3.915 Bloom et al., silence, the medium itself (131)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 9 Jan 90 21:41:18 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 915. Tuesday, 9 Jan 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 9 Jan 90 00:16:00 EST (31 lines)
Subject: Re: 3.908 Bloom, Hirsch, and noisy English (135)

(2) Date: Tue, 9 Jan 90 11:00:00 EST (26 lines)
Subject: 3.901 the silence of English (96

(3) Date: 9 January 1989 (49 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: speechworthy silence

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 90 00:16:00 EST
Subject: Re: 3.908 Bloom, Hirsch, and noisy English (135)

About this Bloom thing. "Reactionary"? As Lenin wrote, "Who, Whom?"
Bloom seems to have been terribly traumatized by the gun-toters at
Cornell when he was the re, away back in the delightful '60's. He
writes all about the craven capitulation of the Administration to
agitprop theater, though the guns may well have been loaded. I wonder
how many of those who consider Bloom "marginalized" in the Academy
actually bought and read his collected essays, which he made into a
best-selling, to his great surprise, book? The Leftists and Rightist of
the 80's are a generation behind the world in their politics. As a
friend of mine, not an academic, remarked on the phone to me last week,
all her Leftist, that is unregenerate Stalinoidal friends, rather
regret the phenomenon of Gorbachev! They cannot understand how and why
the KGB has taken over the positions of the dissenters. As right now
in Romania. The luxury of silliness is a treasure, I suppose, of this
hemisphere's Humanist academy. Not that the deans will spring for a
computer to process words for English profs! Unless it is IBM. I am
astonished at the use of the term reactionary for Bloom. I have seen
the attacks on him, by such as Schlesinger in the NY Times, full of
nonsense and bad history and out right fabrications. The reactionaries,
as in Peru, are on the Far Left. Where are all these civil servants
going? Most of us are such, in the State Universities, and thus we are
really bureaucrats, beholden to the public's taxes; but you wouldnt know
it from the outdated ideas most of them exchange here. Kessler at UCLA.
Bloom was and is interested in fine discourse, sharp thinking. The rest
seems to be namecalling. He is in his book simply an essayist; but the
foaming over of the attacks has been incredible. All the kibes that are
galled. Tsk.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 90 11:00:00 EST
Subject: 3.901 the silence of English (96

One more for the fray over Alan Kennedy's ENGLISH posting, and
particularly Kevin Cope's reply. It seems to me quite possible that
focusing on Bloom/Hirsch and remarks about them is misleading-- after
all, as Cope rightly points out, Bloom and Hirsch are merely
spokespersons for positions held by quite a few people in the academy.
What's at issue are their positions, and the positions of those who
challenge them. Personally, I don't think the phrase "stuck in the 60s"
is an accurate description of those people who seek to broaden our
understanding of literature and humankind by bringing into scholarly and
classroom discussion texts and authors hitherto neglected or unknown.
Such efforts need not be "rebellious," it seems to me-- the term itself
suggesting that, in Cope's view, those who would widen the corpus of
teachable and discussable literature are merely childish malconents,
without legitimacy of any kind. Someone said that it's not a question of
being "stuck in the 60s"-- it's a matterof looking toward the 90s, of
acknowledging that the world is a bigger place, and its cultures more
diverse, than we had imagined. There's nothing wrong with studying
Western culture, or with concentrating on the work of white European
males; there *is* something wrong, I think, with assuming that that's
*all* there is to talk about.
John Slatin
University of Texas at Austin
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 9 January 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: speechworthy silence

A few days ago I sent a note to English saying, basically, that I
thought the long silence there was due to the fact that discussion of a
discipline or of the professional life is soporific in the extreme,
whereas talk about the subject matter of a real discipline (such as
English lang and lit) is inherently exciting, awakening. There was
some disagreement, of course. Many people spend most of their waking
hours thinking about their profession rather than what they're supposed
to be professing, and the fact that I sit comfortably outside that
particular profession means I can afford to get bored by it. So, if my
answer to the silence of English is wrong, then what is the answer? The
only excuse for trying answers out here is that we might throw some
light on why some electronic seminars (as I call them) work and other's

I have recently been reading some answers, reported by John Richardson,
HSUAT Research Centre, Loughborough (UK), in a draft article entitled
"The Limitations to Electronic Communication in the Research Community".
(If anyone knows when this article will appear in print, and where,
please let me know.) Richardson refers to published sociological
studies, arguing that "The causes responsible for the failure and the
requirements for a successful conference of this type [open forum] have
been well documented and described" (p. 6). Some of what he says ring
true to me, other claims don't. When I've read his sources I'll let you
know, if you're interested, but meanwhile let's grab this Bloom-et-al.
bitstream and divert it slightly to a more relevant course.

What, in short, is responsible for a successful electronic seminar,
i.e., one that is neither uncontrolled, abusive, or silly on the one
hand, nor silent on the other? Who knows of interesting, solid studies,
and what are these? Raw speculations here, on Humanist, would also be
very helpful, at least to me. I cannot emphasize enough (can I? please
agree!) that Humanist and English and all the rest are part of a very
interesting experiment in human communications. We are building
something but don't yet quite know what. Part of the problem is that we
don't yet understand the basic materials at hand, and we have only the
crudest tools. Sure e-mail has been around for a while, but does that
mean we understand it? To paraphrase Mike Heim, how long did it take for
the automobile to be understood as a human artifact -- and how long the

Shouldn't the noise of one group and the silence of another provide
valuable clues about the common medium they are using?

Yours, Willard McCarty