Tuesday, August 7

Chaucer! Rabelais! Balzac!

BLOGGING probably will be light this week as I continue to pile up natural disasters in the kitchen and prepare to become a beta-tester for AT&T Uverse. Had anyone told me twenty years ago that I'd actually give money to AT&T in order to spite a corporation I hated even more (Comcast) I'd have asked them to quit bogartin'.

I did want to mention bumping into Dr. Elizabeth Kantor, Ph.D, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, on the Booknotes channel. Turns out that Phyllis Schlafly, she of the Dori-Ann Gray hairdo, invited all ten authors from the Politically Incorrect series to speak to a group of young conservative scholars from around the country at her Eagle Forum.

Several of the eager Republican matriculae appeared jet-lagged, despite the fact that they were on the east coast. Or maybe it was the fact that they suddenly found themselves hearing a lecture on a school subject and not a diatribe about Radical Islam or Feminism (not directly, anyway) or Science, three of the other topics in the Politically Incorrect series (yes, I realize that Science is a field of study--as Feminism and Islam, Radical or otherwise, might be as well--but not for these kids). I came in near the end of Dr. Kantor, Ph.D's, talk, so I'm not sure how long she went on, but as she seemed to have but one idea her speech may very well have been reversible anyway. She'd go on for a minute about Shakespeare, or Beowulf, sounding for all the world like a respectable, if slightly bored, junior college lecturer, and then without warning a sudden torrent of MarxistFeministPCProfessorsDeadWhiteMales would top the causeway and drench the audience. It's too bad that viewer choice of camera angle is not available with basic cable, since the director never showed--in the time I was watching--whether the flurry of buzzwords woke the happy throng or not.

Okay, as always, its possible to win these arguments without much effort, though it never shuts anyone up. DeadWhiteMales are not an endangered species, though if they were why we should restrict our concern to the explicitly Anglo among them was never explained. Yes, Time did eventually stir even the remarkable accumulation of dust on college English departments in the last century. Does this prevent one from enjoying Sense and Sensibility? Dr. Kantor, Ph.D, believes that the role of literary studies is to browbeat students into accepting a particular line of moralistic reasoning based on a, well, flatly peculiar reading of some of the Canon topped with the whipped cream of a completely untenable connection to modern American Movement Conservatism. All this requires the Great White European Males of the 20th Century--Mann, Proust, Joyce, Nabokov--be brushed aside (so maybe that explains the English Only sign). All the lockstep Marxist-Trotskyist-Feminist-PoMo-Chomskian brownshirts in the world haven't eliminated the Great Books approach, as evidenced by the fact that Dr. Kantor, Ph.D's book is for sale, even if the Exclusive Hardback Not Found In Stores only sets you back a buck. To adopt an argument from The Politically Correct Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, what the hell is the Western Canon afraid of? Aside from the fact that its purported defenders turning Chaucer into a 21st century anti-Feminist, or signing on Milton as a sponsor of the Chicago School of Economics do it a hell of a lot more damage than someone asking about the West's domestication of Women, I mean?

Instead, I wanted to mention what happened when they turned the mikes on for the crowd. A dewey-eyed young woman stood up and asked which Shakespeare play she should read to fulfill her obligation to The Culture?! I somehow managed not to guffaw so loudly as to disturb my Poor Wife's upstairs slumber. To her credit, Dr. Kantor, Ph.D., managed to stifle her own laughter long enough to spit out the Four Tragedies, then regained enough composure to add The Taming of the Shrew, a tell so obvious I was immediately reminded that George S. Kaufman once proposed a standing rule that anyone looking at Harold Ross' face was cheating.


heydave said...

You tryin' to be funny with that "Balzac" comment?

Anonymous said...

I think Dead White Males are less an endangered species than an extinct one. It's been quite a while since I've seen one alive - not counting when I've rented "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" DVDs from Netflix.

Anonymous said...

You hate Comcast more than AT&T? I'm a customer of one and an employee of the other. Both of them should eat shit and die, equally.

Grace Nearing said...

Now this review just breaks my heart:

This book explains that empty feeling I've had ever since I got my B.A. in English.

No, that empty feeling is called starvation. Poor bunny should go back to college and study whatever subject it is that gets you a really good job at Google. Alternatively, she could get a part-time job as a library assistant, "read" picture books to little kids, and hopefully hook up with the soon-to-be-detoxed next George W. Bush.

Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

"Professor, her kind of woman doesn't belong on ANY commitee: She advocates DIRTY BOOKS!
Now I have to hunt down my copy of Music Man.