Tag Archives: Teaching Literature

It is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter

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Harold Bloom interviewed:

I regard myself as a teacher. I remark in this new book that I have only three criteria for whether a work should be read and reread and taught to others, and they are: aesthetic splendour, cognitive power, and wisdom. And those are not the standards now applied in the universities and colleges of the English-speaking world. Nor are they the standards applied in the media. Everyone is now much more concerned with gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, skin pigmentation, and twenty other irrelevancies, whereas I am talking about what I have never talked about before, and that is wisdom. But I am not a wise man, I am not a sage. I am an aesthete, a very old-fashioned aesthete – I have been realizing that increasingly.

I teach my clases at Yale and what cheers me up are my Asian American students – about half of the students who take my clases are Asian Americans. What in my generation the Jews were – the intelligentsia – these people are becoming. The Jews in this country are now so assimilated that looking at their score cards I could not tell the difference between my Gentile and my Jewish students. The Asian Americans are the new Jews – they are the ones who study hard, they have a real passion, a real drive to understand. If this country has a future, it will be because of the new immigrants, the Asians, the Africans, the Hispanics. Our regime is fascistic, but our constitution is good. The best provision in that constitution states that any child who is born on the American soil is an American citizen, and therefore all these so-called illegal immigrants are now the parents of American citizens. I may not live long enough to see it, but my hope is that this country would be saved by the Hispanic Americans, the Asian Americans – the new waves of Europeans. This is still a vibrant and living culture, whereas the English are incorrigible. They have no minds at all. That little book had a mixed reception in the United States, a terrible reception in England, a very good reception in other countries. The Italian, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Scandinavian readers want to understand me, the English don’t. I really don’t want to go there again, it’s an absolutely dead culture. It no longer has any poets, it no longer has any novelists, it cannot produce a composer or a painter anymore. The French are not much better.

I spend a good part of my life in bookstores – I give readings there when a new book of mine has come out, I go there to read or simply to browse. But the question is what do these immense mountains of books consist of? You know, child, my electronic mailbox overflowing with daily mesages from Potterites who still cannot forgive me for the article I published in Wall Street Journal more than a year ago, entitled “Can 35 Million Harry Potter Fans Be Wrong? – Yes!” These people claim that Harry Potter does great things for their children. I think they are deceiving themselves. I read the first book in the Potter series, the one that’s supposed to be the best. I was shocked. Every sentence there is a string of cliches, there are no characters – any one of them could be anyone else, they speak in each other’s voice, so one gets confused as to who is who.

IL: Yet the defenders of Harry Potter claim that these books get their children to read.

HB: But they don’t! Their eyes simply scan the page. Then they turn to the next page. Their minds are deadened by cliches. Nothing is required of them, absolutely nothing. Nothing happens to them. They are invited to avoid reality, to avoid the world and they are not invited to look inward, into themselves. But of course it is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter.

Gayatri Spivak at National Symposium on The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence

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image from google images

Second National Symposium

The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence

10-12 February 2011

Venue: Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, Baroda

Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, in collaboration with the Forum on Contemporary Theory, will be organizing a national symposium on the topic “The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence” in Baroda during 10-12 February 2011 to coincide with Professor Gayatri  Chakravorty Spivak’s visit to the Centre for delivering the third Balvant Parekh Distinguished Lecture on February 11. Professor Spivak has agreed to participate in the symposium and make critical interventions during discussion. Her lecture “Teaching Literature Today” will “consider the importance of teaching literary reading actively in a world that de-values the humanities in every sense.” At a time when the teaching of literature and philosophy has become a low priority for our educational planners, her observations and comments on Indian educational scenario will provide an impetus for rethinking the value of humanistic learning at a time when there seems to be some decadence in disciplinary structures of our knowledge-systems. One has to appreciate in that context the relevance of the human sciences as a methodological answer to the ossification of disciplines at present. Historically speaking, the human sciences emerged during the time of the First World War from a crisis in European thought; now is perhaps the time of the second renaissance of that awakening. At a time when disciplines like the humanities and social sciences are under a serious threat from the market forces that have considered these knowledge-generating fields of study as useless luxuries for social well-being, one needs to recall the old Greek term “theoria” for reclaiming what could be called an “originary experience” of knowledge combining a penchant for theory and its application in praxis. The human sciences have to be understood as an attempt to get back to that experience. As a hybrid episteme drawing its sustenance from the positive attributes of both the sciences (natural and social) and the humanities, the human sciences seem to have provided a way

out of the “disciplinary decadence,” to use a phrase from Lewis Gordon, our institutions have fallen into. They are also an attempt to simultaneously de-transcendentalize Theory as abstraction and to distil empirical praxis to conceptual reflection. Professor Spivak’s recent works and concerns are directed toward that effort. We hope the papers presented at the symposium and the discussion held will offer staple material for a volume, which the Centre will be happy to bring out. Those who want to participate in this Symposium should mail their abstracts to prafullakar@gmail.com by December 15, 2010. Full papers should reach us by January 15, 2011.

Registration fee for participation is: Rs.1000/ (Rupees one thousand only), which may be sent by money order or bank draft favoring Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences by January 15.

The fee will take care of lunch and tea during the symposium.