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Do demoralized arts faculty affect the ID controversy?

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Our readers may not be especially familiar with or interested in the works of feminist author Camilla Paglia, but a recent interview she gave to America magazine is relevant to some of our concerns:

Identifying yourself as a “dissident feminist,” you often seem more at home with classical Greek and Roman paganism than with postmodern academia. How has this reality affected your public and professional relationships?

I feel lucky to have taught primarily at art schools, where the faculty are active practitioners of the arts and crafts. I have very little contact with American academics, who are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness. University faculties nationwide have lost power to an ever-expanding bureaucracy of administrators, whose primary concern is the institution’s contractual relationship with tuition-paying parents. You can cut the demoralized faculty atmosphere with a knife when you step foot on any elite campus. With a few stellar exceptions, the only substantive discourse that I ever have these days is with academics, intellectuals, and journalists abroad.

This sort of thing has an impact on the ID controversy because the mood has seeped beyond “sociology of grievance” studies and “found” art and literature—into the sciences. For example, a full professor now claims to not even know what evidence is. Such people tend to know what they don’t believe, however, even if they don’t know what evidence is. More Paglia:

Briefly put, what is post-structuralism and what is your opinion of it?

Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result. I spent six months writing a long attack on academic post-structuralism for the classics journal Arion in 1991, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact.

Added: That was the principle reason O’Leary for News left the academic world for media; it was already beginning to happen in the 1970s.  Turned out, there was no classical culture  to hand on , and no reason why anyone should wish to hand it on. Transgressivism ruled where there was nothing to transgress anyway.

And the results will be as devastating to science as they were to the arts.

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5 Replies to “Do demoralized arts faculty affect the ID controversy?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s one of those things …

    She is interviewed and can get away with this kind of critique where many others who are just as capable (Ms. O’Leary for one) cannot. That’s because Ms. Paglia is, herself, a post-modernist academic who discovered that a return to ancient sources can be an edgy critique of modern academia. So, she’s like the ‘humanists’ of old, who recognized that atheistic-materialism was a dead end, but they didn’t want to give up on the atheism. So, they came up with this notion of ‘human values’, which were arbitrary.

    Ms. Paglia does the same …

    By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought.

    It wasn’t just Jacques Derrida who undermined meaning. But more importantly, you can’t merely restore meaning and history by asserting that it is important.

    That’s where ID comes in. If there is no evidence of intelligent design in the universe, then any appeal to meaning or personal will is arbitrary. The post-modernists would be just as correct as anyone else in that scenario.

    There would be no “incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought” since those things are just evolutionary outputs with whatever survival and reproductive benefit.

    All that said, she’s interesting. A Catholic pagan.

    Although raised Catholic in an Italian-American family, Professor Paglia left Catholicism in her youth and embraced the sexual revolution.

    Well, I guess the sexual revolution gives her some meaning. There’s got to be a lot of personal will in there also.

    I wonder if the Jesuits at American Magazine believe it’s possible for anyone to go to Hell. Or are we not allowed to say something like that any more …?

    Maybe America will do a sympathetic article on ID some day. Hahahahaha — just kidding.

  2. 2
    velikovskys says:

    SA:
    I wonder if the Jesuits at American Magazine believe it’s possible for anyone to go to Hell

    Not sure about those particular Jesuits but plenty told me I was on the path

    . Or are we not allowed to say something like that any more …?

    Since you just did it seems that nobody is stopping you. Is your issue that enough people preaching hell or that the Jesuits in particular aren’t?

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    V

    Not sure about those particular Jesuits but plenty told me I was on the path

    That tells me a lot about how old you are and your connection with the church since then.

    Is your issue that enough people preaching hell or that the Jesuits in particular aren’t?

    It’s a few things, but mainly it’s some familiarity with America Magazine and also the Jesuits of recent decades. I’d say it’s an inside joke/comment within the church today also.

    But I’ll also put it this way … we don’t often hear people talking about hell in polite society (to use that phrase).

  4. 4
    jstanley01 says:

    Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu
    Onion News Service – Jul 24, 2002

    CAMBRIDGE, MA—Jon Rosenblatt, 27, a Harvard University English graduate student specializing in modern and postmodern critical theory, deconstructed the take-out menu of a local Mexican restaurant “out of sheer force of habit” Monday.

    “What’s wrong with me?” Rosenblatt asked fellow graduate student Amanda Kiefer following the incident. “Am I completely losing my mind? I just wanted to order some food from Burrito Bandito. Next thing I know, I’m analyzing the menu’s content as a text, or ‘text,’ subjecting it to a rigorous critical reevaluation informed by Derrida, De Man, etc., as a construct, or ‘construct,’ made up of multi-varied and, in fact, often self-contradictory messages, or ‘meanings,’ derived from the cultural signifiers evoked by the menu, or ‘menu,’ and the resultant assumptions within not only the mind of the menu’s ‘authors’ and ‘readers,’ but also within the larger context of our current postmodern media environment. Man, I’ve got to finish my dissertation before I end up in a rubber room.”

    At approximately 2 a.m., Rosenblatt was finishing a particularly difficult course-pack reading on the impact of feminism, post-feminism, and current ‘queer’ theory on received notions of gender and sexual preference/identity. Realizing he hadn’t eaten since lunch, the Ph.D candidate picked up the Burrito Bandito menu. Before he could decide on an order, he instinctively reduced the flyer to a set of shifting, mutable interpretations informed by the set of ideological biases—cultural, racial, economic, and political—that infect all ethnographic and commercial “histories.”

    “Seeing this long list of traditional Mexican foods—burritos, tacos, tamales—with a price attached to each caused me to reflect on the means by which capitalist society consumes and subsumes ethnicity, turning tradition into mass-marketable ‘product’ bleached of its original ‘authentic’ identity,” Rosenblatt said. “And yet, it is still marketed and sold by the dominant power structure in society as ‘authentic’ experience, informed by racist myths and projections of ‘otherness’ onto the blank canvas of the alien culture.”

    Added Rosenblatt: “Then, of course, I realized that this statement was problematically narrow, since I was assigning an inherent ‘actual’ meaning to the Ethnicity Content of the take-out menu. Which was, in itself, contradictory to one of the primary theses of deconstruction, i.e., that it’s impossible for an ‘impartially’ observing arbiter to establish any ultimate or secure meaning in a text. I’d just begun to make a mental note of the cartoon anthropomorphic burrito on the front of the menu as a signifier of such arbitrary ‘otherness’ when I yelled, ‘What the hell am I doing?'”

    Rosenblatt’s inadvertent outburst nearly led to an altercation.

    “I totally woke up my neighbor in the room across the hall,” Rosenblatt said. “He looked like he might hit me, so I tried reasoning with him, but it came out all wrong. Instead, I found myself saying that the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily pose a threat to the tendency of any arbitrary power or ‘authority’ to dictate oppressive hierarchical social structures or centralize power. Ergo, any attempt to establish hierarchies and centralized power according to arbitrary dichotomies of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviors was therefore not only morally and philosophically, but also politically problematic, and, in fact, oppressive. Man, did that ever not work.”

    According to friends, Rosenblatt has been under a great deal of stress in recent months due to the financial strain of student-loan debts, his part-time tutoring job, and a heavy academic courseload.

    “Lacking proper sleep and struggling to keep up in the intensely competitive crucible that is Harvard grad school, Jon is starting to lose it,” said roommate Rob Carroll, 26. “He has become so steeped in the complex jargon of critical theory that he’s unable to resist the urge to deconstruct even the most mundane things.”

    This is not his first time Rosenblatt has deconstructed a random item out of habit.

    “The other day, we passed a bus stop with a poster for Disney’s The Country Bears,” said friend Karen Pilson, 26. “I heard him mumble something about the incorporation of previously received notions concerning wildlife and our ecological environment into a reassuring, behavior-validating consumer commodity in the form of aggressively infantilized computer-animated pseudohumans that talk and play country music. Before I even had a chance to react, he went off the deep end and started throwing out terms like ‘prenotional,’ ‘prolegomena,’ ‘gynocritical,’ and ‘logocentrism.’ I was just stunned.”

    Added Pilson: “I told him he was worrying me and recommended a good psychiatrist. Bad move, because that prompted him to launch into a whole discussion of Foucault’s ‘Male Gaze’ as it applies to mother/child pair-bonding in Lacanian psychoanalysis.”

    In spite of his friends’ concern, Rosenblatt seems unable to restrain his reflexive impulse to deconstruct.

    “I can’t help it,” Rosenblatt said. “Even when I close my eyes at night, I feel myself deconstructing things in my dreams—random stuff like that two-hour Dukes Of Hazzard reunion special or the Andy Warhol postage stamp or commercials for that new squeezable gel deodorant. I’d say I’m going crazy, but that presupposes an artificial barrier between societally preexisting concepts of ‘sanity’ and ‘insanity’ which themselves represent another false dichotomy maintained for the preservation of certain entrenched elements of the status quo and… Oh, God. I’m doing it again.”

    Rosenblatt is considering taking a leave of absence from his graduate studies to spend several months living in his mother’s basement in Elmira, NY.

    Asked for comment, Professor Derek Nystrom of Skidmore College, an expert on deconstructivist thought, said that the Burrito Bandito take-out menu is open to many interpretations.

    “The menu can be viewed an infinite number of ways, depending on viewer perspective,” Nystrom said. “None of these differing views would be any more or less ‘correct.’ However, the menu’s Pancho Villa-style burrito caricature, complete with bandoliers, six-guns, gaucho moustache, and sombrero, would be considered problematic by most scholars.”

    Added Nystrom: “To paraphrase: ‘What is a take-out menu not, anyway? Everything, of course. What is a take-out menu? Nothing, of course.'”

  5. 5
    velikovskys says:

    Sa:

    That tells me a lot about how old you are and your connection with the church since then.

    I remember when children were told you could burn in Hell for eating meat on Friday.

    It’s a few things, but mainly it’s some familiarity with America Magazine and also the Jesuits of recent decades. I’d say it’s an inside joke/comment within the church today also.

    Maybe I need to go to my class reunion and check it out. It is true Jesuits were always a bit different.

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