Thursday, March 08, 2007

See the title of this blog

  • Tom Lutz details the history of the "how to read" genre at Salon.
I don't want to stir up the dying embers of the theory wars or the culture wars, but why do Prose and Bloom open their guides with attacks against these mythical creatures? Bloom has them organizing into "covens" of gender and sexuality and multiculturalism. These boogeymen and boogeywomen and boogeytransgenderedpeople have destroyed reading, Bloom argues, by destroying irony, and "the loss of irony is the death of reading, and of what had been civilized in our natures." Itself sorely lacking in irony, this kind of talk sets up a dire narrative in which what Bloom calls "the restoration of reading" is needed, not just because literature is worth saving, but because civilization is at stake. This is a somewhat whorish old story, pressed into all kinds of service over the last century and more, not always to the most savory ends.

To save civilization, Prose and Bloom turn to that New Critical mantra any seasoned reader first heard in English lit 101: "the text itself." The phrase is one that all the most crotchety English professors have used over the last 30 years to counterattack the critical rabble like me and my old pals who dethroned the old guard with our malevolent theories. The conceit that Prose and Bloom share is that these new kids (however grayed at this point) are all looking at something besides the text itself, by which they mean a book that is read without theory, without reference to other values, and without mediation of any kind.

No comments: