Friday, August 31, 2007

The scholar's art

Its subtitle is "Literary Studies in a Managed World." I'd known McGann for his wonderful edition of Byron, among other achievements, but this book has just snuck up on me. I'm glad it did. Here's a sample from the introduction:

In this brutal and sanctimonious age, where so many are schooled in violence, where propaganda and the management of thought are public policy, and where culture wars mirror a broad social and political condition, the scholar's art may be usefully recalled. May be recalled by scholars themselves, as well as by a public at large. It is a worthy mission to seek the preservation of our cultural memory.... We save all these things as perfectly as we can because we never know when they will be needful, or how.

Crafty use of that word, "needful."

Anyway, much to agree and argue with here. I adore his saying that "the scholar's vocation is to preserve and pass on our cultural heritage" - that the "conversations" we have in our education about it "are important because they help us remember how we came to be who we are" (and presumably also inform us with regard to who and what we may come to be). There's a very fine essay in the book, "Loose Canons," [yadda yadda, Warden], marred only, in my view, by comparing Kathy Acker's "ultimate state of loathing" to Blake's, which strikes me as more perverse than he intends. No knock on Acker, this just seems a stretch. Then again, McGann is expansive, so why not?

There are other essays about such characters as Laura Riding and Sir Walter Scott, things like Beauty with a capital B, and there's even one on the importance of being John Cowper Powys.

Fun for bookish me, and who knows, maybe you too. You being Chris Bock and Marty, 'cos I don't think anyone else is checking in at the moment.
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Family Tree

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