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Re: [mythsoc] Mythopoeic Lit. Criticism Manual

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  • Stolzi@aol.com
    I am passing on (with his permission) this msg from Don Williams, both to the List and to next year s Chair in case she s not reading here:
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 2, 2003
      I am passing on (with his permission) this msg from Don Williams, both to the
      List and to next year's Chair in case she's not reading here:

      =======================quoted material=========================

      I can sympathize with those who think Post Modernica is a Straw Person. If I
      didn't know way too much about this stuff I would think so too. But I repeat
      what I said in the intro: I have actually had PoMo scholars say to me (with
      a straight face) every word that came out of Post Modernica's mouth. That's
      why she was created. And the Brat Man's charge of red herring is itself one;
      PM ordered Pepperoni, not herring. Seriously, does he really think they can
      have it both ways? Language only refers to other language and never to an
      objective external reality, but it's supposed to refer to pizza too? Give me a
      break. We used to get into arguments on Merelewis about whether Derrida etc.
      actually mean what they say. I can tell you from experience that an awful lot
      of very serious people read them as saying exactly what PM was saying and fully
      agree with it, as many as those who (naively in my view) think they just mean
      we should be humble before the text. I remember a discussion I had in Oxford
      with one of the decostructionists who was turning all of reading into
      half-baked skeptical epistemology. "What has any of this got to do with a person
      curled up next to the fire with a good book?" I asked her. "How does any of it
      perform the function of criticism: to support and enhance such experiences?"
      "The reality of such experiences is one of the things Theory teaches us to
      question," she replied. I ought to have added that to PM's lines. If you think
      she sounded weak or extreme, try actually reading Derrida--or Jameson or
      Culler, etc.--sometime! Or just try to have a rational discussion with one of
      their disciples.

      I would love to be part of a panel to discuss this question next year, and if
      I were invited to do so it would confirm my plans to come. I have great
      respect for David Bratman as a scholar, so I would love to debate him on the
      question of whether I have actually misunderstood or misrepresented the
      Deconstructionist/Race-Gender-Class critics. No doubt we would both learn a thing or
      two.

      And you can feel free to post this response, by the way.

      From Mr. Tumnus' Library,

      Donald T. Williams, PhD
      Toccoa Falls College
      <A HREF="mailto:dtw@...">dtw@...</A>
      <A HREF="http://doulomen.tripod.com/">http://doulomen.tripod.com</A>

      "To think well is to serve God in the interior court." -- Thomas Traherne


      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: <A HREF="mailto:Stolzi@...">Stolzi@...</A>
      > To: <A HREF="mailto:dtw@...">dtw@...</A>
      > Sent: Friday, August 01, 2003 5:16 PM
      > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Mythopoeic Lit. Criticism Manual
      >
      >
      > In a message dated 8/1/2003 2:33:57 PM Central Daylight Time, <A HREF="mailto:alexeik@...">
      > alexeik@...</A> writes:
      >
      >
      > >>
      >> In a message dated 8/1/3 4:33:48 PM, David Bratman wrote:
      >>
      >> <<I how
      >> much a kick the audience got out of it, but I do not endorse all its
      >> opinions. I am not a post-modernist critic by any means, but I fancy that
      >> if one of them had actually written Post-Modernica's part, she'd have
      >> gotten a lot more solid licks in. The play's misunderstanding of what
      >> post-modernists actually stand for is strong enough to prove their point:
      >> reliable communication on subjective points is indeed impossible. The
      >> pizza metaphor (i.e. you expect the toppings you ordered from the pizza
      >> parlor, don't you?) was a most stinking red herring.
      >> >>
      >>
      >> I had very much the same impression. While I feel more natural kinship with
      >>
      >> Socrates and Erasmus, it certainly seemed to me that Post-Modernica was
      >> made to
      >> reflect only the most extreme and dubious aspects of post-modernist
      >> criticism, and was deliberately made to sound intellectually weaker than
      >> the other
      >> characters, so that the post-modernist position ended up being simply
      >> caricatured
      >> and dismissed rather than intelligently critiqued. When Wendell shouted
      >> "You
      >> go, girl!" in response to one of her stronger speeches, I completely agreed
      >>
      >> with the sentiment.
      >> Alexei
      >>
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jay Hershberger
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 4, 2003
        <<Don Williams: "How does any of it perform the function of criticism: to
        support and enhance such experiences?" "The reality of such experiences is
        one of the things Theory teaches us to question," she replied. I ought to
        have added that to PM's lines. If you think she sounded weak or extreme,
        try actually reading Derrida--or Jameson or
        Culler, etc.--sometime! Or just try to have a rational discussion with one
        of
        their disciples.>>

        JH: May I break in for a moment and ask a few questions? I am a musician
        by training and profession, and not a linguist or a literary critic, so my
        questions may seem thick; my apologies in advance.

        I listened to an interview with Ralph Woods, a humanities scholar at Baylor.
        When asked about JRRT's view of language, he responded by stating that for
        Tolkien, modern language had decayed from earlier languages, where words
        were "ontologically rooted in the nature of things," and that the modern
        view [perhaps PoMo view?] that language was simply human invention--words
        mean whatever we want them to mean--without reference to any reality from
        which it might be derived. (sorry for the clunky syntax...ugh!)

        So...Is Tolkien's view of language platonic? Does post-modernism reject
        this? If so, does such a rejection accomplish a destruction of the platonic
        view? Or does an "ontological rootage" of words continue (meaning reality)
        despite such an assertion by post-modernists?

        Thanks kindly for your help...

        Cheers,

        Jay Hershberger
        Associate Professor of Music
        Concordia College
        Moorhead, MN
      • ginamarievick
        So....for those of us who don t know....when and where is next year s Mythcon, anyway?? thanks, gina
        Message 3 of 13 , Aug 4, 2003
          So....for those of us who don't know....when and where is next
          year's Mythcon, anyway??


          thanks,

          gina
        • bowring
          ... Since I haven t seen the play, I cannot comment on that, but I am sympathetic to what Donald Williams is complaining of. One of my favorite moments while
          Message 4 of 13 , Aug 4, 2003
            >I can sympathize with those who think Post Modernica is a Straw Person. If I
            >didn't know way too much about this stuff I would think so too. But I repeat
            >what I said in the intro: I have actually had PoMo scholars say to me (with
            >a straight face) every word that came out of Post Modernica's mouth.

            Since I haven't seen the play, I cannot comment on that, but I am sympathetic
            to what Donald Williams is complaining of. One of my favorite moments while
            doing graduate work in Comparative Literature came when I asked the professor
            I was studying with whether he thought what a French Postmodernist was saying
            "was true": "Merely to ask such a question as that of 'truth'", he said,
            "shows that you are still caught up in the metaphysics of presence." Well,
            that certainly put me in my place: truth is not what we're after!

            The theory class with him was one of the strangest I had ever experienced: it
            was impossible to challenge any of the theorists by argument; many students
            raised questions about the validity and even intelligibility of the theories,
            but this professor would simply turn to one of the two students who had all
            the postmodern jargon down pat and solemnly call on them answer; we all soon
            discovered that this was his method of humiliating anyone who raised questions
            into compliance--or at least silence. There was a very definite "language
            game" being played.

            I am now finishing my dissertation in a Ph.D. program, but sadly I can't say
            that these types of experiences have been untypical.

            Kevin
          • David S. Bratman
            Date: July 30-August 2, 2004 Venue: sessions at the Michigan League building, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; housing at the North Campus Holiday Inn Theme:
            Message 5 of 13 , Aug 4, 2003
              Date: July 30-August 2, 2004
              Venue: sessions at the Michigan League building, University of Michigan,
              Ann Arbor; housing at the North Campus Holiday Inn
              Theme: Bridges to Other Worlds: 35 Years of Mythopoeic Scholarship
              Guests: Neil Gaiman and Charles A. Huttar
              Membership: $50 for Mythopoeic Society members, $60 for non-members
              Address: Marion Van Loo, Box 71, Napoleon MI 49261; checks to The
              Mythopoeic Society
              Website: info will be at www.mythsoc.org soon


              At 10:30 AM 8/4/2003 , gina wrote:
              >So....for those of us who don't know....when and where is next
              >year's Mythcon, anyway??
            • Jay Hershberger
              K: One of my favorite moments while doing graduate work in Comparative Literature came when I asked the professor I was studying with whether he thought what
              Message 6 of 13 , Aug 5, 2003
                K: One of my favorite moments while
                doing graduate work in Comparative Literature came when I asked the
                professor
                I was studying with whether he thought what a French Postmodernist was
                saying
                "was true": "Merely to ask such a question as that of 'truth'", he said,
                "shows that you are still caught up in the metaphysics of presence." Well,
                that certainly put me in my place: truth is not what we're after!

                K: The theory class with him was one of the strangest I had ever
                experienced: it
                was impossible to challenge any of the theorists by argument; many students
                raised questions about the validity and even intelligibility of the
                theories,
                but this professor would simply turn to one of the two students who had all
                the postmodern jargon down pat and solemnly call on them answer; we all soon
                discovered that this was his method of humiliating anyone who raised
                questions
                into compliance--or at least silence. There was a very definite "language
                game" being played.

                JH: Kevin, this is precisely the kind of anecdote that leads me to
                questions about the philosophy of language currently in vogue in academic
                circles. Of course, to motivate your theory professor into committing an
                act of humiliation on another person demonstrates that perhaps he is unable
                to live according to his own theories about the relevance of truth in
                literary matters. It seems to me, but remember that I am not a literary
                critic, only a layperson, if he really believes his position, then it would
                not matter to him one way or 'tother whether you would ask questions,
                comply, or be silent. His very act of humiliating students who asked
                questions destroys his position. He cannot escape from questions about
                validity, intelligibility, or truth. Or so it seems to me. Am I on track?
                Or do I suffer from the same malady that you and other questioning students
                suffer? :)

                Cheers,

                Jay Hershberger
              • bowring
                (I am having trouble with my email, so I am not sure if this email originally got sent out. Here it is, perhaps for the second time--if so, apologies to
                Message 7 of 13 , Aug 7, 2003
                  (I am having trouble with my email, so I am not sure if this email originally
                  got sent out. Here it is, perhaps for the second time--if so, apologies to
                  everyone.)

                  >JH: Kevin, this is precisely the kind of anecdote that leads me to
                  >questions about the philosophy of language currently in vogue in academic
                  >circles. Of course, to motivate your theory professor into committing an
                  >act of humiliation on another person demonstrates that perhaps he is unable
                  >to live according to his own theories about the relevance of truth in
                  >literary matters. It seems to me, but remember that I am not a literary
                  >critic, only a layperson, if he really believes his position, then it would
                  >not matter to him one way or 'tother whether you would ask questions,
                  >comply, or be silent. His very act of humiliating students who asked
                  >questions destroys his position. He cannot escape from questions about
                  >validity, intelligibility, or truth. Or so it seems to me. Am I on track?
                  >Or do I suffer from the same malady that you and other questioning students
                  >suffer?

                  I think you may underestimate the degree of unacknowledged--perhaps
                  deliberately so--irrationality or even anti-rationality at play in these
                  "language games". Very often, perhaps more often than not, there are
                  "political" agendas at work. Another anecdote: We had been reading some
                  article or other by Foucault in
                  which, in good Nietzschean fashion, he had reduced reason to power. I got into
                  an argument with another student, who happened to be a rather ardent feminist,
                  who thought that Foucault's position was useful in undermining the
                  "phallocentricity" of reason. So I asked her whether there wasn't something
                  reasonable about her claims--moral claims as well as political--about the
                  equality of women. If it is really only a question of power and who holds it,
                  the distinction between her position and that of, as I said at the time,
                  David Duke's was simply reducible to that of "whoever holds the means of power
                  determines what is right." She adamantly agreed: reasonableness and morality,
                  etc., were not at issue; obtaining the power necessary to enforce your
                  position was.

                  Is this a position that one can hold consistently and coherently? I don't
                  think so.
                  Is it one that can be held insistently and in the face of any possible
                  evidence to the contrary? I am afraid it can.
                  Indeed, whatever evidence there may be to the contrary can with surprizing
                  ease be read out of court in accordance with whatever ideological structure
                  one adheres to.
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