10 jun. 2011

Bullshit Fields (16)

New Historicism and Postcolonialism.

New Historicism is bullshit because it uses anecdote rather than data. You find a suggestive similarity between, say a legal document and a play written about the same time and construct a clever argument around this similarity. It also uses the Foucauldian method of giving a dramatic, aesthetically striking image more explanatory power than it really should have, like Bentham's panopticon, which never really became the model for prison-building. Never mind, it is such a powerful image of surveillance that it should have been the model.

Postcolonial theory is bullshit because it reproduces Derridean jargon in a gratuitous way, to talk about things that have nothing to do with deconstruction. Both of these movements decided to make literature about whatever the critic was interested in. The same goes for ecocriticism and a thousand other possible approaches that decide that, if x is the most urgent issue facing humankind, or to the most progressively minded segment of humankind, literary criticism should devote itself full time to x.

I really liked queer theory at the time, when the idea was to queer the renaissance, queer everything to show that the hetero / homo distinction was at the base of all Western Culture. Stepping back from it a minute, however, what this really shows is that you can do this with any x. The environment, the relation between nature and culture--what could be more significant than that? Therefore, that's what literary criticism should devote itself to. Or the nature of power. Or gender. Or colonialism. Or class conflict. Give me a theme, and I can show that all literature is really about this theme.

1 comentario:

Clarissa dijo...

I couldn't agree more!! My recent article on Lo prohibido was criticized because I didn't use queer theory in it. I have nothing against queer theory but I honestly don't believe it can be fruitfully applied to this particular work of literature. It's exactly as you say, one can demonstrate that all works of art are about a certain social issue if one tries. What is the point of doing that, though?