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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Tiresome Tiresome anti-cancel culture and what it is all about

 

I am a big fan of certain reactionary writers. Of pedophiles, racists, misogynists and a buncha sorry ass mandarins. At the same time, I am aware that criticism of these people for being pedophile, racist, misogynist and otherwise showing a sorry ass vibe is true, and that those who consider such criticism part of “cancel culture” have a very odd view of reading and what it entails.

Where does that view come from?

The cancel culture debate is so flatheaded and without fizz that it is stale pop all the way down. The interesting thing about it is that it connects to the current crisis in academia. Namely, in the humanities and social sciences.

 The Cold War policymakers in the West and East saw big advantages in funding academia. The massive expansion of higher education has had enormous social effects, one of which is, in my opinon, understudied – I’d call this the scene of reading.

 

Read the autobiographies of the poobahs of the 19th century – and in particular, women – and you will find that it was not done in a classroom. It was done in Papa’s library, or with books from a lending library; it was done through buying newspapers, it was done in cigar factories by readers, it was done on the hoof. As far as recent literature is concerned, there was no teaching of it in universities. It was only in 1919 that Oxford deigned to produce a syllabus that allowed for the study of 19th century literature. Compare that to universities today:  Oxford now offers a contemporary literature course. Berkeley offers, in its 125E course, the following texts: Diaz, Junot: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Egan, Jennifer: A Visit from the Goon Squad; Harding, Paul: Tinkers; Johnson, Adam: The Orphan Master's Son; McCarthy, Cormac: The Road; Strout, Elizabeth: Olive Kittredge; Tartt, Donna: The Goldfinch.

 This easy acceptance of the latest novels would have given a heart attack to the dons of 1919. Is this philology? They would have moaned.

 In the heyday of the cold war humanities departments, there was a search for transgression. It was, it must be said, a strange search: how could you “teach” the transgressive in an institution that would give you a degree with which you were credentialed to join the great middle managerial class? But the paradoxes of that period of managed capitalism seemed, at the time, less a thing of paradox and more a resolution of the affluent lifestyles to which we were all heir.

 Well, neoliberalism put paid to that notion. The great universities are now run by the same kind of people who run businesses – flatheads looking to stuff their pockets with money and increase the endowment. As for the humanities, that is now a loss leader, a headache for the real job of the university – signing contracts with big pharma, keeping the business school growing, and buying property on which to build unnecessary monuments to donating plutocrats in a win-win of tax avoidance.

 

Unfortunately for the administrators, not all the students, yet, have been roped into taking business inspiration 101 and going on to accounting shenanigans 404. Some of them still tiresomely want to read whole books, often fictions, and even poetry – which is all very fine for 3 minutes a week on the NPR, but otherwise, can you imagine taking it seriously?

 The cancel culture controversy is absurd on so many levels, but the one that truly amuses me is the conservative knuckleheads, who barely got through that Tom Clancy book, and have since gotten their entire knowledge of the maitre from video games, lamenting that we no longer teach, I don’t know, Charles Dicken’s Our Mutual Friend anymore in our classrooms. They have temporarily skipped trolling tweets about you studied fucking English instead of engineering? LOL! They will go back it, though. We live in a time where they armies of ignorance occasionally stand, arms akimbo, to reproach us for boycotting Roman Polanski’s art films from the fifties. Among other reasons, this is why I love cancel culture – it so rouses up the yokels!

 

 

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