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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez

Academic Capitalism and Literary Value

Academic Capitalism & Literary Value - Harold Fromm Definitely a smarter entry in the subgenre made famous by Kimball's Tenured Radicals, this collection of interlocked essays challenges, back in the early 1990s, the critical apparati used at the time by academic literary theorists (marxism, feminism, poststructuralism, critical race theory, and so on).

The major point is ad hominem: the literary theorists in question are somehow hypocrites because they attempt, in one way or another, to critique bourgeois patriarchy, but partake of that system and are very effective market participants. This fact troubles Mr. Fromm quite a bit, and the demand appears to be that marxists (and others), in order to be authentic, ought to live impecunious existences on the margins of society, rather than taking over English departments and installing their methods as hegemonic. (The suggestion, it seems, is that the various methodologies critiqued herein work in tandem to form a cartel that locks out philologists, aestheticists, formalists, romantics, and others who came before the 1960s, including those who simply Love Great Books--the suggestions is of course manifestly erroneous.) I for one see no problem with marxists being market participants, though we may agree that Mercedes Marxists are getting a bit carried away. (Recall the class position of Engels, though.)

There is comparativly little actual refutation of the theorists that Fromm dislikes--they are held out, as in Kimball, as villains. Sure, there's some whiney contemplation that the affective aspects of the text are ignored, that the literary tradition is marred, that students are alienated from literary study, that theorists write primarily for themselves, that public intellectualism is dead, and so on--all of which contemplation is not bad.

There are likewise some portions that a marxist could've written, such as when Fromm suggests that capitalism has produced manifold horrors, but it is nonetheless superior to conditions prior to its existence. (It is a strawperson of marxism to suggest that marxism rejects capitalism as wholly without merit, after all--and it is disappointing that a writer as smart as Fromm otherwise appears to have fallen into it.) There is likely some virtue in his complaint about academics as self-serving bourgeois who prance around as radical peacocks to get moneys (a note about the conditions under which Gramsci wrote is sufficient, toward the end, to hammer home this point).

That said, the text at times shows some woefully inadequate readings. The seemingly uncritical discussion of the "whiteness" vel non of H.L. Gates got my hackle up a bit, as did some of the dismissive commentary about feminist writings. The endorsement of Searle's feckless polemic with Derrida was also a strawperson of deconstruction, sadly.

In the end, the useful critique here (and there is much of it) is lost among the dismissive ad hominem attacks on academic lefties, which attacks nonetheless do not in the slightest go to the arguments presented by those persons.