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Archive for April 1st, 2005

The Valve / ALSC / Bradley Foundation

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Looks as though John Holbo of Crooked Timber and John and Belle fame has got himself a group lit blog set up. The more the merrier, I guess, though he’s starting to resemble the Nick Denton of the academic bsphere.

Anyway, what’s kind of interesting about this new site is that it seems to be sponsored by the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which was devised as a kind of anti-MLA devoted to ridding lit departments of their classracegenderism and deconstructive tendencies. The mottos and manifestos on the website demonstrate the same Frank Luntz-ish spin that you’d find on the sites of, say, the such organizations as the Independent Women’s Forum

Here’s their Mission statement.

The purpose of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics is to foster appreciation of the literary imagination, promote the value
of literary study, and encourage the development of a shared literary
culture. The Association holds to broad conceptions of literature rather than to highly specialized ones or ones that see literature simply as a means to other ends. It serves as a forum for anyone with a serious scholarly or critical interest in literature, and it welcomes both classicists  and modernists, independent and academic literary critics, as well as
creative writers and publishers.

Keywords in this passage: "imagination," "shared literary culture," "highly specialized," "means to other ends," "serious," "classicists and modernists."

(I especially love the last one…)

There’s an even more interesting Short History of the ALSC on the site, which contains all the symptomatic crossing of frustration with diversity mandates in the "real world’ and resentment of a emergent approaches to literature that you might expect. Here’s an interesting one. (Norman Fruman writing here:)

I first began to think seriously about the need for alternative organizations
when the Bernard Baruch branch of the City University of New York was
threatened with loss of accreditationbecause its student body and faculty were judged insufficiently diverse by an accreditation committee.I had
been a part-time instructor at Baruch for three years while pursuing a Ph.D. at New York University, and I knew that both its student body and faculty had always been among the most diverse anywhere, and especially
     since "open enrollment" arrived in the early 1970’s.      

Steve Balch,the presidentof the National Association of Scholars, was saying publicly that the time had come for academics to form alternative accreditation committees to provide a countervailing power to those in
place, which were laws unto themselves and increasingly oppressive.Reform of existing institutions from within was a visionary hope and would in any case take years to achieve.      

Professor Ellis and I met for the first time about a year after I had  glowingly reviewed his Against Deconstruction (always the basis
of a warm friendship). We shared similar anxieties about the gloomy state
of literary studies, as well as the growing menace political correctness
posed to free speech and academic freedom. Clearly, a new literary society was needed, one whose primary focus would be on literature as literature  and not as something else (surely the basic principle of the New Criticism),
an organization that would provide those who had not lost faith in the unique value of literature with a sense of solidarity, mutual support,
and a forum to exchange ideas and research results.

Strange slippage from the diversity of the student body to the "gloomy state of literary studies," blurring the widening of the canon into the chromatic scale of the student body, and the demand to darken it. Nice to see this from a group ostensibly out to drain the politics out of English departments…

And, by the way, according to Fruman’s short history, the ALSC got it’s start up money from The Bradley Foundation, a right wing outfit that is, according to their website,

devoted to strengthening
American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and
values that sustain and nurture it. Its programs support limited,
competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual,
and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense at home and abroad of
American ideas and institutions. In addition, recognizing that
responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and
informed public opinion, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and
academic achievement.

Hope Holbo and the others are confortable with getting their start-up money from an organization that got its start-up money from a Foundation that gave it’s annual awards last year to Heather MacDonald, Ward Connerly, Robert George, and George Freakin Will. Lately, they’ve been mostly up to funding the school privatization, I mean choice, stuff that’s been going on in Wisconsin…

Just important, I think, to know what company you’re keeping, who’s paying the bills…

Anyone interested now in this?

      

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April 1, 2005 at 1:11 am

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