The Barbarians within the Gates

“Scholarship, which is meant to be a bulwark of civilization against barbarism, is ever more frequently turned into an instrument of rebarbarization,” wrote Leo Strauss. Here, drawn from the MLA International Bibliography, are a few recent examples of that well-established trend:

Chaudhri, Amina. “ ‘Straighten up and Fly Right’: HeteroMasculinity in The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 36 (Summer 2011): 147-63.

Holcombe, Heather E.  “Faulkner on Feminine Hygiene, or, How Margaret Sanger Sold Dewey Dell a Bad Abortion.” Modern Fiction Studies 57 (Summer 2011): 203-29.

O’Bryan, C. Jill. “Ontology and Autobiographical Performance: Joanna Frueh’s Aesthetics of Orgasm.” Drama Review 55 (Summer 2011): 126-36.

Stobie, Cheryl. “Indecent Theology, Trans-Theology, and the Transgendered Madonna in Chris Abani’s The Virgin of the Flames.” Research in African Literatures 42 (Summer 2011): 170-83.

Cole, Lucinda, et al. “Speciesism, Identity Politics, and Ecocriticism: A Conversation with Humanists and Posthumanists,” in “Animal, All Too Animal,” special issue, Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 52 (Spring 2011): 87-106.

Christ, Carol P.  “The Last Dualism: Life and Death in Goddess  Feminist Thealogy [sic].”  Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 27 (Spring 2011): 129-45.

Schuyler, Michael T. “He ‘coulda been a contender’ for Miss America: Feminizing Brando in On the Waterfront.” Canadian Review of American Studies 41 (Mar. 2011): 97-113.

Bradshaw, G.A. “An Ape among Many: Co-Authorship and Trans-Species Epistemic Authority,” in “Ecocriticism and Biology,” special issue, Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology 18 (Winter 2010): 15-30.

Kim, Kwang Soon. “Queering Narrative, Desire, and Body: Reading of Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body as a Queer Text.” Journal of English Language and Literature  56 (Winter 2010): 1281-94.

Maxwell, Anne. “Postcolonial Criticism, Ecocriticism and Climate Change: A Tale of Melbourne under Water in 2035.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 45 (Mar. 2009): 15-26.

And finally, hegemonic, white, masculine speech in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina apparently has emerged as a sub-specialization of victimology:

Macomber, Kris, Christine Mallinson, and Elizabeth Searle. “ ‘Katrina That Bitch!’: Hegemonic Representations of Women’s Sexuality on Hurricane Katrina Souvenir T-Shirts.” Journal of Popular Culture 44 (June 2011): 525-44.

Harris, Kate Lockwood. “ ‘Compassion’ and Katrina: Reasserting Violent White Masculinity after the Storm.” Women and Language  34 (Spring 2011): 11-27.

I would welcome additional submissions.

17 thoughts on “The Barbarians within the Gates”

  1. I think it’s obvious from the facts that the real damage to emerge from Katrina was “Reasserting Violent White Masculinity”. That was the big problem we were all left with, undoubtedly.

  2. I am sooo glad that I went out and began to earn a living among real people, after seeing the titles of the stuff that I would have had to produce, upon remaining in academia. No, seriously: writing letters of instructions, Airman Performance Reports and radio readers and news stories were so much more useful to society in the long run. I might even have had more people pay attention to my output than the people who felt moved to write the stuff with the titles cited here.

  3. Bill:

    I’m struggling with that issue as I type as my daughter is a college bound senior in high school. When I look at the tuition sticker price I just want my money’s worth.

  4. Jason – just a few days ago I read a quote from some famous entrepreneur – saying (paraphrasing somewhat) “It is a mistake thinking Harvard makes you smart. All it does is give you connections”.

    I don’t see how the average middle class parent can afford to send a child to college these days.

    In one of the magazines – I think it was Forbes – they recently gave a column on the 50 best Universities in the country.

    The USMA at West Point came in first I remember. If you can survive it. My cousin’s son went there a few years ago. He said – within the first 3 months – an unbelievable percentage quit. Like 10-15%? And that is factored in the admissions. But it costs us $250,000 to educate a student there…

    (For the benefit of our hosts I am sure the U of Chicago is up there too! )

    I’ll see if I still have it.

  5. Sgt Mom – I went to an interesting law school for a year (got a “D” in a contracts final which sank my whole fledgling legal career but that is another story) – anyway the McGeorge School of Law is noted because many of the professors did – or so – have daytime real jobs as judges or attorneys.

    On your giving evaluation reports always loved the British dry sense of humor: Just when I thought he could go no deeper, he started digging” Or words to that effect.

  6. Bill:

    I think that’s the link you’re referring to, and I’ve seen it. US News just came out with their list Monday. I’ve seen all the lists and after a while they all look roughly the same. Being the docile type who prefers to carry spiders outside the house rather than stomping them dead, West Point may not be for my daughter.

    Being somewhat apolitical, though she has voiced an occasional sympathy with the current administration, (which bother’s me none, the old adage about conservatives having no heart in their 20’s and liberals having no brain in their 40’s rings valid for me.) Hillsdale, nonetheless, may not be for her either. Though I would love to send her there.

    I really don’t want to subsidize any institution that is hostile to middle class American sensibilities and values. Or an institute that’s more interested in filling out my daughter’s future sample ballots than helping her develop sound critical thinking skills. Which is why 4 years ago we pulled her out of Los Angeles Unified into a faith based private school. Best decision I ever made! Mr. McFadden’s post reminds me of all that I’m trying to avoid while searching for a quality Liberal Arts education for my daughter.

    One source that I am using and recommend to readers of this wonderful Chicagoboyz blog is John Leo’s . A site so good it frankly belongs on the chicagoboyz blogroll.


    Ps. University of Chicago has mailed us literature. She may apply there though I doubt she’ll want to study 2,000 miles from her Southern California home.

  7. Jason – that was the list I was referring to. On West Point my cousin’s son knew what he wanted when he was 14 or so; learned what he had to do to get the best chance of being admitted to the Academy and focused like a laser. They have an unbelievable number of applicants to acceptance (100 to 1?) which given the high drop out ratio really surprised me.

    Forbes had another interesting article on college costs some time ago and what really surprised me – was some small liberal arts school – in Ohio I think – was charging a fraction of the “going rate” and people thought that the lower cost meant it wasn’t any good.

    So they raised their tuition to the “normal” and got more applicants.

    Strange thing, marketing.

    Years ago I went to a small private college in the Peninsula – Menlo College. At the time they had a 2 year program for Liberal Arts and a 4 year Business school. They were known as the “back door to Stanford” (just a few miles down El Camino Real from Stanford) although I ended up transferring back east. They had 400 students and I doubt they are much bigger today.

    Given what I have learned in the intervening 40 years I would not seek a Liberal Arts degree. With all that school costs i think I would look for something more relevant to the actual business world – but then we all have our life experiences to learn what we should have done don’t we? ;-)

  8. Bill B – alas for being able to exercise a sense of dry wit in Airman Performance Reports! Such qualities were frowned upon, in the bowels of the Big Blue Machine, although I did get to exercise them once, upon the person of a young airman whom everyone pretty generally agreed was a waste of flesh and stripes, but had no actual sins of comission or omission against his name: just that he was barely mediocre in a pretty demanding field. I consulted with my commander and the First Shirt, and we pretty much agreed that we didn’t want to rate him brutally, since that would give him cause to contest the review, and frankly, we didn’t want the bother that would entail. But still … we had to be honest. The APR was a work of art, if I say so myself. I wish I had saved it, for it trod the narrow line: anyone reading it with intimate knowege of the military could pretty well deduce that yes, he was a waste of flesh and stripes — but give no overt cause for offense in my phrasing and description of his qualities! It was a work of art, really it was.
    This writing of APRs actually did come in handy, in the long run. My way of writing that all-important first sentence was “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this person?” Bingo, the first sentance of the APR. When I write characters now, I start the same way – the first thing that comes to mind when you consider them. Easy, peasy.

    I did get to cut loose when it came to writing the weekly TV guide for our location. We usually scheduled the worst movie in the package for the late Friday night slot, and I had fun with that, in two or three lines. I had people tell me that sometimes they sat up to see the movie, just to see if it was as awful as I implied it was. I remember noting of one particularly awful movie – that the base library was open 6 days a week, and had many very nice books in it. Michael Medved’s “Golden Turkey Awards” was my friend, in those days.

  9. Sgt Mom –

    Would one of these have worked?

    “Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.”

    “His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.”

    “I would not allow this employee to breed.”

    “He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle.”

    “This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better.”

    I had my own funny story of a review lately. And I have learned why so many people have “excellent” ratings – it is too much of a pain for people to give lower and deal with the grief.

    I had bought something through an individual on the Net and received the wrong item. I promptly let him know and to his credit sent me a prompt refund – and I decided to send him back his item at my expense.

    He didn’t want it back but I sent it. (it really was that kind of an item) It was completely mischaracterized on the description, though not his fault (according to the seller). (I am wondering whose fault is it? )

    Well, I reviewed the transaction as “neutral”, and he started emailing me.

    So I guess everything is supposed to be excellent ;-)

    BTW years ago when I lived in San Diego there used to be a Friday evening program from Mexico called Disasterpiece Theater. The host, a young man who posed beside an Edsel (this was the 1980s) would then tell us about the upcoming movie.

    He picked them for their – badness – and all through the movie he would slip in comments.

    Honestly, they were so bad they were – good!

    One I remember was Trog starting Joan Crawford.

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