Update II: Avoid The American English Department

Education,English,History,Literature,Multiculturalism,Propaganda,The West


It is old news that the academy has been contaminated by postmodernism.

For example, academic historians and their acolytes have worked overtime to replace the impartial, non-ideological study of American history and its heroic figures with “history from below.” This postmodern tradition regularly produces works the topics of which include, “Quilting Midwives during the Revolution.” Or, “Hermaphrodites and the Clitoris in Early America.”

As you well imagine, the libidinized annals of the “Hermaphrodites and the Clitoris in Early America” is not flying off the printing presses.

The deconstruction of fields of study has engulfed universities, not sparing the hard sciences. Women’s Studies courses and English departments are most likely to be littered with the ideology’s lumpen jargon. There, text is routinely deconstructed and shred. Subjected to this “academic” acid, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and T. S. Eliot are whittled down to no more than ruling class oppressors, their artistry reduced to the bare bones of alleged power relationships in society.

Easily the worst offender is the American English Department. Phyllis Schlafly wrote the following in “Advice To College Students: Don’t Major in English”:

“In the decades before ‘progressive’ education became the vogue, English majors were required to study Shakespeare, the pre-eminent author of English literature. The premise was that students should be introduced to the best that has been thought and said.”

“What happened? To borrow words from Hamlet: ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.’ Universities deliberately replaced courses in the great authors of English literature with what professors openly call ‘fresh concerns,’ ‘under-represented cultures,’ and ‘ethnic or non-Western literature.’ When the classics are assigned, they are victims of the academic fad called deconstructionism. That means: pay no mind to what the author wrote or meant; deconstruct him and construct your own interpretation, as in a Vanderbilt University course called ‘Shakespearean Sexuality,’ or ‘Chaucer: Gender and Genre’ at Hamilton College. …”

“Twenty years ago, University of Chicago Professor Allan Bloom achieved best-seller lists and fame with his book The Closing of the American Mind. He dated the change in academic curricula from the 1960s when universities began to abandon the classic works of literature and instead adopt multicultural readings written by untalented, unimportant women and minorities.”

“Bloom’s book showed how the Western canon of what educated Americans should know – from Socrates to Shakespeare – was replaced with relativism and the goals of opposing racism, sexism and elitism. Current works promoting multiculturalism written by women and minorities replaced the classics of Western civilization written by the DWEMs, Dead White European Males.”

“Left-wing academics, often called tenured radicals, eagerly spread the message, and students at Stanford in 1988 chanted ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Western civ has got to go.’ The classicists were cowed into silence, and it’s now clear that the multiculturalists won the canon wars.”

“Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton have been replaced by living authors who toe the line of multicultural political correctness, i.e., view everything through the lens of race, gender and class based on the assumption that America is a discriminatory and unjust racist and patriarchal society. The only good news is that students seldom read books any more and use Cliffs Notes for books they might be assigned.”


In its December 12, 2008 issue, the Times Literary Supplement has some fun at the expense of a pompous graduate of this pathetic tradition. The incomprehensibility factor, as they call it:

“Once the habit of writing comprehensible English has been unlearned, it can be difficult to reacquire the knack. Here is an example of a sentence which purports to be written in English, but which, we propose, is incomprehensible to all but a few. It is taken from Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting time and space in narrative fiction by Hilary P. Dannenberg”:

Historical counterfactuals in narrative fiction frequently take an ontologically different form in which the counterfactual premise engenders a whole narrative world instead of being limited to hypothetical inserts embedded in the main actual world of the narrative text.

About Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park Dannenberg the dolt writes that it “undertakes a more concerted form of counterfactualizing, in which both the character and the narrator separately map out counterfactual versions of the concluding phase of the novel’s love plot.”

In studied contempt, the TLS marvels that Coincidence and Counterfactuality “is published by the University of Nebraska Press. Just think: someone read the book and endorsed its publication, someone edited it, someone else set it in type, designed a cover, compiled an index, read the proofs—yet hardly anyone can understands what’s in it.”

Now that’s good, clear English everyone gets.

Update I (December 22): a good friend of mine, also a fine and successful novelist, relates this amusing incident:

“I once got hired by the U of Chicago to edit their academic press. The manuscripts were atrocious. I could not understand what was written, and used a red pen heavily in the margins of the manuscripts. After my corrections arrived, I was fired immediately. They told me I was not ‘intellectually sophisticated’ enough for the job. To which I replied: ‘You’re right: Fuck you.'”

Update II: Would I have, like my friend, responded so confidently and cleverly, as our reader suggests? I don’t think so. I’d probably become defensive, and return an analytical evisceration, which would have been wasted on the these literary offenders. My friend’s repartee is much more effective: it’s economical and intellectually apt, given its targets.

6 thoughts on “Update II: Avoid The American English Department

  1. Andrew T.

    I, a Political Science major, am also an English minor.

    Woe is me.

  2. Dan Maguire

    I suppose that I was relatively lucky in that I did read Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, and was not forced into the deconstruction march (though the Milton class was taught by an angry woman who took pride in the niche of feminism that demands virginity from its members; looking at the woman explained her adherence). I was also prudent enough to take enough math and stats to enter a lucrative career (I do so enjoy being an oppressor!).

    I’ve written it here before, but it’s worth repeating: do not choose a liberal arts major, unless you’re double majoring in something where you will acquire sought-after skills. Even an English major untainted by lunacy will still be an English major at the end. Stay clear, young people, lest you lose your mind and soul.

  3. Alex

    Holy cow Andrew – you are a political science major? How the heck do you do it? I had two semesters of that crap, and after being hit over the head with countless diatribes over the evils of capitalism, limited government, and white people, I became burned out.

    I started to debate with students in class, and after class, and I got some encouraging results, but probably nothing definitive.

    I don’t know how you do it, to be honest with you Andrew. Unless, of course, you are among those who dislike pure capitalism, and the State.

    No offense, but who do you think is going to listen to a pro-liberty poly science major?

    I feel bad for you dude.

  4. robert

    After my corrections arrived, I was fired immediately. They told me I was not ‘intellectually sophisticated’ enough for the job. To which I replied: ‘You’re right: Fuck you.’”

    I wish I could send this brave soul a Christmas card or a first edition of the collected Letters of Evelyn Waugh. She did a great service for the University of Chicago press by sending them the F-Bomb in self defense. Ilana, actually it sounds a lot like something you might say to imbeciles that you meet along the way.

    [My friend’s a kindred soul, talented too.–IM]

  5. Mari Tyers

    Ms. Mercer,
    Would it be possible to say who your novelist friend is? You have introduced me to good music groups like Dream Theatre and Kamelot, and it would be nice to discover a good novelist as well. I do understand if your friend wants to remain anonymous.

    To Alex- I have a polysci degree. I think it was a bit easier for me since I went to a conservative school where it wasn’t unheard of to adhere to small government principles, and I was not the only classical liberal. However, most people at the school were still statists with an emphasis on religion, as opposed to true classical liberalism. It was the difference between Paul and Huckabee.

    [I will ask her. I will be reviewing her next book.–IM]

  6. Andrew T.


    I’m definitely a classical liberal. I’m a second semester sophomore now, and I’ve lost a good deal of my passion for it all. Your own sincere beliefs are like so many bad jokes to your left-liberal peers. I just don’t try too hard to convince anyone especially if it ever results in grief, and remember the real reasons why I’m there in college, and I find it endurable.

    P.S. Ilana: Power/symphonic metal is among my favorite kinds of music! A good prog band like Dream Theater is also wonderful music when you’re trying to reflect or fall asleep. Kamelot is too dark and melodramatic for my taste, though. 🙂

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