Sunday, January 21, 2007

Camille Paglia on the Duke Case

No, actually I couldn't find anything by Camille on the case. However, I did find a LOT on line that speaks to the acedemic issues involved.

Feminist ideology has totally failed to deal with humanity's instinctual drives. No matter what garbage you hear from Foucault's minions, sex is ultimately about procreation. It's in the best interests of the species for fertile women to mate with the strongest, most vital and resourceful males.
Paglia Speaks

Foucault's analysis of "power" is foggy and paranoid and simply does not work when applied to the actual evidence of the birth, growth and complex development of governments in ancient and modern societies. Nor is Foucault's analysis of the classification of knowledge particularly original -- except in his bitter animus against the Enlightenment, which he failed to realize had already been systematically countered by Romanticism. What most American students don't know is that Foucault's commentary is painfully crimped by the limited assumptions of Saussurean linguistics (which I reject). As I have asserted, James Joyce's landmark modernist novel Ulysses (1922) contains, chapter by chapter, far subtler and more various versions of language-based "epistemes" inherent in cultural institutions and epochs.

I'm afraid I bring rather bad news: Over the course of your careers, your generation of students will slowly come to realize that the Foucault-praising professors whom you respected and depended on were ill-informed fad-followers who sold you a shoddy bill of goods. You don't need Foucault, for heaven's sake! Durkheim and Max Weber began the stream of sociological thought that still nourishes responsible thinkers. And the pioneers of social psychology and behaviorism -- Havelock Ellis, Alfred Adler, John B. Watson and many others -- were eloquent apostles of social constructionism when Foucault was still in the cradle.
Catching on are we?
Foucault-worship is an example of what I call the Big Daddy syndrome: Secular humanists, who have drifted from their religious and ethnic roots, have created a new Jehovah out of string and wax. Again and again -- in memoirs, for example, by trendy but pedestrian uber-academics like Harvard's Stephen Greenblatt and Brown's Robert Scholes -- one sees the scenario of Melancholy, Bookish, Passive, Insecure Young Nebbish suddenly electrified and transfigured by the Grand Epiphany of Blindingly Brilliant Foucault. This sappy psychodrama would be comic except for the fact that American students forced to read Foucault have been defrauded of a genuine education in intellectual history and political analysis (a disciplined genre that starts with Thucydides and flows directly to the best of today's journalism on current events).

When I pointed out in Arion that Foucault, for all his blathering about "power," never managed to address Adolph Hitler or the Nazi occupation of France, I received a congratulatory letter from David H. Hirsch (a literature professor at Brown), who sent me copies of riveting chapters from his then-forthcoming book, The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism After Auschwitz (1991). As Hirsch wrote me about French behavior during the occupation, "Collaboration was not the exception but the rule." I agree with Hirsch that the leading poststructuralists were cunning hypocrites whose tortured syntax and encrustations of jargon concealed the moral culpability of their and their parents' generations in Nazi France.

American students, forget Foucault! Reverently study the massive primary evidence of world history, and forge your own ideas and systems. Poststructuralism is a corpse. Let it stink in the Parisian trash pit where it belongs!
Paglia on "Junk Bonds..."

How should the humanities be taught, and how should scholars in the humanities be trained? These pivotal questions confront universities today amid signs of spreading agreement that the three-decade era of poststructuralism and postmodernism is over.

It remains my position—as detailed in my long review-essay, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders,” published in Arion in 1991—that Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault were false gods, created and promoted by secular academics who might have been expected to be more skeptical of authority. As it became institutionalized in the undergraduate and graduate curriculum, poststructuralism hardened into dogma, and many humanities professors lost the ability to respect, assess, or even recognize any hypothesis or system outside their own frame of reference. Such insularity has little to do with genuine intellectualism and is more akin to religious fundamentalism.

Most seriously, poststructuralism did manifest damage to two generations of students who deserved a generous and expansive introduction to the richness of the humanities and who were instead force-fed with cynicism and cant.
I fail to see that American students are emerging today even from elite universities with a broad or discerning knowledge of arts and letters. Nor has poststructuralism produced any major new critics—certainly none of the towering scholarly stature once typical of prominent professors who had been educated in the first half of the twentieth century.
I bolded the bit above.

Duke - are you listening?

Post Post Modern Camille

Uh. Oh. I did finally find something on the Duke Case from Paglia. It was April 5, 2006.
During questions and answers after her talk at GW the other night, Paglia was asked about the situation at Duke. Here’s what she said, more or less:
University athletes these days are a kind of master race. They get special favors, special dispensations. Does this sense of entitlement lead to crime? How does the ethos of the college sports team turn into Attila the Hun?
It was still early in the case, before a lot of information came out, so maybe she deserves some slack.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


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linearthinker said...

Camile rocks.
My daughters and others have been dumbfounded to learn she's one of my favorite commentators and critics...along with Tammy.
Her dismantling of Noam Chimpski's drivel is especially refreshing.