Saturday, January 19, 2008

MLAde 2007, Stanley Fish, and an Oblique Connection to that Crazy Tom Cruise Video

So a few of us somehow ended up at the Modern Language Association Convention in Chicago, where we donned disguises and distributed gurrilla-style (OK, gorilla-style: they were gorilla costumes) 1,500 copies of a parody of the Convention Guide. It's called the MLAde, and you can read it online here.

Shockingly, the only real backlash seems to have been the Horrible Food Poisoning each of us got on the second to last day. At one point we did see Stanley Fish (pictured at right) sneaking around the kitchen of the Corner Bakery, but we all just assumed that that was something doddering literary critics were allowed to do.

Stanley Fish, by the way, has recently lost his mind, as is proven by his recent NY Times columns on the Uses and Abuses of the Humanities. It seems to us that there are any number of ways (hundreds) to critique the way the humanities work, or the way literature or philosophy or history is taught, but Fish's arguments are unworthy of both his previous intellectual standards and of the reading public. Like the passage from the George Herbert poem he "analyzes" in the opening of his essay, his arguments undermine themselves on their own, so we won't waste our time doing so.

But here's a theory: the reason Dr. Fish gets to stand on the Enormous NY Times Soap Box, when there are literally dozens of more vibrant and interesting literary theorists out there, is that he confirms anti-intellectuals' (known in academia as "haters," and in Scientology as "SP's" or "Suppressive Persons") poorly formulated suspicions about the usefulness of thinking. Oh Stanley.

In the words of Tom Cruise, "I have canceled him from my area."

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