Piling On

Poor old Theory. It’s getting attacked from all directions these days. (Hurrah! Oh that’s not kind. But hurrah!) We read Dawkins on the subject a couple of days ago, and yesterday saw that Theorists were almost absent from Prospect’s List of Top Intellectuals, and now here’s the Australian and the New Statesman joining in. (Hurrah!) Poor Theory, how sad. (Good for us though. Perfect timing for dear Dictionary of Fashionable Bollocks, eh.)

Both articles are really quite scathing. (Hurrah! Now stop that at once or I’ll take the keyboard away and send you outside to play.) Really quite unmealymouthed.

Drat. Between the time I linked to the NS article in News, and now, the NS has (I guess) stuck the article in its paid section. At least, I could read it an hour or two ago and can’t now. So won’t be quoting from that one then! You’ll have to take my word for it (unless you’re a subscriber of course) – it was not bland or ‘respectful’. Neither was Luke Slattery in the Australian:

This sounds, I admit, like a specialist subject. But nothing could be of more universal interest than knowledge, learning and education…The disturbing thing is that once theory poured into the academy, it set like concrete. By the mid-’90s it had become a suffocating orthodoxy. A professor confided in me around that time that theory had become the desiderata of all new work in the humanities – it was the only way of being intellectual. In this period I began challenging theory in print, and then parrying the many histrionic responses from academics who seemed to think theory was above criticism (certainly from a journalist). In hindsight it was not theory that I found so alarming (a few weeks ago I found myself re-reading Barthes); it was the servility of its academic acolytes, the herd mentality of entire branches of learning, and the fragility of intellectual pluralism.

Yup. Some Theory is quite good, if one can manage to read it at a distance from the baa-ing of the sheep. Some of it, on the other hand, isn’t. But, poor thing, it seems almost cruel to say so now.

And speaking of the Dictionary (yes we were, right when you dozed off) – I got a copy yesterday. Of the bound proofs. It looks – well I just can’t tell you. Elegant, gorgeous, stunning. And you can leaf through it. Just imagine. You can flick through the pages, if you see a cross-reference you can go right to it. It’s so easy. Really, seriously, it is a beautiful typeface and layout. You’ll like it.

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