A Man's Got To Know His Limitations....
After writing a rather involved response to Mr. Mitchell on the issues raised in Stanley Fish's article about the role of the academy in developing moral character, it occurred to me to look for this classic article by the "Dirty Harry of literary theory," Frank Lentricchia, at a particular stage of personal recantation. It is, to my mind, a terrific piece, a snapping rejoinder to the crapolicity so abdundant (and indeed dominant) these days. Read It. Read It Twice. Read It Severally. And, damn it, pass it on.
The great thing is that even those not particularly interested in literary studies should be able to read this article and have no trouble with it. I particularly like this bit, an exasperate response to the moralizing pretensiousness of so much current academic posturing:
I’ve never believed that writers had to be superior in anything, except writing. The fundamental, if only implied, message of much literary criticism is self-righteous, and it takes this form: “T.S. Eliot is a homophobe and I am not. Therefore, I am a better person than Eliot. Imitate me, not Eliot.” To which the proper response is: “But T.S. Eliot could really write, and you can’t. Tell us truly, is there no filth in your soul?”Indeed. No wonder so many people outside of the academy think the lot of us a bunch of self-absorbed poseurs; so many, in fact, are. I'd like to hope I'm not one of them, and in fact think I'm not, if only because I believe I've still retained my generally amateur status, because, more than anything, I'm interested in good and great writing. And because I have lots of filth in my soul.