Thursday, October 04, 2007

Next week

Ok, I'm 100 percent sure that I will be posting the review of Tragic Legacy on Monday (unless I'm somehow involved in a catastrophe of some sort.)

Besides procrastination and my book binge, a reason that I've taken so long to get to it is I've been working on multiple posts (a product of nervous energy.) One such post that I hope to publish mid next week is on the subject of Regnery's P.I.G. reality revision series.

Which is why I was pleased to see this post at The Vanity Press from Chet Scoville (a professor of Middle Ages literature at the University of Toronto) responding to the conservative movement's attack on the academy which includes a link to his response to the P.I.G. book on literature. The particular post is about Phillis Schlafly presenting herself as a rescuer of English literature from the forces of "liberal" political correctness when in reality this is a classic case of the projection strategy. Scoville explains:

I trust I don't have to explain Schlafly's real agenda, but just in case: what she wants is to preserve, not classic literature per se, but classic literature as a vehicle for her own political agenda, which is to maintain the privilege of whiteness and maleness. She is guilty, in other words, of exactly the crime of which she accuses others: placing politics above all else.
My response in the comments will inform the post I'm going to write, so I'm going reprint them below with slight modifications.

Great timing. I'm working on a post on this subject that will likely go up mid next week. If you want an idea of where it's going it's an outgrowth of this comment that I left at Island of Doubt:

I framed my post on the assault on Hansen in terms of the following quote:

"Anti-intellectualism has long been the anti-Semitism of the businessman." - Arthur Schlesinger

To me, what I find disturbing about the attack on Hansen and the larger conservative movement attack on so-called "liberal" science (Regnery's Politically Incorrect Guide series comes to mind) is the parallels with other ideologically motivated attacks on science that we've witnessed from authoritarian regimes. I'm specifically thinking of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union where they viewed Mendelian genetics as "fascist" science, and Nazi Germany where they viewed theoretical physics as "Jewish" science.
I consider Regnery's P.I.G. line of reality revision books to be tools of nascent totalitarianism in the sense that they are part of what Hannah Arendt identified as the process of nihilistic relativism. I'm not sure it's coincidence, either, that Henry Regnery was publishing antisemitic WWII revisionist material in the '50s.

The Kantor book is particularly frustrating, given that Shakespeare has been turned into a movement conservative. In fact, all great literature (ever) has been written by "dead white males" who were allegedly movement conservatives. Even the great females of literature were rep's of the movement, e.g. Jane Austen, who incidentally is who liberal humanist philosopher A.C. Grayling considers to be the author of the greatest book in English history.

Applying Kantor's standards, I could easily turn Shakespeare into a spokesman for PETA (I've got a quote from one of his plays where a character speaks out against experimenting on animals.) But the proper point of reading literature, especially great literature, is not to turn it into a vehicle to advance your partisan (extremist, exclusionary) political agenda, but to enrich your mind.

A.C. Grayling puts it best (or the best that I know of):

It remains that the largest and richest store of reflection on all questions of importance about the good life for humankind is literature - the novels, poems, plays, and essays that distil and debate the experience of mankind in its richest variety. It does not matter whether a literature work is tendentious or not, that is, urges a point of view or enjoins a way of life; from that point of view literature is a Babel of competing opinions and outlooks. For the earnest enquirer that is a good thing, because the more viewpoints, perspectives and experiences that come as grist to his mill through the medium of literature, the more chance he has of expanding his understanding, refining his sympathies, and considering his options. That is the great service of attentive and thoughtful reading: it educates and extends the moral imagination, affording insight into - and therefore the chance to be more tolerant of - other lives, other ways, other choices, most of which one will probably never directly experience oneself. And tolerance is a virtue which no list of virtues could well be without, and without which no human existence could be complete or good.
Grayling's sentiment is the antithesis of what Kantor and Schafly are about.

The title of my post is going to be "Anti-semitism as anti-intellectualism in Nazi Germany" which is intended to be somewhat provacative.

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