11 January 2005

Paradigms Lost?

      The most interesting thing about this article from today's NYT is this paragraph, which should suggest to some of you what's really happening at the outer edges of the academy:

"Shakespeare After All" is, in many ways, a return to the times when the critic's primary function was as an enthusiast, to open up the glories of the written work for the reader. It is free of cultural studies jargon, a work more in the vein of A. C. Bradley, Mark Van Doren, Auden or T. S. Eliot than of Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida.
More and more it seems the figures that clung most tightly to the apron-strings of literary theory are stepping away from them, or at least from the now-dominant modes of examining literature. One wonders if the counterfeiters are now begging forgiveness. But why?, one stoops to consider. This blog's answer, however tentative and qualified? It's not just the New Boredom, as some have called it, the fatigue with the same-ole-same-ole models and paradigms that have privileged theory over literature. No, more and more, this blog suspects a darker result, that the super-elevation of theory-- and the academy that did the hoisting-- had all but rendered literature irrelevant, and so removed itself from interested creative reality. In short, they'd put the cart before the horse and sat there until the horse collapsed from exhaustion. I'm not ready to say the tide is turning, he says jumping from one metaphor to another, but it seems that slowly there's a sea change in the making, even if this blog's been washed up on shore for a while and waiting for it to happen. There may still yet be a text in this class after all. Alas, I won't hold my breath; the rank and file now have too much invested in the current modes of thinking and writing "about literature" to abandon them so easily. But one can at least hope the waters are shifting. Or at least I can. Who'd have thought being "old-fashioned" in one's approach might turn out to be one of the benchmarks of one's academic value?

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