"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by theory,
well-fed complacent leather-coated, dragging themselves through the
Caucasian campuses at dawn looking for an angry signifier."
- Carol Lloyd
I'm not sure I get this, it feels weird, like when a certain Mssr Horowitz claims he was once a lefty. As someone newly come (back after decades) to the academy, I am all too aware of the vast volumes of horse pucky that passes as a worthwhile way to spend ones time about campus. This just seems.... a shallow assessment and complaint?
Peter (the other) |
April 21, 2005 at 10:51 PM
I don't know. I quite enjoyed the piece. I'm new to Theory. Like, brand new. And as I read on, my main fear of the damn thing is the very incapacitation of which she speaks. Carol nails at once the attraction of Theory and its disabling elements.
I have all my life battled theorists of another kind and yet always seem quite willing to play on their turf. The demons of theory.
April 22, 2005 at 03:31 AM
The article spoke to me in several ways. I am new to so-called "THEORY" myself. Intuitively I reject it. It seems to me to be a huge accretion on the academy, the tumors of a slow cancer, or a disease presenting as fevered intellectuality complicated by excessive verbosity oozing from festering pustules covering the cultural body of humanity. I don't feel good about "theory."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Marxist. But I think "theory" cropped up at a time when the academy needed something to protect its endowments and assure a future cash flow. It was a time when donors felt bad about the revolutionary aspects of education... students were thinking for themselves and they were charmed by simplistic formulations in the reddish wavelengths.
I don't know enough about this shit to jump in and criticize from a well built foundation, and my approach to it is prejudiced. But the following passage really spoke to me. It reinforced some of those feelings I have about "theory" and post-modernisticism in general...
"...unlike self-help and therapy, which never claimed to be anything but psycho-spiritual Darwinism, Theory draped itself in revolutionary verbiage and pretended to be a political movement."
There are other clues in the send-up that Golub wrote (linked in my preceding post), things about examination of power relationships and broad assertions of the novelty of same in the pomo context... things about the non-objective nature of science.
"Theory" was a way for seventies liberal academics to regain control of an academy moving uncomfortably far to the left. In all the thousands of pounds of printed matter, garbage, produced by the high priests and student acolytes of this new religion there were gemstones relevant at least to literary criticism and epistemology. The philosophical underpinnings of all this were - for the true believers - forgivably fascist. It all provided a counterpoint to Communism and it left real progressive politics and socialist solutions to public policy problems in the dust bin.
These are all feelings, unfounded on facts, very post-modern of me I think... for me this provides the basis of at least an hypothesis, if not a THEORY.
April 22, 2005 at 07:26 AM
Kinda annoyed with myself that I didn't bother to click on the link til today. This is one of the best articles I've ever read. But I haven't done any real reading in about 20yrs, so that ain't sayin much. I don't know nuffin about Theory. But I do enjoy a good structure. Hope the right-siders don't coopt this tho.
p.s. not sure what you're sayin here, Pete. Too shallow? What did the piece need more theory?
April 22, 2005 at 11:16 AM
No, not more theory ;-). But I have returned to academia with a career of practicality behind me. I have only a limited tolerance for a lot of these analytical tools of the last several decades. This is all, high fulutin' new stuff to me, but in my own shallowness, it doesn't take long for me to wonder "why am I wasting my time with this? I am looking for practical hands-on solutions to immediate problems." I have to agree with Frank that there may well be a good history for it all.
My problem with this particular article is that the writer confessed to being as a lover who has fallen out of love. I tend to find such people of questionable judgement (for the falling in such love in the first place) and at least an emotional inaccuracy at the back end. It is like someone addicted to self help books, the new one is always the one that is going to fix everything, the last one was "stupid, why did I ever go for that?"
I prefer a more cool head analysis myself.
Peter (the other) |
April 22, 2005 at 07:41 PM
"I prefer a more cool head analysis myself."
Yipe. See, I don't think it was an 'analysis' per se. I saw it more as a personal experience thing. The only authority she claims is in having been one of THOSE people. The main thrust i think is her observation that THEORY people abound in left-minded circles. It IS enthralling, but it can lead to a life of abstraction, with the real world problems left, y'know, over THERE. She seent it with her own two eyes. Now, who you gonna believe?
April 22, 2005 at 08:20 PM
p.s. "...the writer confessed to being as a lover who has fallen out of love."
that may be the trick with this, eh? to see the attraction without falling madly, deeply for it.
April 22, 2005 at 08:23 PM
That is a marvelous essay - the best I've read in a very long time. THanks for linking to it.
Doug Alder |
April 22, 2005 at 09:09 PM
Having only done one fast read, I shall bow to those of closer knowledge of this essay. I just meant to say I "felt" something amiss, and I still am not sure I know what it is (but it is only a "feeling"). A second read might enlighten me, but I husband my time :-)
Peter (the other) |
April 22, 2005 at 09:28 PM
The ascendance of theory in academia can be described either as a language game in which the aim is to out-obfuscate one's opponents or as a mystery cult in which the initiated can be recognized by their mastery of the cant. Carol's insight into the self-neutralising politics of 'theory' and it's addictive illusion of progressive action through talk is accurate.
Theory is the opiate of the thinking classes.
April 24, 2005 at 01:21 AM
Jesus Murphy, Larry. Bingo. I wish I'd said that.
April 24, 2005 at 07:32 AM
Larry moves to the fron of the class.
April 24, 2005 at 04:17 PM
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