, given that I don't really have a chin, it was necessary to grow a nearly full-beard to provide my face with some definition. It took my extended family a long time to accept it; my maternal grandmother is still convinced that my relative lack of success on the job market is entirely due to the fact that beards make people look untrustworthy. Melissa, on the other hand, says she can't imagine me without facial hair. Fortunately, our preferences are in alignment.

Ralph Luker

I, too, rejoice that the Chun has crawled out of his hole long enough for a conversation here. He apparently regards me as his expert on things Methodist, so we've had some correspondence in the interim about that.
Alas, facial hair is no guarantee of success or failure in the job market. I shave my goatee off, tho never sacrificing the mustache, and it does no good whatsoever. So, it's back to stay. To hell with the marketplace.
In re John's comments about "Literary Imagination," I suspect that some of you folks could put together a cabal of young hotshots to take it over and make of it what it ought to be. Any takers?


Despite feeling a bit low after deducing along with Mr. Holbo here that my own navel-gazing personal web journal was "old-school", or something to that effect, having never moved beyond my self-indulgent banter and on to something more substantial, his suggestions to amp up the ALSC website with a weblog did catch the ear of at least this one staffer. I don't have any say in such things, but it does seem to me as if the suggestion went over well with some of the people that do have a say.



Thanks for commenting. And I didn't mean to rib you about your personal journal, let alone any penchant for self-indulgence or bouts of insubstantiality. Good heavens would that be hypocritical of me. I only make fun like that because, to me, it's obvious I'm ribbing me. But maybe it doesn't show on the outside.

Also I should emphasize that I contemplate no takeover of "Literary Imagination", hostile, friendly or otherwise. (Although it is very kind of Ralph to praise my capacity for it, should I wish it. And I would be happy to give my editorial two cents, should it be invited.) It seems to me more interesting to create a different sort of fresh academic medium in literary studies. Not just yet another journal to disappear into the swamp of all the journals that, mostly, no one readers. I would like a snappy online review that is lively and points people to GOOD content in current academic books and journals, etc. There's always one GOOD article in every issue of PMLA, for example, but to find it you'd have to read PMLA. Who would do a thing like that? [You. -ed. Yes, but I'm perverse.] So the good doesn't get found. Ditto for all those dreary piles of academic books that get published. Who's going to read 'em? Probably one of em's good. I mean to find it out.

I think a major function of an ALSC blog would be to start summoning up into existence a much better, more efficient, circulation system for academic ideas and work than presently seems to exist. That's a less adversarial, anti-MLA way to present my idea than the above post probably suggests. People could use it as a polemical soapbox, yeah. (I mean, saying you can use a blog as a polemical soapbox is like saying you can use a gun to shoot people. yes, of course.) But that shouldn't be its primary function, ideally. It should be more boingboing. A directory of wonderful things, but with intellectual heft. Maud Newton with longer posts. About academia. With solid arguments.

Also, I've got some bright ideas about how the ALSC might happily get into the free e-book business, providing good stuff to people without actually losing money and thereby raising the organization's intellectual stock and general profile considerably. While providing young scholars with opportunities to do interesting projects. Oh, I'm full of ideas. Literary studies could be so much better, so quickly, if it just lost a few bad habits. Yes, I do believe that.

Well, I'm working on a proposal of sorts to send round to the relevant folks. I should add that I wrote this post a full 24 hours before breathing a word about blogging at the conference. I mentioned it at the very tale end, during the member's meeting, and was gratified to get a generally positive response. So now I'm actually going to follow up on that positive response by trying to get it done.


No worries on the ribbing. Friendly ribbing of me is the one hobby that unifies acquaintances from all parts of my life.

L. G,

You have the ability to download free psp games, no matter how old or new. They also make sure to give you the right software and detailed directions on how to download and transfer your games to PSP. I was really lucky I was able to find them.

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