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Res ipsa loquitur

September 21st, 2013 - 9:10 am

Do you want to know what is really wrong with higher education in this country? Leave aside, for a moment, the financial aspects of The Bubble. Those are important, and will be decisive, as will the advent of new avenues of learning brought to you by the internet, not to mention the revitalization of old avenues of learning such as home schooling. But what is going to make the imminent collapse of the higher education establishment pass without much public sorrow is the rottenness at the core of the system.  Evidence of this rot is patent at almost all colleges and universities, wherever terms like “post colonial,” “gender studies,” and kindred lures to menacing unintelligibility litter the public square. As a mild but still minatory instance, I reproduce in its entirety this syllabus, sent to me by a friend doing missionary work among the barbarians, from Cornell University.  How much had to go wrong in how many institutions to make this festival of minatory garbage possible?

 Radical Thought on the Margins II

Cornell Theory Reading Group Conference

Organized in collaboration with the Princeton Theory Reading Group

October 4-5, 2013

*All panels will be held in 258 Goldwin Smith Hall*

FRIDAY, Oct. 4

Panel 1 (4:30-6 p.m.)

Brandon Terry (UChicago/Harvard) “Irony and Its Politics in Civil Rights Historiography”

Jasbir Puar (Rutgers) “Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity”

Gabriela Nouzeilles (Princeton) “Marxian Afterimages”

SATURDAY, Oct. 5

Breakfast: 10-10:30 a.m.

Panel 2 (10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Ana Sabau (Princeton) “History at the Margins: An Interpretation of the Mayan Caste War”

Gavin Arnall (Princeton) “Marxism and Indigenismo Reconsidered”

Susana Draper (Princeton) “Staging Change: Dual Power, Motley States, and the Turn to the Commons (from René Zavaleta Mercado to Raquel Gutiérrez)”

Lunch: 12-1:30 p.m.

Panel 3 (1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.)

Gerardo Muñoz (Princeton) “At a Double Margin: On Trần Đức Thảo’s Phenomenological Marxism”

Naoki Sakai (Cornell) “Dislocation of the West”

Panel 4 (3-4:15 p.m.)

Efthymia Rentzou (Princeton) “Beyond the Human: Universalism, Humanism, and the French Avant-garde of the 1930s”

Nick Nesbitt (Princeton) “Fragments of a Universal History: Capitalism, Mass Revolution, and the Idea of Equality in the Black Jacobins”

Co-sponsors: Department of Romance Studies, Department of German Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Department of Comparative Literature, Department of History, Department of English, Department of Government, Department of Anthropology, Department of City and Regional Planning, Department of History of Art, the Society for the Humanities, the Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM), the Cornell Institute for European Studies (CIES), the East Asia Program, French Studies Program, the Institute for German Cultural Studies, the Africana Studies and Research Center, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program.

Thank you,

Bécquer Seguín

Bécquer Seguín

Department of Romance Studies
Cornell University
423 Morrill Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

Two things: one, note the institutional affiliations: Princeton, University of Chicago, Cornell, Harvard, i.e., the most prestigious. Two, note the diacritical marks in the names: it’s the Häagan-Dazs or Mötley Crüe of academic chic.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
What's curious is that not long ago Freudian Theory reigned over all the humanities. Now one never sees reference to it. Could Marxian Theory soon suffer a similar fate?

Interesting paper here shows that particle physics has moved well beyond "Feynman Diagrams" invented by Richard Feynman, one of the most famous Nobel Prize winning physicists of the 1960s and 1970s - probably best know to the public for his incisive role in the hearings over the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.
https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20130917-a-jewel-at-the-heart-of-quantum-physics/

What is striking is the the Humanities are infatuated with an economic theory dating from the mid nineteenth century authored by Karl Marx (1818-1883). Have there been no prescient insights into the human condition that have penetrated the Humanities since then? What further proof is needed for the intellectual impoverishment of these academic disciplines?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here we have it in full flower: the so-called "Crisis of the Humanities". It's no wonder that so few students major in the humanities any more, and therefore that there are so few new job openings for tenured radicals. You can't bore people to death and expect them to borrow big bucks to pay for the ennui. The masterworks of Western Civilization are beautiful and fascinating, so if anyone reading this post wants the real thing instead of drivel, check out small excellent colleges such as St. John's or Thomas Aquinas.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
This extract is not unusual in any way. This is what the humanities have become in most universities. I am puzzled how "Marxism" endures--I use quotation marks because I don't think Marx, who considered himself a materialist and a scientific economist, would recognize much of this. Furthermore I doubt that those who write have are well grounded in Marx's actual theories. It is all derivative. Not only that, John Plamenatz long ago spelled out the errors and inconsistencies in Marxist economic theory, while as long ago as 1976 Leszek Kolakowski concluded (the great) Main Currents of Marxism with a sentence I cannot forget: "Marxism was the greatest fantasy of this [twentieth] century." As for real politics in real countries, it has dropped out completely. In Russia it has vanished. China has become a kleptocracy. None of this, it seems to me, has really registered with the academy.

As for how one approaches texts, I.A. Richards, whose Practical Criticism I have always felt got it right, is completely forgotten. One barely reads carefully. Instead one imposes a framework prepared elsewhere--pret a penser, as someone put it.

My son is a classics major at a very famous university. Half of the course are "gender and" e.g. "gender roles in Virigil's Eclogues." He cannot tolerate this, so he has no chance to study many classics in class. Fortunately not everyone is on board with this. The same is true for Shakespeare.

I'd like to say I see all of this collapsing. But I do not. It is deeply entrenched, particularly among the rising generation of professors. All very sad and demoralizing, and no good for the students.

ANW
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (58)
All Comments   (58)
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Gee, a whole symposium on
"A marginal NYT reporters promotion of Economics into Poli-Sci?

Oh...wait.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Marxian Afterimages is a class where they show the fat, lazy Marx laying in his coffin, then I am all for it.
I showed up for the first class of the semester (Fall 2013), observed who was allowed to continue from the last semester and realized that college degrees are now given out like the free sample of candy at the Great Candy Store Grand Opening. You just have to show up to get it.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
After watching the decline in education, the true decline is in the classroom but it is backed by the funding of inept administrations, due to lack of education of the teachers. When they gave sheepskins to people that couldn't graduate from any single field of study but gave out education degrees to people that had only taken general study classes, it corrupted the entire system. Due to laziness of teachers we are burdened by children, now adults, that have no idea how mathematics works. Due to the sloth of administrations we lose what few teachers we have that ARE competent to either private classrooms or foreign classrooms.
We are seeing the collapse of our society and it being nursed along by foreigners in the guise of foreign investment. Best thing we can do is allow the IVY LEAGUE TO FALL. But that won't happen for many years yet due to endowments by successful alma mater.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Kimball;

I live across the street from a woman who graduated from Cornell,(the Endowed, NOT the state school...this de=ifference is a BIG DEAL to Cornellians), she's a housewife and homemaker. NTTAWWT, but she didn't need an Ivy League sheepskin, (and the tuition subsidies from the taxpaying public), to get that gig.

Kids...learn to weld. A good welder is ALWAYS in demand, AND you leave your work "at work".

43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Schools in their blind rush to diversity have not only opened the doors wide with financial assistance to racial minorities but historically failed ideas. The names of the lecturers speaks volumes more than their subject matter, it not judging a book by it's cover to say this, it is what is missing in their world views in their intellectual books. Das Capital is their holy book.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree with those here and everywhere who wonder how this nineteenth century Marxism thang remains the cutting edge in academia today, when it (Marxism not academia) has only accumulated two centuries of abysmal failure. Now, it may be that capitalism also has recently acquired an historic new black mark in the 2008 period, but this should only push academia to be more independent of dogmas, not push it to a clearly atavistic Marxism.

That said, I'm quite OK with the obscurantist aspect of academia that pursues whatever theories out to the point of diminishing returns. Oh that more people recognized not just res ipsa loquitur but reductio ad absurdum - both apply equally to Obamacare.

Art - I appreciate your comments on hiring, not that it has ever been easy, and it used to be much more generally appreciated that hiring and personnel development is both important and difficult. It is perhaps a Marxist, egalitarian mistake to assume it is not.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
In government, people are policy. It always amazes me that Republican mayors and governors are so insecure and sensitive to leftist criticism that they'll surround themselves with staff with impeccable, usually Ivy or the West Coast equivalent, academic credentials. Don't they understand that these people just paid a lot of money to be taught to HATE them? The only way I'd hire an Ivy grad in my business (law, labor relations, public administration) would be if my family had known his/her family for generations. So, you're the governor of a Southern Republican state and you want an Alan Dershowitz clone as your attorney? Given the choice, I'd hire the guy from "Close Cover Before Striking" first if I knew his family.

We Republicans control over half the states and thus have a lot of authority over the university systems in those states. In many of them regents are appointees or require confirmation by the legislature. The Legislature had to appropriated the money that runs the university system. If I'm the Chairman of a Finance Committee or the Governor, the head of the university will damn well do what I tell him/her or s/he won't have a budget.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We Republicans control over half the states and thus have a lot of authority over the university systems in those states."

And it can be done. The howls of protest from the liberal professoriate at my alma mater, Purdue University, was music to the ears when former Republican Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (he who gave Howard Zinn’s writings the heave-ho) was appointed president. Go Boilermakers! (I wonder if anyone at one of the Ivies would want to be known as a "Boilermaker" ...... you know, someone who actually gets something of worth accomplished?)
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
In my dreams, Mitch runs against Richard Lugar in the primary and we end up with at least one intelligent senator in D.C.

Then I wake up.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps their interest in Marxism id diriven entirely by self-interest. They must realize that the drivel that they study could not begin to stand on its own merits, especially not in competition with more powerful alternatives, such as “Do you want fries with that?’

Only if the Marching Morons of Militant Mediocrity can sell the general idea that everyone deserves a cut of the total wealth can they hope to avoid careers in the fast food or lawn care industries.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Perhaps their interest in Marxism id diriven entirely by self-interest."

There's no "perhaps" to it.

American academia is a mill for collecting government tuition subsides and splitting the vigorish from government underwritten student loans...the Tenured Pig Shampoo Pitchmen know very well that their rice bowls are filled by Uncle Sam.

They are Marxists at one remove...so naturally anything that supports increased government spending is approved of.

It's like real estate...any real estate agent will tell you that it's ALWAYS a GOOD TIME to get into the market. They don't make commissions when things are static, only when they are dynamic.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
If I may, I'd love to borrow your alliterative description of academia; the Marching Morons of Militant Mediocrity. A most apt linguistic concoction that should be reproduced en masse.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our current problem is that we are being led by a generation of politicians who bought into this gibberish as though it held real insights into the way the world actually works. When it doesn't react the way radical chic theory says it's supposed to, our leaders are baffled and fall back on magical thinking which is the only thing they're good at.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
They don't even have the powers of imagination required for magical thinking. They're people who bask in their own banality.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yah, even magical thinking is thinking, and these guys just parrot things. Word association is great if you're Google Search, but not so good if you want politicians who actually think. OTOH, I suppose echoing the words of your environment, with or without deeper understanding, has been a major political skill since the cave man.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's curious is that not long ago Freudian Theory reigned over all the humanities. Now one never sees reference to it. Could Marxian Theory soon suffer a similar fate?

Interesting paper here shows that particle physics has moved well beyond "Feynman Diagrams" invented by Richard Feynman, one of the most famous Nobel Prize winning physicists of the 1960s and 1970s - probably best know to the public for his incisive role in the hearings over the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.
https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20130917-a-jewel-at-the-heart-of-quantum-physics/

What is striking is the the Humanities are infatuated with an economic theory dating from the mid nineteenth century authored by Karl Marx (1818-1883). Have there been no prescient insights into the human condition that have penetrated the Humanities since then? What further proof is needed for the intellectual impoverishment of these academic disciplines?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
At the level of their personal politics, I doubt any of them woulld think of themselves as Marxists, leftists, even liberals unless you were using the term liberal only in reference to sexual proclivities. They really do think that they are moderate, tempered people. Almost all of academia is like that anecdote about the New Yorker who simply couldn't believe that Nixon won because everyone she knew supported McGovern.

Juneau, AK was an interesting town because it was truly a petri dish. It was small enough that everybody pretty much knew everybody. The town only has about 30K inhabitants and the State workforce is 3K and change. The joke there is that you don't get a divorce, you just lose your turn.

Juneau was far more segregated politically than the small Georgia town I grew up in was segregated racially in the '50s and '60s. Other than as required by work, I could go ages without ever having social contact with a Democrat; they went to their places, we Republicans went to ours. Big charitable events, inaugurations, and funerals were pretty much the only exception and even at those the seating was segregated. We are a deeply divided Country and the divisions reach far into language and culture. I can't imagine the circumstance in which I would have any unforced interaction with a Democrat unless she was very young, very pretty, and just fascinated with Republican mouth-breathing troglodytes.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmm, James Carville and Mary Matalin. Can you even imagine?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like training physicians using fossils not cadavers?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was amused by the comment about the diacritical marks. After all, these are the same people who, in the middle of a perfectly normal English sentence, will throw in words like NeeecchhAAArraguuaaah or ThaaanthaaalbaaaDORD.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or Pokiston.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, no, it's "Pahk-eee-stahn"

Are you saying our glorious President has got it wrong?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here we have it in full flower: the so-called "Crisis of the Humanities". It's no wonder that so few students major in the humanities any more, and therefore that there are so few new job openings for tenured radicals. You can't bore people to death and expect them to borrow big bucks to pay for the ennui. The masterworks of Western Civilization are beautiful and fascinating, so if anyone reading this post wants the real thing instead of drivel, check out small excellent colleges such as St. John's or Thomas Aquinas.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Absolutely.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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