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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.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Literary Criticism
Frederick Crews Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Frederick Crews
-STAFF PAGE: Frederick C. Crews, PhD (Founding Fellow, Institute for Science in Medicine)
    -ENTRY: Frederick Crews American literary critic and author (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -INDEX: Frederick C. Crews (New York Review of Books)
    -OBIT: Frederick Crews, Withering Critic of Freud’s Legacy, Dies at 91: A literary critic, essayist and author, he was a leading voice among revisionist skeptics who saw Freud as a charlatan and psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience. (Scott Veale, June 24, 2024, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Frederick Crews obituary: Provocative but witty literary critic known for his satirical Winnie the Pooh essays and his opposition to Freudianism (Michael Carlson, 11 Jul 2024, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Analysis Terminable: To people who take their cues from the intellectual fashions of academe, any speculation about the decline and fall of… (FREDERICK C. CREWS, July 1980, Commentary)
    -DISCUSSION: How we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate his legacy: Crews, an academic, thinks psychoanalysis is an unscientific jumble of ideas, while psychoanalyst Orbach would prefer not to throw the baby out with the patriarchal bias (Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews, Sun 20 Aug 2017, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Freud: The Making of an Illusion By Frederick Crews (M. D. Aeschliman, Modern Age)
    -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 ( - 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)
    -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'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)
(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)
    -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 : 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)

    -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
    -REVIEW : of The Reign of Ideology by Eugene Goodheart (Alec Solomita, Boston Book Review)

    -Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought (University of Colorado)
    -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)

    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" 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)
    -ESSAY: How French Intellectuals Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained. (Helen Pluckrose, 7 May 2024, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: Why Postmodern Art is Vacant: Yet, modern art is still portrayed as being avant-garde, defying trends, and sticking it to the establishment. (Jason Newman, 12 Sep 2017, Quillette)
    -PODCAST: Podcast #150: Helen Pluckrose on the Role of Postmodernism in the Construction of Modern Social-Justice Dogmas (Quillette Helen Pluckrose, 25 May 2021)