School of Resentment
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School of Resentment is a term coined by critic Harold Bloom to describe related schools of literary criticism which have gained prominence in academia since the 1970s and which Bloom contends are preoccupied with political and social activism at the expense of aesthetic values.
Broadly, Bloom terms "Schools of Resentment" approaches associated with Marxist critical theory, including African American Studies, Marxist literary criticism, New Historicist criticism, feminist criticism, and poststructuralism — specifically as promoted by Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. The School of Resentment is usually defined as scholars who wish to enlarge the Western Canon by adding more minority, political and/or female authors regardless of their writings' aesthetic merit; and/or who argue that the Canon promotes sexist, racist or otherwise biased values. Bloom contends that the School of Resentment threatens the nature of the canon and may lead to its eventual demise. Philosopher Richard Rorty agreed that Bloom is at least partly accurate in describing the School of Resentment, writing that those identified by Bloom do in fact routinely use "subversive, oppositional discourse" to attack the Canon specifically and Western culture in general.
Bloom outlines this term in his introduction to his 1994 book, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. Bloom stresses that he does not necessarily object to analysis and discussion of the social and political issues in books, but does object to college literature professors taking a greater interest in their own political motives than the aesthetics of literary worth. In his book, Bloom defends the Western Canon of literature from this "School of Resentment", which he believes wants to break down the Canon to insert inferior literary works for political purposes. Writing in The New York Times, Adam Begley writes, "Bloom isn't asking us to worship the great books. He asks instead that we prize the astonishing mystery of creative genius. 'In the end,' he told me, 'the canonical quality comes out of strangeness, comes out of the idiosyncratic, comes out of originality.'"
Similar arguments have been made by others, without necessarily using the term "School of Resentment." American philosopher Stephen Hicks, who notes that leftist academics (e.g., feminist Kate Ellis) have written extensively about post-structuralist teaching methods aimed at eroding the beliefs of young college students and replacing them with Leftist ideologies: "[R]elativistic arguments are arrayed only against the Western great books canon. If one’s deepest goals are political, one always has a major obstacle to deal with — the powerful books written by brilliant minds on the other side of the debate. [...] Deconstruction allows you to dismiss whole literary and legal traditions as built upon sexist or racist or otherwise exploitative assumptions. It provides a justification for setting them aside." American philosopher John Searle argued in 1990 that "The spread of 'poststructuralist' literary theory is perhaps the best known example of a silly but noncatastrophic phenomenon." Similarly, physicist Alan Sokal in 1997 criticized "the postmodernist/poststructuralist gibberish that is now hegemonic in some sectors of the American academy."
- Bloom, Harold (1995). The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Riverhead Books. pp. 4, 7, 20, 22, 24, 25, 29, 50, 56, 93, 292, 491, 492. ISBN 1-57322-514-2.
- The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/11/01/specials/bloom-colossus.html
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- Stephen R.C. Hicks, Ph.D. (2004) Understanding Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Scholargy Publishing, p. 190-191.
- Searle, John. (1990). "The Storm Over the University," in The New York Times Review of Books, 6 December 1990.
- Sokal, Alan. (1997) "Professor Latour's Philosophical Mystifications," originally published in French in Le Monde, 31 January 1997; translated by the author.