Corral, eds. An Anthology of Dissent.
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New York: Columbia UP, The subtitle, "An Anthology of Dissent," captures accurately the substance and thrust of the essays collected in this hefty tome. An impressive number of philosophers, linguists, literary critics, and sociologists teaching and writing in both Europe and the United States, register, over the course of thirty years, their objections to and disciplinary dismay with many of the tenets of what has been called theory, but especially deconstruction and pragmatism.
Most of the arguments put forth have already been aired in journals, books, and conferences. What is new and important is to hear the multiple voices of dissent coming together and sounding loudly, now that theory, despite its many critics, has permeated work across the disciplines in the humanities.
The anthology focuses on the negative effects of theory—mainly Derrida—on the study of literary history and the interpretation of texts as inherited from the first half of the twentieth century.
The second part, perhaps the most interesting, features the polemics between Jacques Derrida and his critics on the question of the referent. Searle maintains a certain freshness as it tackles three influential positions on textual meaning. Searle attempts to dismantle "Stanley Fish's claim that the meaning of a text is entirely in the reader's response; the claim made by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels that the meaning of a text is entirely a matter of the author's intention; and the view of Jacques Derrida that meaning of, well, what?
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Searle claims that these authors "make general remarks about the nature of language without making use of principles and distinctions that are commonly accepted in logic, linguistics and the philosophy of language" For Searle the confusion entailed in the differences between Fish, Knapp Michaels and Derrida stems from a shared ignorance of the fact that in analytic philosophy "most concepts and distinctions are rough at the edges and do not have sharp boundaries [.
Indeed, in [End Page ] addition to examination of the problem of vagueness, there have been quite extensive discussions of family resemblances, open texture, underdetermination and indeterminacy" Here the essay by the Brazilian philosopher J.
Merquior, "Theorrea and Kulturkritik" sets the tone for a series of harsh polemics with presentism, post-colonial criticism and Paul de Mann. Merquior opens his essay with a salvo against the post-modern reading of Nietzsche. He asserts that "it does not in the least follow that because our knowledge of the world presupposes interests and values the world itself is therefore but a product or projection of those values or interests" Mequior particularly decries the subsequent sacking of mimesis based on the idea that what we call "correspondence to reality rests on no more than shared language which imposes on things a conformist adjustment to unconscious or manipulated social meanings rather than grasping their real nature" The trouble is, he adds, that "it does not follow from this premise that 'there is no mimesis'" The fourth part, "Theory as a Profession," considers the effects of cultural studies on the professoriat and its role in determining the present star system.
This subtitle follows in the wake of Geoffrey Galt Harpham's essay originally published in Profession: Conversations on the Future of Literary and Cultural Studies Galt Harpham discusses the tensions between the star system and the proletarization of the professoriat in the American academy. He squarely blames the rise of theory for this regrettable situation.
The answer, he believes is counter intuitive but inescapable.
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