The predictable appeal of racist “antiracism” cant to the world of scholarship and academia in the wake of the fraudulent George Floyd Freakout is producing amusing or frightening results, depending on one’s regard for higher education and resistance to despair.
Today’s sample of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, for example, comes from “Confronting “White Feminism” in the Victorian Literature Classroom,” recently published in the scholarly journal, “Nineteenth Century Gender Studies.” The author is University of California Professor Lana Dalley, who complains that Victorian feminists are “problematic” [There’s that word again!] because they promote “white feminism.” In other words, social commentators and writers of over a hundred years ago don’t seem to reflect the current approved woke perspective of 2021. This is, apparently, a surprise. Here’s her first paragraph, an AFG classic:
“The transition to virtual learning in Spring and Fall 2020 intersected with international protests for racial justice and, more locally, Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong’s call to “undiscipline Victorian Studies” by “interrogat[ing] and challeng[ing] our field’s marked resistance to centering racial logic” (370).(1) More specifically, they call for “illuminat[ing] how race and racial difference subtend our [Victorianists’] most cherished objects of study, our most familiar historical and theoretical frameworks, our most engrained scholarly protocols, and the very demographics of our field” (370). Since then, numerous virtual roundtables and panels have convened to discuss critical approaches to race within Victorian studies and to ponder the relevance of contemporary social justice movements to a field whose borders are historically drawn. This essay emerged from one such panel and offers practical suggestions for reframing pedagogical approaches to Victorian feminist discourses in order to “center racial logic” and “illuminate how race and racial difference subtend” those discourses.(2) Its suggestions are certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to offer one set of practices for making the Victorian literature classroom more responsive to contemporary conversations about race and gender.”
Now who can argue with that?
The rest of the paper is no better, though I admit that I only skimmed it. I have never seen the word “subtend” used once, and it is in that introductory paragraph twice. [subtend: “to be opposite to and extend from one side to the other of a hypotenuse “] I believe it is irresponsible to allow people who can’t speak or write—or think—- clearer than that to teach anything.
Later she writes that the study of Victorian feminism should be framed by modern intersectional feminism, despite the fact that the latter theory didn’t exist at the time, and that teachers should operate under an “antiracist feminist pedagogy,” opposing all Victorian ideals, as embodying “white epistemologies at their heart.” Then she “goes for the gold” in AFG, calling for a move “away from positivist historicism and towards a strategic presentism that challenges the teleological model of feminist thought: a model that suggests progression from singular to multifaceted or, in terms of this essay, from an outdated white feminism to progressive intersectional feminisms.”
Dalley’s talking about ideological indoctrination, not education. That’s pretty much all you need to know. [Pointer: College Fix]
But as Al Jolson used to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!!” [Al often performed in blackface, so I suppose even quoting him is proof or racism now. Right? Bite me.]
Heather MacDonald reports in the City-Journal that an astronomy course at Cornell University titled “Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos” posits that there is a connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness. Astronomy professor Nicholas Battaglia and comparative literature professor Parisa Vaziri use their course to attack the “conventional wisdom” by drawing on such sources as Emory University English professor Michelle Wright’s book, “The Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology,” which invokes “Newton’s laws of motion and gravity” and “theoretical particle physics” to “subvert racist assumptions about Blackness.” The Cornell course also considers music by Sun Ra and Outkast to “conjure blackness through cosmological themes.”
She concludes in part,
“The humanities and much of the social sciences have been beyond parody and beyond shame for a long time. What’s different about “Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos” is its co-listing in an actual science department. The course fulfills Cornell’s science distribution requirement, touching as it does on such concepts as the electromagnetic spectrum. It is not surprising that astronomy would be an early adopter of race theory, and that Cornell would lead the way. Many astronomy departments have been on the forefront of campus identity politics, eliminating the physics GRE as a requirement for graduate study, for example, on the ground that it has a disparate impact on female, black, and Hispanic students. Cornell’s astronomy department will not even allow prospective graduate students to submit the general GRE or the physics GRE….
“Today’s academic charlatanism consists in part in mistaking rhetoric for knowledge and words for things. This sleight of hand is particularly prevalent in matters relating to race. Hunter College professor Philip Ewell argues that the concept of tonal and harmonic hierarchies in music theory is a stand-in for pernicious racial hierarchies….
“Seeing specters of racism everywhere, the racial avengers are tearing down every institution associated with Western civilization, simply because of its “whiteness.” Science had stood as a guard against such metaphorical, magical thinking. Bit by bit, it is succumbing.“
Be afraid indeed.
17 thoughts on “More Terrifying Tales Of The Great Stupid, Academic Division”
Dear Professor Dally,
What on earth are you doing reading literature written by white English women of a hundred and fifty years ago? What possible value can the oppressive constructs of those white supremacist women have compared to the lived experience of your students of color. Shame on you. What were you thinking getting a graduate degree in your field of dead white women. You should have taken black studies. Nice try, but you’re fucked. Have a great life.
Your Intellectual and Moral Superiors.
This actually reminds me of something that I saw this morning. Disclaimer. I’ve been to OU (not the English department), and I am Facebook “friends” with one of the people mentioned in this article, so I’ve seen the very political side of this person as well.
I have had some debates on Facebook with one of the instructors mentioned, and I’m not in the least bit surprised at some of the statements. I am actually wondering whether i should just delete this person at this point because our connection on social media is a holdover from the past when I was much more liberal than I am now. The information in this article you wrote sounds exactly like what I would hear from this “friend.” This trend towards just flat out weirdness is strange to me. It feels like our universities have been taken over by some kind of bad movie.
The full video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byxl61VDYp8
I have taught courses involving a fair amount of feminist, poststructuralist, postcolonial, and deconstructive theory, and I’ve never encountered the word “subtend.” And spare me, please, from “strategic presentism,” which if I’m not mistaken translates to “if you can’t ignore the past altogether, at least distort it past the point of recognition.”
One of the most memorably bad conference papers I’ve ever heard argued that Aristophanes hadn’t really grasped the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, born over 2200 years after A’s death. I wonder why I’m thinking of that now…
I teach my last class as a full-time professor tomorrow. There are reasons I’m retiring. Yes, there are reasons.
Thank-you for reassuring me that I’m not illiterate; I was concerned.
All this is is a new form of colonialism in which their culture is deemed superior and most displace western culture.
So when they decry European colonialism point out the fact that they simply want to be dominant.
It looks like to me that intelligence in these institutions has fallen into the abyss or crossed the event horizon of a black hole. The Great Stupid is quickly approaching a Super Massive Great Stupid.
OK, Edward: should we fear or look forward to the “Great Stupid singularity”?
See the video at the beginning of the post for the answer.
We’ll I guess I’ll take a crack at it:
“The transition to virtual learning in Spring and Fall 2020 intersected with international protests for racial justice and, more locally, Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong’s call to “undiscipline Victorian Studies” by “interrogat[ing] and challeng[ing] our field’s marked resistance to centering racial logic” (370).
TRANSLATION: Three of us have figured out that if you can’t create anything of value, “deconstruct” something. Please notice us.
“More specifically, they call for “illuminat[ing] how race and racial difference subtend our [Victorianists’] most cherished objects of study, our most familiar historical and theoretical frameworks, our most engrained scholarly protocols, and the very demographics of our field”
TRANSLATION: Oh, look, there are invisible race-ghosts hiding all over our cherished field of study. It’s a good thing that we, the race-ghost-busters, happen to be in this field of study.
“Since then, numerous virtual roundtables and panels have convened to discuss critical approaches to race within Victorian studies and to ponder the relevance of contemporary social justice movements to a field whose borders are historically drawn.
TRANSLATION: We will figure out a way to squeeze ourselves into every circle on the Venn diagram of human history, even the ones that have nothing whatsoever to do with us, until everything in the universe is all about us and our issues. Don’t care how, don’t care if it makes any sense. Just keep having roundtables until it happens.
“This essay emerged from one such panel and offers practical suggestions for reframing pedagogical approaches to Victorian feminist discourses in order to “center racial logic” and “illuminate how race and racial difference subtend” those discourses.(2) Its suggestions are certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to offer one set of practices for making the Victorian literature classroom more responsive to contemporary conversations about race and gender.”
TRANSLATION: “As long as this social justice gravy train is chugging along, we may never have to do an honest day’s work again. We intend to keep riding until the wheels fall off, thanks very much. Keep rewarding us as if we were making sense and accomplishing something, or our next paper will be a letter to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion accusing you, specifically, of being a racist.
Perfect gloss. Thanks..
Sure, you may not see signs of witchcraft, but that’s only because you don’t have the benefit of our professional witch-hunter training… that, or you’re in league with the witches yourself!
Where’s the problem, Jack? If there’s one thing we should oppose it’s …marked resistance to centering racial logic…. Or should we be supporting that? …Hang on, I’ll have to get back to you.
It’s funny because you could pretend that it’s written by White Supremacists without changing many words.
This all reminds me 9f an episode of Northern Exposure when Chris (the philosophical DJ) submits a Master’s Thesis on the poem Casey at the Bat, describing it as a metaphor for the U.S industrial complex and our military adventurism. Two profs are sent to discuss it: the young one thinks it is an amazing dissection of the piece while the older one says it is BS and forces him to rethink. I doubt we will get anyone involved in these dissertations to rethink their views.
You want to “center” feminist theory – the critical study of gender… around race? I mean, you can certainly challenge viewpoints in the field that are centered on white experience, and offer more diverse viewpoints as alternatives, but the field must still be centered on gender or cease to be feminism. Similarly, mathematics must be “centered” on formal quantitative reasoning, and astronomy on the observation of celestial bodies, because that’s what those words mean.
I can’t wait for either the movies or the broadway productions?
Yeah, you may be right that this Authentic Frontier Gibberish but, c’mon, man! There were 18 – yeah, that’s right: 18! – authors/contributors. I am certain each letter had to be put to a vote and a majority vote determined the placement of letters. There is a weighted voting system, too, where more BiPOC elements get more votes. Content and coherence are merely Western European White Christian Male examples of misogynist patriarchy.