26 November 2009

Coffee Bowl Browsing

The institutionalization of Marxist ideology at the Univ of Minnesota's school of education.  From the norms for admission and graduation of education majors at UM:  "Our future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."  IOW, you must first demonstrate that you are either already a Marxist or willing to become one before admission and that you have fully embraced Marxist ideology before you are allowed to graduate.  This is exactly what we did in my English composition program when I was a graduate instructor.  Will it pass constitutional muster?

More global-warming pseudo-science!  This time in New Zealand.

If anyone has seen "The Road," please leave a comment with your reaction.  I taught this Cormac McCarthy novel last summer at U.D.  It is beautifully written; however, it is also terribly bleak and often downright gruesome.  The flashes of hope manage not to be overwhelmed by the devastated landscape and characters. . .but the overall feel of the novel is nihilistic.  It is a rare talent that can present apocalyptic despair in such hallowed terms.

Suggestions for an alternative GOP "purity test."  My fav:  "Vampires shouldn't sparkle."  Agreed!

Heaven according to the Red-Bearded Convert of Seattle, Mark Shea. 

Being a feminist myself, I am heartened by this development on our university campuses.  Hey, if Ted Kennedy can be a Catholic, I can be a feminist!


  1. I haven't read "The Road" because it sounds too bleak for me. What I can recommend in a similar vein is a novella by Andrei Platonov, "Dzhan", sometimes translated as "Soul". I have seen this compared to "The Road" and apparently "Dzhan" is a much finer work (although I can't comment).

    I have read "Dzhan" and it was a wonderful work of literature. Platanov was a Russian writing during Soviet times and I seriously recommend his writing to anyone.

  2. I got a third of the way through the book before I'd had enough and put it down.

    There is *real* horror, cruelty, inhumanity, and despair in the world. There are real parents who are as anguished, and children who are as afraid, at the characters in the novel. We don't have to wait for some un-named global disaster to bring this to us. There are real people in the world who wonder where God is, who feel abandoned, whose depression is an everyday fact of life, even more deeply than the characters in the novel.

    Why don't we go do something about the real people, the real pain, the real fear and despair, instead of reading a book that encourages us to wallow in faux emotions?

    If I got anything out of the bit of the book that I read, it was this: for every moment I felt anxiety and a sick feeling in my heart about the plight of the characters and the world while reading, there are millions for whom that is their everyday experience. I could put the book down, but they are already living these horrors and worse, and they cannot escape.

    In my opinion, the book is a waste of time that I should be spending helping real people, and so is the movie. That's the lesson I learned.

  3. Bill, I don't disagree with you...however, it is very easy retort to a criticism such as yours: "Then why are you spending time reading a blog and commenting on a post...you could have spent that time doing some real good."

    Of course, helping others and reading a novel are not mutually exclusive.

  4. Scott W.6:10 PM

    I read the Road. I'm a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, so I am used to the bleakness. My real issue centered around hope--the book painted it at worst as a pure illusion, and at best a pyrrhic victory, with no appreciable objective difference between carrying on, bumping yourself off, or going cannibal.

  5. "No appreciable difference..."???

    Huh! Boy, Scott, you would not have done well in my class last summer. :-)

    The whole point of the novel is that the father is willing to do just about anything to save his son. The take to the road for his sake. The mother, the cannibals, etc. are what happens to us when we refuse to defend and fight for hope.

  6. Father, a person who knows me and knows what I do might not have responded to my criticism in quite that way. I'm not smug about it or self satisfied with my efforts, and it is true that one can always do more. But my days are not primarily spent reading weblogs and writing criticisms.

    My point, which was apparently not well expressed, is that one can easily find people whose outlook is pretty much the same as that of the father and his son. And yes I have worked with and for people in those situations. It would be good, in my opinion, if readers were able to make the connection between feelings generated by the novel, and the suffering of real human beings in the present day, and then be moved to go do something about it. Maybe that happens. I just haven' seen or heard many examples where it did.

  7. My husband and I will have the rare opportunity in a couple weeks to go out and see a movie. I had been considering this one. In light of this, I am hoping for some reviews. Should we go?

  8. Amy, judgment call here: if you can see the hope expressed, go for it!

    Bill, ahhhhh...I missed your point entirely...you make perfect sense.

  9. Scott W.5:08 PM

    The mother, the cannibals, etc. are what happens to us when we refuse to defend and fight for hope.

    That was rather my point--it was the ol' existential crap again. The father's decision to do whatever it took for his son is not much different than in The Matrix when Neo proclaims, "Because I choose!" There is a sense that McCarthy uses the father's choice because the reader would have no sympathy for the other choices, but give McCarthy's track-record, those other choices are a matter of cosmic indifference.

  10. Austringer10:36 PM

    Father, are you familiar with the novelist Dean Koontz? He's Catholic, which comes through his novels. He's like Stephen King with a soul.

  11. Anonymous1:46 AM

    Re: McCarthy

    When I went to UD we spoke of three kinds of "Comedy" -- paralleled, of course, with Dante's Divine Comedy. I suspect this is an infernal comedy that points to something better by reference to metaphor myth. I haven't seen the movie; I look forward to it. So I'm postulating...

    If you apply Louise Cowan's "genre theory" to tough things like this movie, it I suspect it will allow things to fall into place rather nicely. I hope her teachings have fallen away and replaced by lesser approaches.

    Things tend to be too doctrinal or conform to an "ism" that then devalues the work and turns into something subservient to a pre-existing philosophy.

    Dr. Cowan had the answers. The best answers. Ages ago. I fear they may be lost.

    And I am not worthy to explain her teachings. It's been far too long...

  12. Genre criticism is part of the formalism introduced in the '20's and '30's by the New Critics. It is still very much a usable and useful method of reading literature...however, like everything else in the academy in the '60's criticism was infected with radical politics and anti-humanism. Literature, science, philosophy, history were all turned into "narratives of oppression" that had to be deconstructed with a hermeneutic of suspicion and replaced with local narratives of liberation. It was fun...like demolishing a house, but once the house is destroyed there's nothing left to shelter you. Sad.

  13. To my point:


    Now to figure out what to do to help. There's a photo of albino kids at a school for the blind, which provides them with a protected sanctuary. Maybe they could use some cash.

  14. Anonymous12:38 AM

    regarding your notion of genre theory: I, too, studied under Louise Cowan. What you described has nothing to do with her vision of literature. I hear her son teaches at UD.

    Thank goodness. Maybe there will be a welcome infusion of insight. He's terrific. As was she.

    I think your assessment means, "No, I don't know about Louise Cowan's genre theory!"