Kenner_02-1990
Reviews

Brave Theory Puffing

"As civilization advances, poetry almost necessarily declines."
—T.B. Macaulny

"Few people," we find Frank Kermode saying by page 42 of his 46-page Prologue,—"Few people can take much pleasure in modern academic literary criticism except its practitioners, who do not mind that an intelligent outsider would surely find it both arcane and depressing." That means, the practitioners deem "intelligent outsider" an oxymoron, like "wise fool," for which the Greek is "sophomore." The thing to do with sophomores (the college kind) is to pump them as rapidly as possible full of intelligence. Understanding that there is no "literature," they will then sleep better. Some may hope for jobs talking about how there is no literature.

For instance, here's Robert Scholes, semiotician (a "meaning-specialist"). Scholes wants to "open up the way between the literary text and the social text in which we live"—I'm quoting Scholes, not Kermode—since "everything" cries out to be interpreted, not just what's miscalled "literature." Scholes is, he says, "a teacher of language and literature—or, better, of textuality."

Having set that up, with more detail, hence more fairness, than a summary can pretend to, Kermode next pulls the string...

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