Saturday, February 03, 2007

nothing new:
“Painter” is a descriptive term, like “writer” or “filmmaker.” I’ve always been envious of filmmakers since they don’t get called “artists” until people decide they are good enough to warrant the term. All painters get called artists these days and that’s done no one any good. My father was an “english teacher.” He published a few things, one or two well known, but he did not refer to himself as a “literary critic.” He never had “a project” or let anything other than his students take priority. He was not a genius and did not pretend to have an original mind though it could be argued that in some ways he had one. An unimaginative chemist may do research that has value, a “philosopher” with a mediocre mind should stick to teaching philosophy. But the logic of hypertrophied individualism and the need to compete with the hard sciences has created a culture of literary conceptualism and pseudoscience that in the form of “tenured radicals” gives cafe revolutionaries like me a bad name. “Yummies” Young Upwardly Mobile Marxists as an old family friend named them. I doesn’t matter if it’s literary theory, chicago school economics or linguistic analysis, it’s the same fucking thing: rationalist conceptualism, of by and for the academy and meaningless outside it.

The humanities are a function of the social. They are linked to the world through the study of the history of perception. We are made by language and by culture and are not independent of it. It used to be that there was a reciprocal relation between those who followed their sensibilities and those who came by afterwards to find out what honesty had made that intellect could not. That reciprocal relation still exists, but not in the academy (and not nearly enough in the ghetto of the art world) In the world at large all is if not well still much much better. By and large it’s still assumed by people who are bright enough to think about such things that Eastwood is better than George Lucas -and these days better than Scorsese- Pynchon is better than Tolkien and that Ayn Rand simply sucks. In the academy however all bets are off. Libertarianism is little more than a cult in the outside world, but has a place of importance in academic culture. And rationalism (about everything) reigns. Rationalism predicated on what now? On what? ON WHAT?
These days every idiot with a PhD wants to be an intellectual.
Talk amongst yourselves.
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What does it mean that “nerds” now run humanities departments?
What and why is a literature geek? And how and why did people, so unwilling or unable to situate themselves socially or historically as products of linguistic and cultural community take over departments dedicated to the study of language, culture and community?
Nerds separate intelligence from perception, from the body. Nerds fear history and context. The hate instability. It makes them nervous. Posner is a nerd.
Everything I’ve read here over the last few years; the language the tone, the arguments, are specific to the culture and times that produced them.
Professor Franco Moretti argues heretically that literature scholars should stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead. He insists that such a move could bring new luster to a tired field, one that in some respects is among “the most backwards disciplines in the academy.”
What’s the difference between and expert and a connoisseur? A connoisseur pays attention to his tastes, his surroundings his responses to them and those of others An expert doesn’t think he has tastes and thinks his surroundings don’t matter. He thinks he’s interested in the outside world. Americans are experts. They neither know nor care how others perceive them. You follow me now?
I’ve spent the last few years arguing with experts trying to explain that expertise is not enough. I’ve failed.

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