St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Friday, November 19, 2004 ::

Literary Theory Buzzword Bingo

I decided to play a little game during a recent lecture in my literary theory class. After creating an informal bingo card, I eagerly waited for class to start.

Epistemological strategies ... (wow, 30 seconds in and we've got one already) ... intertextuality ... (check!) .... western cultural hegemony ...(is there another kind other than western?) .... patriarchal oppression ...(is it possible to get through a literature lecture without this tired old motif showing up?) ... transgendered texts ... (oh, oh, one more!) ... discourses on class struggle."

Bingo! And in only ten minutes!

The problem here isn't so much with the terminology since it is, in some ways, actually quite useful. What drives me crazy is how often students use the words or phrases without having any idea what they are talking about.

For example, the most recent lecture was on "cultural studies" which is a code phrase for "Marxism rocks." It was abundantly clear during the class discussion that no one had ever read "Das Kapital", "The Communist Manifesto" or "Theory of Surplus Value" but only secondary sources on Marx or, as was painfully clear in a several instances, nothing on the subject of Marxism at all.

The fact that students in an upper-division college course can have such a lack of basic historical knowledge is one of the many travesties of modern education. As C.S. Lewis notes, students today "would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about 'isms' and influences" than the primary sources.

:: Karl :: 7:50:00 AM [Link] ::

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