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Literary Criticism so long ago slipped over the edge into self parody that when I first found an old dog-eared copy of The Pooh Perplex at a book sale many years ago it took me more than a few pages to figure out whether it was meant to be serious or not.  In a series of essays, various critics, of dubious but seemingly impressive pedigree, read the Pooh stories through the distorted lenses of their own literary/political/philosophical/psychological perspectives.  It turned out of course that the book, published in 1964, had been the work of a young English professor at Berkeley (of all places) and was a parody, skewering several of the then current schools of criticism.  Now, nearly forty years later, retired from academia, Professor Crews gives today's critics the satirical drubbing they so richly deserve in this manufactured set of lectures to the Modern Language Association convention.  Happily, this second effort is just as funny as the first, though it is somewhat depressing to realize that his targets have become even easier to poke fun at because, one shudders at the thought, their theories are even more ridiculous than those of their predecessors.

I'll not pretend to understand all the nuances of what Professor Crews has written; heck, I don't even recognize all the schools of thought he's sending up, nor all the specific people he seems to have targeted.  Everyone will discern Harold Bloom in the person of Orpheus Bruno, whose lecture is titled The Importance of Being Portly, and whose last three books are titled : My Vico, My Shakespeare, My God!; What You Don't Know Hurts Me; and Read These Books.  And one assumes that Dudley Cravat III, whose contribution, Twilight of the Dogs, is one long bellow against the "sickness unto death" of the modern university, must incorporate at least a significant touch of William Bennett.  Knowing who the victims are in these instances definitely adds to the enjoyment.  Unfortunately (no, make that fortunately) most of the other models for these characters will be so obscure to anyone outside academia that the reader, at least this reader, won't recognize or even know of them.

You can figure out, without too much trouble, that specific lectures are aimed at Deconstruction, Marxism, Feminism, Queer Theory, Postcolonialism, Evolutionary Psychology and so forth.  Much of the enjoyment of the book lies in the way Crews can make the Pooh stories fit these absurd theories.  He'll leave you half convinced that the Hundred Acre Wood is alternately a seething pit of repressed homosexual longings or pedophiliac torture; the oppressed colony of a brutal imperialist master; and a laboratory of Darwinism.  The very capacity of these simple children's stories to bear the weight of each of these ideologies only serves to undermine them all.  Such infinitely plastic criticisms must ultimately be about the theories themselves, not about the text that is supposedly under consideration.

One final feature of the book is particularly amusing, and especially frightening.  Though the lectures are obviously made up, the footnotes appear to all refer to genuine sources, with titles like "The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination" and "The Vestal and the Fasces: Hegel, Lacan, Property, and the Feminine".   I suppose someone trying to complete a doctoral thesis will write just about anything, but, please God, tell me no one has actually ever read them.

It all makes for very funny reading, but with a serious subtext.  This is the kind of garbage that kids are being taught, with a straight face, in our schools today.  That scares the heck out of me.  Hopefully Professor Crews will keep that skewer pointy.  We need someone to puncture the pretensions of these self-important intellectual nitwits.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Literary Criticism
Frederick Crews Links:
-REVIEW: of Postmodern Pooh (Tim Alleppo, Seattle Weekly)
-REVIEW: of Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews (Bruce S. Thornton, University Bookman)

Book-related and General Links:
    -False Memory Syndrome Foundation Scientific and Professional Advisory Board
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Postmodern Pooh : Why? Wherefore? Inasmuch  as Which? FELICIA MARRONNEZ
    -EXCERPT: from Postmodern Pooh: Resistance is useless, honey: Apply a healthy dose of Derrida to 'AA Milne' and his classic has new significance (Felicia Marronnez, The Guardian)
    -EXCERPT from POSTMODERN POOH by Frederick Crews : Winnie-the-Pooh has not only entertained generations of children, he's also inspired relgions and, at the hands of Frederick Crews, had a hand in parodying literary critisism. January has the excerpt of Crews' long-awaited sequel to the bestselling The Pooh Perplex.
    -ESSAY : Saving Us from Darwin (Frederick C. Crews, October 2001, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc, by Malcolm Macmillan  (Frederick Crews, Psychological Science)
    -ARCHIVES : Frederick C. Crews (NY Review of Books)
    -INTERVIEW : with Frederick Crews (Conversations with History:  Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley)
    -ESSAY : Campos: Professors' plea patently absurd (Paul Campos, October 23, 2001, Rocky Mountain News)
    -ESSAY : Inside Publishing : How Milne Works (Kate Julian, Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY : jodi dean (Alex Burns (alex@disinfo.com) - December 16,  2000, disinformation)
    -REVIEW: of Postmodern Pooh (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW : of Postmodern Pooh (James Hynes, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Postmodern Pooh (Elaine Showalter, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Postmodern Pooh (Philip Marchand, Toronto Star)
    -REVIEW : of Pooh Perplex (Ann Skea)
    -ESSAY : ANGLO-AMERICAN TEXTUAL CRITICISM AND THE CASE OF HANS WALTER GABLER'S EDITION OF ULYSSES. (Geert Lernout Genesis 9 (1996))
    -REVIEW : of OUT OF MY SYSTEM  : Psychoanalysis, Ideology, and Critical Method.
By Frederick Crews.  (Robert Towers, NY Times Book Rev9iew)
    -AWARD : Distinguished Teaching Award : 1985 : Frederick Crews,  English (UC Berkeley)
    -100 Notable Alumni of the Graduate School (Princeton Alumni Weekly)

FREUD WARS :
    -Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage
    -ESSAY : Unconscious Deeps and Empirical Shallows : Panel  presentation at the symposium "Whose Freud? The Place of  Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture," (Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, April 3, 1998 Frederick Crews)
    -ESSAY : CONFESSIONS OF A FREUD BASHER (Frederick Crews)
    -ESSAY : A COUNTERBLAST IN THE WAR ON FREUD: THE SHRINK IS IN
(Jonathan Lear, December 1995, New Republic)
    -RESPONSE : This article responds to Jonathan Lear's piece in THE NEW  REPUBLIC (Frederick Crews)
    -LETTER : (Frederick Crews, 1st May, 1996, Human Nature Review)
    -REVIEW : of Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc by Malcolm Macmillan (Frederick Crews)
    -INTERVIEW : Freud's Legacy with Frederick Crews (Online Newshour,  PBS)
    -ESSAY : The Freud Exhibit and Its Discontents : ETHAN'S TOUR OF THE  FREUD ARCHIVES WITH FREDERICK CREWS (Ethan Watters)
    -LETTER : FREUD, CONFLICT AND CULTURE? : PRESS RELEASE
    -ESSAY : Psychoanalysis and Democracy (Joel Whitebook, Dissent)
    -ESSAY : The Library of Congress and the Fear of Controversy (Sanford Gifford, The American Psychoanalyst)
    -REVIEW : of The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute By Frederick Crews, et al. (LAURA MILLER, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend. Edited  by Frederick Crews (Edward T. Oakes, First Things)
    -Burying Freud (Human Nature Review)
    -ESSAY : Flogging Freud (SARAH BOXER, August 10, 1997, NY Times Book  Review)
    -ESSAY : Recovering Memory (John Frow, Australian Humanities Review)
    -ESSAY : Post-dated : A review of Freud 2000, edited by Anthony  Elliot (Elizabeth Wilson, Australian Humanities Review)
    -ESSAY : The danger in slavishly adhering to Freud (John Waters,  August 28, 2000, Irish Times)
    -Shining the light on the Recovered Memory Cult
    -REVIEW : of DISPATCHES FROM THE FREUD WARS Psychoanalysis and Its Passions By John Forrester (Claire Douglas , Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: Psychoanalytic Method and the Mischief of Freud-Bashers (Zvi Lothane, M.D.,  Psychiatric Times, Y«December 1996)
    -REVIEW : of 'In the Floyd Archives': Psychoanalysis by a Cartoon  Rabbit  By M. G. LORD, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of FREUD Conflict and Culture. Edited by Michael S. Roth  (Paul Robinson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of TERRORS AND EXPERTS By Adam Phillips (Judith Shulevitz,  NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : THE PALACE OF ILLUSION : The Rise and Fall of a Grand Mythology (John Fraim, CJ Jung Page)
    -REVIEW : of Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria and the Effects  of Sibling Relationships on the Human Condition by Juliet Mitchell  (Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality  Disorder by Joan Acocella (William Bernet, MD, JAMA)

SIGMUND FREUD :
    -Sigmund Freud : Conflict and Culture (Library of Congress)
    -Sigmund Freud : A Special Report (Online Newshour, PBS)
    -Psychiatric Times
    -JOURNAL : The American Psychoanalyst: Newsletter of the American Psychoanalytic Association
    -ESSAY : Dream on Sigmund (Dr John Forrester Sydney Morning Herald, 10/06/2000)

LITERARY CRITICISM :
    -ESSAY : The Collapse of Higher Education (T.E. Wilder, 1992 Contra Mundum)
    -ESSAY : Darwin and Dickens : A new breed of literary crtitics is  using evolution to explain literature--and to challenge intellectual orthodoxy. (Nick Gillespie, November 1998, Reason)
    -ESSAY : Bad Writing (D. G. Myers, Weekly Standard, May 10, 1999)
    -ESSAY : On the Teaching of Literary Theory (D. G. Myers, Philosophy and Literature, October 1994)
    -ARCHIVES : Literature (Pop Cultures.com)
    -REVIEW : of The Reign of Ideology by Eugene Goodheart (Alec Solomita, Boston Book Review)

POSTMODERNISM :
    -Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought (University of Colorado)
    -POSTMODERNISM AND ITS CRITICS (SHANNON WEISS & KARLA WESLEY)
    -The Postmodernism Generator (written by Andrew C. Bulhak, using the Dada Engine, a system for generating random text from recursive grammars.)
    -ESSAY : Practicing Post-Modernism: The Example of John Hawkes (John M. Unsworth, Contemporary Literature)
    -ESSAY : Postmodern Jihad : What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left. (Waller R. Newell, November 2001, Weekly Standard)

POOH & MILNE :
    see Brothers Judd's review of The Red House Mystery
    -ESSAY : Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental  perspective on A.A. Milne (Sarah E. Shea, Kevin Gordon, Ann Hawkins, Janet Kawchuk, Donna Smith, CMAJ 2000)
    -ESSAY : Bearly reading : When a UC-Berkeley professor put the world's favorite Zen bear on her summer reading list, the Pooh hit the fan. (Carlene Bauer, June 23, 1999, Salon)
    -FAQ : The "Official" alt.fan.pooh Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
    -ESSAY : The Sacred Forest (Elspeth Edward and Andrew Jackson, Ceridwen's Cauldron no 26, Michaelmas 1993)
    -SERMON : A Bear of Very Little Brain: Y«A Unitarian Universalist Commentary on the Pooh Saga (Kenneth W. Phifer, AB,  ABD, MTh, DMn)

Comments:

Danno:

Where are the Communists now?

- oj

- Aug-10-2005, 13:06

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There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet.

- Danno

- Aug-10-2005, 13:02

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Morons like you are the reason why American sucks. Stop supporting the fascists who are driving our country into the jaws of hell. I guess when this whole place goes up into flames you might realize that your god won't save you, and that maybe people should have listened to all those critical voices that conservative idiots like yourself have been demonizing for years; 50 years ago it was the Communists, now its Terrorists: the real terrorists is the fusion of military and industry that will kill anyone and anything to perpetuate its downward spiral, dragging the rest of the world with it.

- Danno

- Aug-10-2005, 13:01

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Faith in what?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:28

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Faith is the basis of our freedom.

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 11:23

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For a false sense of security? Need i quote the founding fathers?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:21

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So how does your belief system fall in terms of your freedom/security dualism? You voluntarily imprision your own thoughts?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:20

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Well, if you really think that we are liberating the world, then you are really misinformed, and there is probably not much i can do to change your mind, aside from show you the mountains of evidence in how we have interefered in the democratic process of countries in south america, central america, africa, europe, the middle east, southeast asia; anywhere where it is better for us to have a dictatorship installed, we have attempted to do so. We live off the slave labor of the rest of the world.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:19

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Yes.

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 11:18

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Why do you believe in evil? Do you believe in the devil? Do you believe in imaginary friends? Do you believe in Greek Mythology, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny? There are a lot of myths that limit the freedom of thought, which i wish you would try to experience; but you feel too secure with the idea of a big man with a gray beard who lives in the clouds.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:16

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We're liberating the world, that it may feed itself.

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 11:16

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Were you a real Christian, you would care for the poor and down-trodden of the world, and be sickened with the similarities between our current administration and the evil kings of the Old Testament.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:14

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You don't know my religious views

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:13

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Why? I'm a Conservative Christian just as you're an amoralist. You're welcome to your views--I just think they're evil.

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 11:12

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2) The review is very unfair to a lot of the ideas that Foucault developed in his prolific career. Whether or not he was a self-tormented drug addict homosexual has little to do with the quality of his ideas, and analysis of history and the formations of power (You know, how you like to boil it down to a meaningless dichotomy of freedom vs. security?)

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:12

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1) Chomsky and Foucault were colleagues; they respected each other; Chomsky didn't say that he was "too" amoral, those are your words.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:09

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You really have no talent or skill at arguing do you? All you do is constantly refer to the biased work of others? What does it matter that Chomsky said that Foucault was "amoral." Do you know the difference between "amoral" and "immoral?" Can you respond with something other than the format, "There's no point in arguing because of what so-and-so has said." If you're going to send a link, at least let it be from something other than a conservative Christian website.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 11:06

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There seems little point in arguing about a guy even Noam Chomsky found too amoral:

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9312/reviews/meyer.html

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 10:54

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Oh, and I hope that you don't think that the link you provided gives any kind of accurate or fair interpretation of Foucault; along with the rest of the info you post, its pretty much all wrong.

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 09:48

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What is your argument, besides the ignorant dismissal of that which you cannot argue against, that you have thus far shown in every comment? Are your ideas so weak that they can't stand up to my simple attacks?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 09:18

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Why are they evil?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 09:15

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What does the 1st Amendment have to do with it? People can read stupid authors, they just oughtn't waste their time, lest they end up ranting and raving like you acknowledge you're reduced to.

- oj

- Aug-09-2005, 08:36

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Hitler advocated genocide; Said and Foucault criticized Western governments. I really don't see any similarity between the two. We have this thing called the 1st amendment of the constitution which the founding fathers, who held free speech and criticism of government, in very high regard; in fact many thought it was essential in the healthy maintenance of a democracy. Some thought that criticizing was the most patriotic thing one could do; it is like a system of feedback that allows society to constantly improve itself. Its funny how on other parts of your site you blasts liberal for their "big government" ideas that want to limit the rights of the people, but at the same time you want to silence all these critics who you don't even really take the time to understand. Now, for about the fourth time; Do you have any kind of defense against the charges I have laid against you, or are you again going to respond with some kind of baseless negative comments that muddies the water of the debate that I am trying to provoke you into? Now that you have someone actually listening to you, do you have something to say? Or are you having trouble arguing for what you really believe in?

- Danno

- Aug-09-2005, 08:26

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They, like Hitler, are important only for the evil influence of their inane ideas, which true believers like you then parrot.

- oj

- Aug-08-2005, 17:05

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I think that the viewpoints expressed on your website are more vile that those contained in Mein Kampf, but that hasn't kept me from reading your feeble attempts at literary criticism. Mein Kampf is important because of its relationship to Hitler; not because it is a good or bad piece of work. Foucault and Said, for your information, are important for revolutionizing the way that scholars view the power structures in the world, and the role that knowledge production plays in the consolidation of power. Said traced this into the ways that Western powers have imperialized the Middle-East by producing a viewpoint that renders it conveniently exploitable. Foucault is similarly concerned with knowledge production, and in a multitude of ways he traces it to the ways in which people are controlled, and more importantly, disciplined into controlling themselves. Modern society harnesses the productive forces by tricking people into fighting for their own slavery as if it were for their own freedom. Have you ever been to any other countries, especially ones in Central and South America? Have you ever seen the effects of US imperialism? How can you talk about liberal democratic capitalism when it only applies to the area within the US borders (where, arguably, it doesnt really apply, but you would never understand that). You've got me ranting and raving, and I've got to go. Be prepared to defend your baseless assertions tommorow.

- Danno

- Aug-08-2005, 17:00

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As I said, you needn't read Said & Foucault to know what they said, just read decent criticism of them:

Here's plenty on Said:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/008318.html

- oj

- Aug-08-2005, 16:48

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Alright, besides my defense of Foucault and Said (whose work bears no relation, that I am aware of to that of Hitler's) have you anything else to say in response to my previous two comments? Prove to me that you know SOMETHING about either of those two philosophers and I will be satisfied, but once again, I will get back to my point of asking you HOW DO YOU CRITICIZE THAT WHICH YOU ARE IGNORANT OF? Are you such a cowardly parrot that you won't even defend yourself when your mindless viewpoints are attacked by someone who fights back?

- Danno

- Aug-08-2005, 16:44

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Did you need to read Mein Kampf to know it wasn't worth wasting your time?

Life is too short to waste on Foucault and Said and company.

- oj

- Aug-08-2005, 15:52

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That's the only response you have? Wow, you really are a simple-minded coward. Can you possibly defend your thrice removed views on "Postmodern" philosophies when you can't even understand or explain them? I know that you are a big fan of seeing things in "black and white", "good and evil" and other invented categories, but what do you do in your various analyses when things seem unclear, vague, or ambiguous (as life often is, whether or not you choose to believe it.)? Ignore it, disregard it, blindly denounce it because it doesn't fit into your dangerously simple-minded view. I am a conservative, and I embrace diversity, variety, and the FREEDOM (funny the word means a lot of things) of being able to interpret life in a multitude of ways, which is part of what the Postmodernists are arguing for. What they argue against, among other things, is the monomaniacal tyranny of a logic that blindly accepts its own presuppositions as its own conclusions. There are a lot of questions you might want to ask yourself, especially before you pretend to understand a book. Incidently, you seem to have a view of current politics that's about 10 years old. Have you paid attention to the news recently. You lambast "liberals" for their support of "big government" and curtailing personal freedoms; are you aware of the policies of the current administration (and previous faux-conservative Republican administrations like Bush Sr., Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, etc.), or are you as usual just ignoring them because they don't really fit into your convenient LIBERALS=BAD therefore CONSERVATIVE=GOOD dichotomy? And have you actually read all the books on the site, or do you just find other people's reviews on the web that confirm your personal bias?

- Danno

- Aug-08-2005, 15:47

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You've wasted precious moments of your life on them? You have our pity.

- oj

- Aug-08-2005, 13:56

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Granted, you might have touched upon some valid criticisms of "postmodern" philosophies that are described by the author of the book you have reviewed (or at least pretended to review). However, if I was you, I wouldn't be so quick to criticize what I don't understand. Judging by the rest of your website, it seems that you like to open your prejudiced, misinformed, and brainwashed mouth to regurgitate a lifetime full of propaganda that you have ingested from various sources. Go and read some Foucault or Said, and if you can actually understand it, write a review about it to prove to me that you aren't the idiot you seem to be.

- Danno

- Aug-08-2005, 12:39

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