Saturday, 13 August 2005

The Interpronomicon, or Samizdat for the Literary Scholar Before I get started: If you're a regular reader but didn't comment on yesterday's post, I'm still 28 readers short of winning the bet, so I'd love it if you checked in. On to business! Theory business! (ignores collective groans ) When I lunched with my advisor this past Monday, he told me about a very dangerous book with a very froufy front cover called Literary Interest. He warned me that while I should read this book I should under no circumstances attempt to emulate the style of Steven Knapp's argument. Nor should I attempt to learn anything from it. I should read it, acknowledge that it exists then squirrel it away until such a time as I might have tenure. He said it would ruin my chances of an academic career, a social life or ever getting remarried after the wife realizes how much better she can do than me. (We have that sort of advisor/advisee relationship.) According to my advisor, Steven Knapp wrote this book shortly before disappearing across the Mexican border to fight alongside Poncho Villa. Or becoming the 11th provost of Johns Hopkins. One of the two. The point being you're damned curious to know what's contained in this little volume--it runs all of 142 pages before reaching its horrifying conclusion--but since I've only read the first chapter, you'll have to wait. I know that's inconsiderate of me to build up your hopes only to shatter them mercilessly on the cold ceramic tile I recently installed on Acephalous. (Do you like?) I fully intended on presenting you with a taste of the Interpronomicon tonight. Then it dawned on me that the first chapter works the argument of his and Walter Benn Michaels' "Against Theory" and "Against Theory II" through its implications for Milton's Paradise Lost. And that can't be that dangerous because I already know it. I've read both those essays and my career, life and marriage are still intact. There there be dragons ain't the scout's shout yet. They must not appear until chapter two, which I'll read tomorrow. All the theoretical equivalents of dragons and flatbreads concocted from the blood of Christian children (I am Jewish and have to eats my matzahs) will be communicated on the morrow, once I have fully imbibed the evil that is! that is! that is! negative capability? Negative Capability!?!

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