Another look at the popinjay

Last week a reader named Drew took thoughtful exception to my “wanton Hitchens bashing,” saying:

Politically he’s now off the deep end but he still cares more about print culture than any English dept faculty I’ve ever had anything to do with.

Unacknowledged Legislation would be worth it for the Orwell essay and the I. Berlin essay by themselves.

And that NYTBR piece was really pretty good…theory is pretty high on the list of culprits when it comes to people being driven screaming from good books, not to mention bad books being enshrined as good books.

The final statement is a bit much in these happy humanist hunting times (as a reader of Orwell like Hitchens should appreciate — that said, it should also be remembered that Winston’s ministry was modeled on the BBC), but the piece itself, come on, it has all the hallmarks of a good blog, a genre Hitchens isn’t quite at home in, but is near enough a model for. The pamphleteer and polemicist of our time being a natural forefather of the blogs.

Other critics who’ve denounced theory’s influence on literature in recent years include James Wood (in a provocative LRB essay, “The Slightest Sardine“) and Andrew Delbanco (“The Rise and Fall of Literature“). Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ report from an MLA Conference is also worth reading, if you haven’t had the pleasure.


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