3.908 Bloom, Hirsch, and noisy English (135)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Mon, 8 Jan 90 20:22:15 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 908. Monday, 8 Jan 1990.

(1) Date: Fri, 05 Jan 90 22:05:35 CST (18 lines)
Subject: Why are Bloom and Hirsch marginalized?

(2) Date: Sat, 06 Jan 90 01:16 CST (21 lines)
Subject: Cope Contra Kennedy

(3) Date: 06 Jan 90 20:24:52 EST (71 lines)
From: Jim Cahalan <JMCAHAL@IUP.BITNET>

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 90 22:05:35 CST
Subject: Why are Bloom and Hirsch marginalized?

A Mr. Bantz asks why I would claim that best-selling authors like Bloom
and Hirsch are, to use the current academic cant, "marginalized." As my
posting to HUMANIST makes clear, I was railing at, and continue to rail
at, the political prejudices of academics. Can anyone seriously pretend
that either Bloom or Hirsch have many supporters in the academy? Or can
anyone doubt that a reply like that of Mr. Bantz's is the best evidence
for my point, to wit, that academics are intolerant of persons with
conservative views and that a good many scholars hold the views of the
majority, the audience of Bloom and Hirsch, in contempt? If Mr. Bantz
would like to see an example of intemperance, he should look at his own
posting, which assumes that the opinions of those many persons who
adulate Bloom and Hirsch must be wrong! Small wonder that a list like
ENGLISH can attract only a small readership if it features condescension.
Perhaps ENGLISH should be marginalized.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Sat, 06 Jan 90 01:16 CST
Subject: Cope Contra Kennedy

Maybe we should attribute it to the paranoid style in American
politics. But I was surprised to see best-selling academic
authors Allan Bloom and E. D. Hirsch (now add Robert Bork and
John Silber) described as "marginalized," part of a beleaguered
minority. As for electronic lists forming the exclusive property
of "leftward-leaning politicos of the academy," I shudder to
think it so. Is no one resolute enough to rescue Humanist
and Western civilization itself from this betrayal, and reinstate
the canon forthwith?


Alvin Snider
Univ. of Iowa

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------75----
Date: 06 Jan 90 20:24:52 EST
From: Jim Cahalan <JMCAHAL@IUP.BITNET>

Thanks, Alan Kennedy, for stirring up a ruckus on ENGLISH!
I'm sending this message to ENGLISH as well as to HUMANIST and
MBU (where the reverberations of the conversation›s| that Alan
began have also been heard). As much as I am thankful to Willard
McCarty, whose HUMANIST was the first newsgroup I joined (and
which became my window to other newsgroups), I must surely
disagree with his opinion that there "is nothing less interesting
than professional chatter about the profession." Au contraire,
Will: there's little that many of us find MORE interesting, if
we are honest with ourselves! Many of us are interested in new
computer developments but in fact find nothing less interesting
than the latest posting on the finest points of how to get
neoSanskit texts online in computer databases in order to word-
count the concordance ›get the idea?|: Ho hum, ye humanistic
computer nerds! Just kidding--but how many of us enrolled in a
few newsgroups will admit, if we're honest, that we've perfected
the fine art of knowing which postings to delete without reading?

The latest "chatter" on ENGLISH and provoked by ENGLISH is
in fact the most interesting going on at the moment. ENGLISH may
have been previously silent, but the opposite approach of MBU--
"blurting"--has its real pitfalls too. How many delete there
without reading? Are constant notes to pals, and composition-
studies self-congratulations, preferable? As long as I'm
completing my grumbling, let me disagree most with Kevin Cope's
recent posting on HUMANIST in which he tells Alan Kennedy that he
should "respect marginalized writers like Bloom and Hirsch." How
can we call anybody with their book sales "marginalized"? C'mon
Kevin, really. Those upset by the strong influence of the
reactionary Bloom and the simplistic Hirsch on NEH and policy-
makers in Washington are not "stuck in the 1960s" as Kevin
claims, but rather worried about the 1990s. And they include
people like me--to reply now to Tom Adamowski on ENGLISH (just to
give equal time, disagreeing with at least one thing on each of
the three newsgroups!)--who teach at universities in little
mountain towns "in the heart of Pennsylvania hunting country."
(My school doesn't officially close on the opening day of "buck
season," Tom, but half the students don't show up.) Your
implication that faculty at schools such as mine do not share the
opposition to Bloom and Hirsch commonly found at the "elite
institutions" does itself sound a tad elitist and condescending.

Having said all that, let me express my hope that ENGLISH
keeps up such professional chatter. Some of us find our
strongest professional identity in English departments, despite
or even because of the many ideological and specialized divides
that plague us: leftist poststructuralists versus staid
traditionalists, literature and criticism versus rhetoric and
composition, and the whole bloomin' circus. One of the high
points of MLA for me was Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's
delightful satire modelled on and deliberated titled after
"Masterpiece Theater." I hope they publish it somewhere. In
episodic form, it was a marvellous sendup of the entire spectrum
of current cultural wars from Bennett to Scholes, from Irvine to
Duke to "Boondock U." Amidst our wars, we need more comic
relief of the kind they provided (to a guffawing audience and a
standing O at the end). Well, with my break over, I'll go back
to "lurking" on these various newsgroups (I do most of my writing
in Irish on GAELIC-L!). Bless ye all, ye mad ENGLISH folk!

Jim Cahalan, Graduate Literature <JMCAHAL@IUP.BITNET>
English Dept., 111 Leonard, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705-1094 Phone: (412) 357-2264