Some reasons for you all:
In the academic context, scholars of literature must pretend their work provides “scientific” results. Since this demand makes little sense in their field, they develop quasi-scientific jargon. The results are evident in the “poetics” of criticism: obscure slang, a deliberately inelegant academic style that seems designed to frighten the reader, a maze of footnotes where simple paraphrasing would suffice, and so on. This need for academic self-justification has not benefited literary studies. The justification of oneself to others, as opposed to the justification of oneself to oneself, tends to become a rather hypocritical business.
When I read theorists using mathematics to describe things (i.e. Lacanian psychoanalysis) I started to tip my head. Whaaaaat? Why? Completely unnecessary, continually pompous and increasingly confusing. And let’s not even TALK about how bullshit-tastic psychoanalysis is. Irrelevant to the modern Psychology department, but used like a tinker toy by the English department because of how well it fits into any text to be used. Most teachers I have had an English class with have rolled their eyes when teaching the required material on Freud and his sexism and personal psychological hangups that conglomerated into a theory we can fuck around with in five page papers on the “phallic symbol” in Rear Window (gag).
Maybe it reflected the quasi-sacredness of literature, the immense respect people paid to it. In any case, every professional critic once in a while feels that criticism is a manipulative business. Every critic has a poem that she loves too much to treat as an object of criticism – a lyric that is silently recited but not related to anything.
The beauty of much literature is in its unexplainable qualities which become promptly ruined by the plights of jargon and theory. If I were forced to analyze Anne of Green Gables or Dharma Bums or my favorite movies I feel I shall keel over and die a literary death, a book shoved between my eyes like a blade.
The pressure of modernization on literary studies has brought about a specific mindset that Vincent Descombes has described using the psychiatric concept of “cyclothymic oscillation”, or the alternation between states of agitation and depression. Literary studies has always been accompanied by serious self-doubts; but in its recent history, it has experienced at least one period of euphoria, which still radiates to many fields. I mean the proliferation of literary studies in the United States in the 1980s. During that decade, a cluster of programmes emerged often known as postmodernism, which, to use Mark Lilla’s description, is a loosely structured constellation of ephemeral disciplines such as cultural studies, feminist studies, gay and lesbian studies, science studies, and post-colonial theory. “Academic postmodernism is nothing if not syncretic, which makes it difficult to understand or even describe. It borrows notions freely from the works of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Julia Kristeva – and as if that were not enough, also seeks inspiration from Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and other figures of the German Frankfurt School. Given the impossibility of imposing any logical order on ideas as dissimilar as these, postmodernism is long on attitude and short on argument. What appears to hold it together is the conviction that promoting these very different thinkers somehow contributes to a shared emancipatory end, one which remains conveniently ill-defined.”
This is not to imply that there must be a sweeping, over arching theme to a million different voices and their coinciding theories. That is as ridiculous as labeling a generation. “Beat Generation” is too much, generation should be altered to “A large number of people” as it discounts and discredits other voices. How stupid that we should all have to be “postmodern.” My problem is that I fail to see the point just as this writer does as well. May we all weep with joy over our intellectual superiority, our niche of jargon-dense essays that speak to no one but ourselves, that we parade around with pseudo-scientific language to puff our esteem up on par with those that actually do something, the sciences! To write critical essays about a piece of literature that only stands as applicable within its own confines seems ridiculous to me, and I may get some flack for this opinion, but I have it nonetheless. Why must we dress this up? Can we not admit that we just like literature, that we like thinking about it critically for its own sake of enjoyment, do we have to dress it up as a science to prove to ourselves its importance? That is NOT to say that a major in English isn’t good prep work for things outside of academia, but the parade of academia itself is so vulgarly, self-righteously entrenched in its own justification, its own hype, that I cannot fathom understanding its appeal as an end in itself. Any essays I have written I have done the required analytical bullshit (frankly) and then continued on to use it to explicate a philosophical concept, because philosophy IS about the world. It concerns itself with reality. If I fail to do so I feel cheep and filthy for giving in to the academic hype of pointless meandering theories that only are relevant between the front and back cover of the book.
P.S. I adore theory that pertains to reality. Philosophy, Valerie Steele, Baudrillard, etc. I love you all so very much.