Re: reactionary views

From: Jim Rovira <>
Date: Sun Jan 19 2003 - 10:36:40 EST

I just finished the article. All I can say is that my impression of the academy
is completely different from Goldblatt's. I'd like to know where he gets his
information -- how he comes up with the figure, "half the academy." Is this
number the product of scientific surveys of colleges and grad schools across the
US, or is he just full of crap?

I suspect the latter.

I've recently attended two humanities conferences: the MLA conference in NYC
Dec. 26th-30th, and the Central New York Conference on Language and Literature
the last weekend in October.

These conferences represent the top and lower end of the humanities scale -- the
first is the national conference for the largest humanities organization in the
US (some of the speakers are internationally known), the second is a regional,
graduate student conference (mostly grad student papers there, anyway).

At both conferences I attended a number of panel sessions, each session made up
of four speakers reading 20 minute (about) papers. On average, out of four
speakers, generally only one of them did anything remotely political (I'm
talking about literature sessions), and these were generally doing feminist
criticism of sorts.

I didn't hear a single speaker at any conference that worked primarily within a
Derridean framework.

I may have heard his name once.

It is true that Derrida has had a strong impact on the academy, but you just
don't hear/read people doing a deconstruction of a text and thinking they've
done all the work they need to do.

Overall, Goldblatt was a bit more coherent than most of Derrida's detractors,
although 90% of his article was name calling without substance. He's mistaken
about deconstruction being "easy," though. He should know just from what he's

First he said that "From such premises flows the practice of deconstruction —
which amounts to teasing out secondary and tertiary senses of individual lines,
words, or even syllables to show how a text contradicts what it seems clearly
to mean."

-- which sounds like deconstruction is the ultimate close reading.

Then he said that, "First, and most obviously, deconstruction is less taxing
than traditional close reading. The latter demands strict methodologies and
background research — and even then it's tough to come up with an original angle
on, say, Shakespeare's Hamlet."

I can't imagine a more strict methodology than parsing words to individual
syllables, as he said deconstruction did, or how teasing out secondary or
tertiary meanings of indivdiual lines wouldn't require "background research."

I also don't really understand what "background research" is necessary to New
Criticism. If the text "means" independently of the author, there's no need for
research into the author's life or other texts. The text is a self contained
unit in New Criticism -- all we need to understand it is on the page in front of
us (this is what Robbie was arguing previously, but it's funny he asserts New
Critical premises then insists on authorial intent -- which the New Critics

Goldblatt, at this point, doesn't really understand what he's talking about. He
lumps all "older" scholarship -- much of which did assert that textual meaning
was dependent upon individual, social, and historical forces, thus requiring
historical research -- under the heading "New Criticism," whose premises seem to
deny the need for this kind of research. When the New Critics did this kind of
research, they were cheating, actually.

Silly. Goldblatt sounds as much a poseur as he says Derrida is, but in that
case he's par for the course so far as critics of Derrida go.

The citation from the philosophers was interesting. I'd like to read the full
text. I think the fact that they felt they needed to make a statement is pretty
telling as well.


Scottie Bowman wrote:

> My surprise was less than overwhelming & it strengthened
> my impression - which Goldblatt seems to confirm - that
> 'half the humanities professors [in the US]' now enforce
> the deconstructionist dogma on pain of something worse
> than death.

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Received on Sun Jan 19 10:36:33 2003

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