Phi Beta Cons

More on Outrage in English

Anthony is right that we can’t establish any firm conclusions about postmodernism in literary studies producing aberrant behavior, but it is hard to avoid at least considering the question, especially if, as conservatives, we believe along with Richard Weaver that ideas have consequences.   

In response to Anthony’s point about the rise of Bolshevism, Solzhenitsyn did indeed blame the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century for setting the stage in which Communism would rise.  But he did not mean works such as The Princess Casamassima, The Secret Agent or Dostoevski’s The Possessed.  They were exposing the growing nihilism.  Good literature, properly understood, often balances the extremes that a society may be following. 
You have to consider how the literature is taught.  Elizabeth Kantor’s valuable book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, gets into this, and Staney Kurtz brought this out at The Corner recently, quoting Allan Bloom who writes,   

“…when Shakespeare is read naively, because he shows most comprehensively the fate of tyrants, the character of good rulers, the relations of friends, and the duties of citizens, he can move the souls of his readers, and they recognize that they have understood life better because they have read him; he hence becomes a constant guide and companion. He is turned to as the Bible was once turned to; one sees the world, enriched and embellished, through his eyes. It is this perspective that has been lost; and only when Shakespeare is taught as though he said something can he regain the influence over this generation which is so needed–needed for the sake of giving us some thoughtful views on the most important questions. The proper functions of criticism are, therefore, to recover Shakespeare’s teaching and to be the agent of his ever-continuing education of the Anglo-Saxon world.”

Contrariwise, if Shakespeare is taught as exposing the the injustices of white male racist sexist colonialist society, or as embodying them, he will not have this benevolent effect, and may even have the opposite effect, of feeding resentment and alienation.   
Also, you have to consider what courses are offered beyond the basic requirements.   The New York Times a few days ago had an article on Cho and here is an excerpt.  Consider the choice and quality of the “texts” of this course that Cho took, titled “Contemporary Horror”:  

Ross Almeddine sat a few feet from Cho for months in a class examining contemporary horror films and literature. Both students were required to keep what were known as “fear journals,” where they chronicled both their reaction to the material covered in class and their own fears.   Mr. Alameddine, according to classmates, made an effort to speak to Mr. Cho on several occasions, trying to draw him out of his closed world and his refusal to interact with other students.
On Monday, Mr. Cho shot and killed Mr. Alameddine.
There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Cho targeted his classmate, but it is the first time one of the victims has been connected to Mr. Cho before the shootings.
The class they took together was new, offered for the first time last fall. The students studied movies like “Friday the 13th” and read Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft and Patricia Cornwell novels. “We had a whole discussion on serial killers,” said one student, who asked that she not be named because she wanted to avoid a crush of attention from the news media.
Mr. Cho never spoke during the discussion, she said, but he took notes.

Columnist Mary Grabar discusses this course and its merits. 

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