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Old 05.01.2010, 04:20 PM   #41
Lurker
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Originally Posted by demonrail666
I don't know much about literature departments but I suspect they've gone the same way as most other departments in the humanities: using whatever topic they're meant to be discussing as a vehicle for trying to justify some vague political point. So novels, films, paintings merely become reproducers of 'ideology'. This is a valuable point but one that really only takes about an hour to explain. The fact that so many departments stretch it over three years is just padding to the point of absurdity.

Yes, precisely. It's this surplus stuff, which, when taught, seems to suggest a kind disgust with novel, film etc (but maybe is hiding their envy of creative people). How do people's interest in a subject develop into that and pretty much only that? I find that this sort of way of only working with those types of concerns can become disrespectful and sometimes offensive.

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And anyone not studying either psychoanalysis, psychiatry or philosophy should ever be expected to read Lacan.

I don't think anyone should bother reading Lacan!
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:23 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
No I think it's fine to teach business studies in university, you just need to enforce that all business studies students also study the arts & humanities, in the hope the they are not unleashed on the world as a useless mindless cunt

That's a nice solution.


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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
Also, from what I understand nursing students are generally "up for it"

That's just propaganda spread by the people who run the university to justify nurse training!! Don't listen to their lies!!!
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:27 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by Glice
Landfill academia is criminal; critical theory is not this. I could understand why some might think it's all shit, because a lot of it is, but I wouldn't write it off for a second. I'd also never talk about it here - this forum is barely baroque in terms of its understanding of the world.

Critical Theory is valuable but it has been given an outageously over-inflated status within the humanities, facilitated to a large degree by the endless construction of straw man arguments aimed at discrediting rival positions.

Lurker's point isn't one that proposes mere literary appreciation but a far more subtle (and difficult) excercise in trying to work out what's really going on in a novel, or film or painting, which is something that critical theory simply isn't able to do - atleast very well, anyway. To a critical theorist, Poe and Lovecraft would by synonymous in that they'd both be reproducing the same ideology in the same way. And yet anyone who's read both would understand that they're enormously different. That's where the great literary critics are absolutely invaluable. Which isn't to say that a lot of these critics are even anti critical theory. Someone like Frank Kermode was instrumental in supporting ideas like structuralism at a time when they were treated by British academia with a deep level of suspicion. He respects its place but hardly ever uses it, much to the benefit of his books (most of which remain scandalously neglected by most humanities departments).
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:28 PM   #44
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ok, my friend told me that the nurses at his univeristy were all slags
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:37 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
No I think it's fine to teach business studies in university, you just need to enforce that all business studies students also study the arts & humanities, in the hope the they are not unleashed on the world as a useless mindless cunt
They should also been forbidden to read Ayn Rand. She almost did in a business major friend of mine, that is until I gave him my critique.
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:40 PM   #46
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the main purpose of universites/education should be to indoctrinate the populace against being right wing
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:45 PM   #47
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and from what i understand up until the 90s universities (bar oxbridge) more or less did that
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Old 05.01.2010, 04:54 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by demonrail666
Critical Theory is valuable but it has been given an outageously over-inflated status within the humanities, facilitated to a large degree by the endless construction of straw man arguments aimed at discrediting rival positions.

Lurker's point isn't one that proposes mere literary appreciation but a far more subtle (and difficult) excercise in trying to work out what's really going on in a novel, or film or painting, which is something that critical theory simply isn't able to do - atleast very well, anyway. To a critical theorist, Poe and Lovecraft would by synonymous in that they'd both be reproducing the same ideology in the same way. And yet anyone who's read both would understand that they're enormously different. That's where the great literary critics are absolutely invaluable. Which isn't to say that a lot of these critics are even anti critical theory. Someone like Frank Kermode was instrumental in supporting ideas like structuralism at a time when they were treated by British academia with a deep level of suspicion. He respects its place but hardly ever uses it, much to the benefit of his books (most of which remain scandalously neglected by most humanities departments).


Thank you! You clearly have the clarity of thought and expression I lack.

Frank Kermode is great.

(I still can't rep you though, it's been so long.)
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Old 05.01.2010, 05:33 PM   #49
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Thanks. Kermode's book 'A Sense of an Ending' is one of the most brilliant bits of litererary criticism I've read and is far more insightful than anything i've read in the name of critical theory looking at a similar topic. I think the great thing about Kermode is that he makes quite profound points incredibly clearly while most of the critical theory I've read seems to make quite simple points incredibly complicatedly, which tends to make me wonder whether a lot of it is trying to disguise a lack of actual insight with a wall of pseudo-sophisticated double-speak designed to fend off any potential criticism.

To be fair, I see this more as a misuse of critical theory, largely at the hands of young up and coming hot-shot academics, rather than a problem with critical theory itself. I'm sure someone like Walter Benjamin, were he alive, wouldn't approve of half the academic papers that use his name simply to give a bit of credibility to an otherwise quite meaningless essay.
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Old 05.01.2010, 05:50 PM   #50
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I've read Kermode's 'Shakespeare's Language', It's great, very insightful and thorough.

I agree with that too. It does seem that that sort of verbosity is actually hiding the banality of the ideas or lack of ideas altogether. Have you read 'Intellectual Impostures' by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont? Although mainly attacking the (obfuscating) misuse of scientific and mathematical terminology, it's a fantastic and sometimes funny critique of a lot of those postmodernist philosophers/theorists (Not so much Benjamin, more Lacan, Baudrillard etc).

You might be right about that. I've read bits of Benjamin and didn't get it, need to go back to it. But someone like Foucault I think, despite writing pretty obscurely, has something to say, but because he's so fashionable a lot of bullshitters reference him.
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Old 05.01.2010, 06:33 PM   #51
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I think the Sokal thing is the point where I begin to side with the critical theorists, to be honest. It was right to draw attention to a level of fraudulance within the humanities but feel it was a bit disengenuous in failing to look at why that should be the case. Academics are pressured into writing essays just to keep their jobs. I know a number of them that churn one out every semester just for that reason. Sokal would've been fairer in my opinion if he'd looked at the issues that cause the problems, rather than just attack those trying to keep their jobs.

My other problem is that while he's right in suggesting that academics in the humanities show little real understanding of science, his own criticism of critical theory hardly convinced me that he was particularly knowledgable about that, either. And to pick on Baudrillard is like picking on the slow kid at school, everyone knows he's an idiot - the dignified thing is to just let him be.

Benjamin is amazing, but very hard to really get a grip on - making him similar in that sense to Barthes. I'm a massive fan of both but would struggle to tell anyone what they're actually going on about half the time. I think where the academy goes wrong with both is in treating them as theorists when they were really creative writers in their own right. Everyone uses Barthes' 'Death of the Author' probably because it's his most straightforward and accessible essay, despite the fact that it's also his least interesting. The same with Benjamin's 'Mechanical Reproduction' essay. Meanwhile Barthes' 'Pleasure of the Text' and Benjamins 'Arcades project' are rightly treated as brilliant but utterly unteachable.

Bottom line for me though in terms of the academy misusing an author is Joseph Conrad. One the greatest writers of the English language and all university departments seem interested in is what Heart of Darkness has to say about colonialism. Which is like being confronted with a naked Nigella Lawson and being asked to concentrate solely on her kneecaps!
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Old 05.01.2010, 06:57 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by demonrail666
I think the Sokal thing is the point where I begin to side with the critical theorists, to be honest. It was right to draw attention to a level of fraudulance within the humanities but feel it was a bit disengenuous in failing to look at why that should be the case. Academics are pressured into writing essays just to keep their jobs. I know a number of them that churn one out every semester just for that reason. Sokal would've been fairer in my opinion if he'd looked at the issues that cause the problems, rather than just attack those trying to keep their jobs.

The Sokal hoax was attacking these smaller academics and yes he wasn't dealing with why this sort of thing might be happening. It's important that that gets done too, but that isn't much of a criticism. It's like saying people who criticise the Nazis should also explain why the Nazis are like otherwise they should keep their mouths shut.

'Intellectual Impostures' on the other hand isn't criticising these lesser academics who are just trying to keep their jobs, but rather the big names who are the most responsible for damaging the humanities, the origin of the problem.

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Originally Posted by demonrail666
My other problem is that while he's right in suggesting that academics in the humanities show little real understanding of science, his own criticism of critical theory hardly convinced me that he was particularly knowledgable about that, either. And to pick on Baudrillard is like picking on the slow kid at school, everyone knows he's an idiot - the dignified thing is to just let him be.

The point is not that those working in the humanities show little knowledge. That it itself is irrelevant and unimportant. He is pointing out that these people who this scientific terminology don't know what they're talking about, and if the don't know what they're talking then neither will their reader, and yet they lap it up and are so impressed by as the theorists so incredibly erudite. And I don't think it's so important that Sokal doesn't know much about critical theory as his criticism focuses on the scientific terminology.

But people actually read Baudrillard, it affects their thinking! That's is something to take seriously!

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Originally Posted by demonrail666
Benjamin is amazing, but very hard to really get a grip on - making him similar in that sense to Barthes. I'm a massive fan of both but would struggle to tell anyone what they're actually going on about half the time. I think where the academy goes wrong with both is in treating them as theorists when they were really creative writers in their own right. Everyone uses Barthes' 'Death of the Author' probably because it's his most straightforward and accessible essay, despite the fact that it's also his least interesting. The same with Benjamin's 'Mechanical Reproduction' essay. Meranwhile Barthes' 'Pleasure of the Text' and Benjamins 'Arcades project' are rightfully treated as brilliant but utterly unteachable.

See, here you're wriggling. You've basically said that you don't understand their texts.

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Originally Posted by demonrail666
Bottom line for me though in terms of the academy misusing an author is Joseph Conrad. One the greatest writers of the English language and all university departments seem interested in is what Heart of Darkness has to say about colonialism. Which is like being confronted with a naked Nigella Lawson and being asked to concentrate solely on her kneecaps!

It's tiring to hear that Joseph Conrad is racist. Quite clearly, in The Heart of Darkness, Marlow says that England was at one time just like place in Africa that the novel is set, the darkness was there too.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:48 PM   #53
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Old 05.02.2010, 01:00 PM   #54
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Middlesex University want to get rid of their Philosophy department, yet they are offering courses in 'Complementary Health':
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/courses/undergr...lth/index.aspx

And 'Housing Studies':
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/courses/undergr...g_Studies.aspx

And their 'Early Childhood Studies' degree says that it " is concerned with ideas and practices that are drawn from a range of disciplines history, psychology, philosophy" and yet they don't even teach philosophy anymore!
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/courses/undergr...ldhood_ba.aspx


http://www.mdx.ac.uk/courses/undergr...phy/index.aspx
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Old 05.02.2010, 05:24 PM   #55
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haha, 'Early Childhood Studies'. They've got the kiddie fiddler market sewn up with that one, for sure.
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Old 05.02.2010, 05:37 PM   #56
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i know here in Vancouver they took massive amounts of money away from the arts, social programs, libraries (they turned some of them into bars for the olympics) and education. with glowing hearts we fuck the arts.
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Old 05.02.2010, 07:04 PM   #57
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haha, 'Early Childhood Studies'. They've got the kiddie fiddler market sewn up with that one, for sure.


And 'Housing Studies' is really lessons on how to break into people's homes.
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Old 05.02.2010, 07:15 PM   #58
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demonrail & lurker-- i've read your arguments with great pleasure, so much so that if you were women i'd want to make babies with you. being that both of you are men and i'm not big on hairy bodies, if we ever meet in person i'll get you both drunk and the drinks are on me. and no worries, bro-rape won't occur if you're unconscious.

anyway, i'm not adding anything to this discussion because you two have basically covered most of what i'd have to say-- except perhaps to add that if the academic humanities hadn't dug themselves into a hole of social irrelevancy they'd perhaps stand a better chance to get financial support.

i use the words "academic humanities" because we still have a number of public intellectuals making a decent living at what they do-- love them or hate them, they often count for something. and yes, some work in academia too, but that's besides the point.

and if someone asks "what is a public intellectual?"-- it's a knowledgeable person able to present important ideas free of incomprehensible twattish jargon, and in a cogent manner, so that a reasonably educated person can understand them and actually acquire new knowledge from them. they usually publish books that sell well, articles in non-obscure magazines, and get interviewed by charlie rose (ha ha ha) (but seriously, they do).

who is charlie rose, you ask?

http://vimeo.com/3094302
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Old 05.02.2010, 07:32 PM   #59
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The public intellectual is something that we really lack in the uk. Christopher Hitchens is about the only one that springs to mind, but I think he's taken US citizenship now. He certainly lives there, anyway.
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Old 05.02.2010, 10:56 PM   #60
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anyway, i'm not adding anything to this discussion because you two have basically covered most of what i'd have to say-- except perhaps to add that if the academic humanities hadn't dug themselves into a hole of social irrelevancy they'd perhaps stand a better chance to get financial support.


For me, I always return to a certain point with this criticism - did anyone ever ask a dentist to not use technical terms? By which I mean - you can shout 'sophistry' at crit theory all you like, but ultimately, if a subject doesn't appeal to a broad audience, that's its audience's problem, not the subject. I'm not saying there's no frauds in crit theory, but the heavy emphasis on its alleged obscurity is ridiculous. If you don't get Derrida, it's because the subject isn't for you - no one is obliged to make sense to someone outside the subject. In this, I'd definitely take on board the point that Lacan probably shouldn't be taught to Sports Management studies students, but if you can't see the general value of Lacan to contemporary metaphysics (or even see the value of the extension of post-analytical metaphysics) then, well, fuck off out of my subject, basically (and I say this as a non-psychoanalyst).
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