[This inflammatory baby originally appeared on The Valve. But you're welcome to comment and/or link to it here.]
For those who doubt the far leftward tilt of college campuses, one needs to look no further than an article published in the University of Chicago’s Critical Inquiry to dispel such doubts. An article by Anne H. Stevens and Jay Williams titled “The Footnote, in Theory” chronicled Critical Inquiry’s most frequently cited theorists throughout its existence.
The number one cited theorist by the magazine was none other than Jacques Derrida, “the father of deconstruction.” Exactly what deconstruction means is hard to say because even Derrida himself could not give a definition. In a nutshell, deconstruction is a method for discrediting historical theorists such as Aristotle and Plato for the sole purpose of promoting Derrida’s own beliefs.
Her deep familiarity with Derrida’s oeuvre notwithstanding, I question Accuracy in Academia’s decision to publish such a laughably ignorant article. Maybe a friend should’ve told her that anti-Derridean polemics account for half of Derrida’s appearances in CI. Proof? Of course I have proof. Responsible scholars—future lawyers, even—read the works they criticize, lest they risk writing the equivalent of this:
For those who doubt the anti-Americanist tilt of college campuses, one needs to look no further than an article published in the German Studies Association’s German Studies Review to dispel such doubts. An article by Anne H. Fritzsche and Jay Ametsbichler titled “Die Fußnote, in der Theorie” chronicled German Studies Review’s most frequently cited theorists throughout its existence.
The number one cited theorist by the magazine was none other than some German Guy, “the father of some German school of thought.” Exactly what some German school of thought means is hard to say because even that German Guy himself could not give a definition. In a nutshell, some German school of thought is a method for discrediting historical theorists such as Aristotle and Plato for the sole purpose of promoting some German Guy’s own beliefs.
Before you protest how unfair my parody is, consider what Ventura follows that with:
Notably absent from the list is C. S. Lewis. It is a fair assumption that he was most likely left off the list because of his strong Christian beliefs and influences. This factor certainly sets him apart from number two on the list, Sigmund Freud, who did not have any religious convictions. Realistically, the fact the Lewis was a Christian most likely sets him apart from all the “theorists” on the list.
I’m so blinded by the fact that C.S. Lewis rarely appears in CI because he’s a Christian, I can’t see her argument to refute it. “Realistically,” it is such “a fair assumption” I can do nothing but accept its accuracy. Sure, sure, the actual reason Lewis “was most likely left off the list” was that he wasn’t cited often enough to warrant placement on it. But c’mon now, we’re being “realistic” here, and the obvious reason for his omission is that his 4,837 citations in CI paled in comparison to his overt espousal of Christian doctrine. (Anyway, we all know the tricks the left plays with numbers. To them, math is but another masculinist discourse, &c.) After she’s proven that it’s probably fair to guess that Lewis was most likely left off due to his Christian beliefs, she addresses two other notable theorists absent from the list:
Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain.
Before you think no one could read that without ruining a keyboard (or two, depending on how much coffee you’ve yet to swallow) Candace de Russy seconds Ventura’s outrage:
Those absent from the list? Such theorists as Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and C.S. Lewis.
And people accuse John of using “theory"/"theorist" in the slippery sense? I love Mr. Clemens as much as the next 19th Century Americanist, but the man was a novelist. He wrote the things theorists theorize about, not the things they produce. (Not that there aren’t exceptions, mind you.) Where to begin? Maybe it’s better I don’t.
Alexander Riley did, however, only to be spanked by the executive director of Accuracy in Academia, Malcolm Kline. In 896 words—in fairness, only half of them are his—Kline said things. Some stuff, too. Like, in response to Riley’s question
What precisely, one hastens to ask, in Derrida’s work have they honed in on, in their painstakingly expert reading, as evidence for this?
Ironically, Riley devotes more than 1,000 words to an attack on Dr. de Russy’s 99-word and Miss Ventura’s 364-word post.
Read the article. That is his response to Riley’s question. Again, I’m at a loss where to begin. A pedantic statement about the unironic nature of the allegedly ironic question? A note that the explanation as to why the sky is blue would be lengthier than the statement “the sky is green”? Would pointing out that the response is a total non sequitur suffice?
I’m tempted to write that any engagement with people as intellectually irresponsible as Ventura, de Russy, and Kline ought to be avoided. Their commitment to empiricism, accuracy, and in Kline’s case, common sense, is as strong as is absolutely necessary to make the point they want to make when they want to make it.
ADDENDUM: While I question the company he’s keeping, I can’t help but applaud [the approach of] former Valve contributor Mark Bauerlein’s contribution to this kerfuffle. His assessment’s harsh [but unlike that of Ventura, Kline and de Russy, informed, i.e. incorrect but] not unfair. Of course, were it not for “scholarly” interventions by the likes of Ventura, de Russy and Kline, many devotees would’ve [and have] moved on to other things long ago. [Revised to to make what I said bear some relation to what I meant to.]