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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: June 11, 2021 01:53PM

“The means to destroy canons, as Kermode indicates, are very much at hand, and the process is now quite advanced. I am not concerned, as this book repeatedly makes clear, with the current debate between the right-wing defenders of the Canon, who wish to preserve it for its supposed (and nonexistent) moral values, and the academic-journalistic network I have dubbed the School of Resentment, who wish to overthrow the Canon in order to advance their supposed (and nonexistent) programs for social change. I hope that the book does not turn out to be an elegy for the Western Canon, and that perhaps at some point there will be a reversal, and the rabblement of lemmings will cease to hurl themselves off the cliffs. In the concluding catalog of canonical authors, particularly of our century, I have ventured a modest prophecy as to survival possibilities.”

—Harold Bloom—
—The Western Canon [1994]—



Salvati, you often decry the idea of post-modernism. I read a neat, short gloss of the history of how this affected the study of literature. I thought you might find it interesting.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2021/06/truth-reading-decadence

Snippet:

“Literature had become a booster rocket, at best, one that you jettison when you reach the orbit of political relevance. The institutional effects are plain to see at this late date. Fifty years ago, a university couldn’t call itself “Tier One” unless it had a renowned English department. No more: Abysmal enrollment numbers in the humanities at such universities prove the irrelevance of literary study. My colleagues around the country bemoan the decline, but they blame the wrong things. English did not fall because a bunch of conservatives trashed the humanities as a den of political correctness. It didn’t fall because it lost funding or because business leaders promoted STEM fields. It fell because the dominant schools of thought stopped speaking about the truth of literature…. Students stopped caring about literature because the professors stopped believing in its promises of revelation and delight.”

Cheers,

Human

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 01:37PM

Let's start with some working definitions. Consider the following quotation:

"Philosophical Postmodernism. Deconstruction arose as an extension of a theory in literature called "structuralism."
Structuralists argue that language is a social construct and that people develop literary documents -- texts -- in an attempt to provide structures of meaning that will help them make sense out of the meaningless of their experience. Structuralists maintain that literature provides categories that help us to organize and understand our experience of reality. They also contend that all societies and cultures possess a common, invariant structure."

"The deconstructionists . . . reject this last tenet of structuralism. Meaning is not inherent in a text itself, they argue, but emerges only as the interpreter enters into dialogue with the text. And because the meaning of a text is dependent on the perspective of the one who enters into dialogue with it, it has as many meanings as it has readers."

(From Stanley J. Granz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p. 5-6)

So, post-modernism starts with deconstruction as it relates to *literature.* From that starting point it expanded into all of the humanities, and eventually into the social sciences; all of academics, and finally the hard sciences. Grenz (above) draws the following radical conclusion:

"[P]ostmodernism defies definitive description. Whatever else it may be, however, it involves a radical rejection of the modern intellectual outlook. it is a revolution in knowledge. More specifically, the postmodern era spells the end of the "universe" --the end of the all-encompassing worldview.
In a sense, postmoderns have no worldview. A denial of the reality of a unified world as the object of our perception is a the heart of postmodernism. Postmoderns reject the possibility of constructing a single correct worldview and are content simply to speak of many views and, by extension, many worlds.
By replacing the modern worldview with a multiplicity of views and worlds, the postmodern era has in effect replaced knowledge with interpretation." (Ibid. p. 40)

Okay, with that background, here are my comments:

(1) I have no problem with postmodernism as applied to literature--even if it has ruined English departments. I am not an expert on this, but it seems to me that removing strictly objective, structuralist, interpretations in literature, in favor of a multitude of subjective interpretations, places higher value on both the literature itself and the interpreter. First, it expresses the power of language to connect with the human spirit and draw life meaning in subjective, personal ways, removed from the demands of the constraints of structuralism. Second, it emphasizes a value of literature to the individual that transcends rigid categories, meanings and interpretations. I am ready to go so far as to say that literature can inspire (subjectively) the acquisition of objective truth! Finally, postmodernism in this context just seems right to me.

(2) Notwithstanding, when postmodernism extends into science, where objectivity is fundamental; and where language use is ideally precise; and where the objectivity of the external world must be assumed, all hell breaks loose, as exemplified by the second quote above. It not only destroys science as a practice, but it destroys objectivity in the formulation of personal worldviews; i.e. there are no "facts of the matter" from which to draw upon to formulate such worldviews.

(3) I admit that the objectivity of the external world has been called into question by science itself through quantum mechanics, which one might argue supports a postmodernist view of science. Notwithstanding, the patterns of human experience as revealed by science demonstrates an objective "external" world at least with respect to human experience. And technology has demonstrated repeatedly that science in fact does support a strong assumption of such an objective external world.

In short, if postmodernism insists on destroying structuralism in literature, fine; but don't try to level the playing field by destroying objectivity in science. Take your medicine, and suffer privately. But, as I said, it seems to me that both the writers and readers of literature are the better for it.

Finally, I look forward to your response to all of this; especially since your knowledge of literature far exceeds my own. It is not quite fair to through all of this out there without expressing your own opinion. Like Jim Rome used to say to his callers on talk radio: "Don't must show up; have a take." Good advice to RfM participants generally, in my view.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 09:24AM

I don’t agree at all with your idea that RfMers are obligated to respond to posts addressed to them. All of us read and write what we can when we can. I mean no disrespect etc if I don’t respond to you or anyone. It’s simply a time crunch, and the internet is a big place. I see maybe a thread or three a day, and I don’t often revisit my own posts. I occasionally write something here and move on. I’m a peripheral character here, at best.

Speaking of which, my morning coffee with the “newspapers” is over. Gotta move on. I promise you that I’ll respond this weekend, because you have specifically asked for it.

Cheers, bud.

Human

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: June 20, 2021 08:01AM

Morning, G!

On my way to the track to run some intervals. Hopefully after that and breakfast and probably a short nap, we’ll see if I can put something together worthy enough for you to chew on. I have my doubts. You need cede nothing to me in this regard, surely.

Human, topping so I can find it later

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 01:49PM

This should really be read with one hand tied to a bedpost.

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Posted by: Roy G Biv ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 02:37PM

I'm only replying to let you know I'm not replying.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 03:15PM

Many of us are impressed with how well you type with one hand.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 03:59PM

From the article.

"One had to presuppose something, the Derrideans admitted, or else one could not say anything."


and...

"In this theory of reading, self-reflexivity would never stop. Interpretation must go on!"

I feel like I need to stop. Thanks for not replying.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 03:09PM

Reading is fun; thinking is work.

"I Reddit on Tik-Tok!"

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Posted by: Roy G Biv ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 03:41PM

An honest days work may take days too.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 03:56PM

You can take that extra apostrophe from otowndrone in the Rusty Dusty Crusty thread. :)

And +1 to Elder Berry. I have completely given up on trying to keep up with literary criticism. I, like the vast majority of the rest of the world, have voted with my metaphorical feet and walked away.

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Posted by: Roy G Biv ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 04:21PM

I keep my apostrophe on the shelf next to my little league trophy.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 04:15PM

50 years ago, a high school graduate could buy a house and raise a family on one income. In that world, you could afford to get a degree in English.

This lament of deconstructionism seems to be on topic. Mormonism was a kind of reinterpretation of Christianity. Even though it deviated from canon, it wasn’t wrong. In the sense that all flavors in the Baskin Robins (or Ben and Jerry’s) are good to someone. Joseph Smith wasn’t crazy, he was just ahead of the curve. Religion is a subjective experience. It doesn’t need (much) structure, which is the great failure of modern Mormonism compared to the early church. They evolved into constructionists, which is the opposite of the problem that deconstruction poses to science. Bringing objectivism into religion is a huge mind screw.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/17/2021 04:18PM by babyloncansuckit.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 04:44PM

babyloncansuckit Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 50 years ago, a high school graduate could buy a
> house and raise a family on one income. In that
> world, you could afford to get a degree in
> English.

To dream the impossible dream ~ Sung by The Man from La Mancha

> Bringing objectivism into religion is
> a huge mind screw.

To dream the impossible dream ~ Sung by The Temple Square Choir

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Posted by: dogbloggernli ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 05:12PM

I graduated in English in 1989. Bought a house on my income alone in 1993.

There are profitable paths for an English degree even today.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: June 17, 2021 05:14PM

How "Old Fashion."

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 09:55AM

Such as? I'm genuinely curious.

A friend of mine back in the 80s worked for a publishing company in NYC. Later she worked for a literary agent in California.

My niece has a bachelor's and master's degree in English from a highly respected university. She wrote a little bit for a newspaper for a while, but hasn't done anything with her degree since. She changed fields altogether.

I have an undergraduate degree in studio art. I know of some people who put their art degrees to work by becoming practicing artists, teachers at the college level, or they manage art galleries. I never did -- I went into an adjacent field for a period of time, but lacked the specific training needed to further my career (I suppose I could have invested in it, but I saw certain limitations in the field for which I felt I was not best suited.)

My experience is that if you major in one of the softer, liberal arts disciplines, you have to have a lot of hustle to make a career for yourself.

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Posted by: dogbloggernli ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 11:24AM

There is a good demand for technical writing. If you can get into the hightech hardware and software industry wages are quite good. If you can work for the military industries, even higher $ because the mil-spec standards are a career in themselves.

I've done internet security and redundacy infrastructure, software manuals, help systems, web sites, military simulation systems, computer chip lithography, high tolerance CNC machining software and tools in 2.5D, 3D and lathe. I've done only a little mil-spec work for navy radar and navigation systems.

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Posted by: dogbloggernli ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 11:32AM

As a consultant, various banking jobs, telephony in the early days of VOIP, warehouse automation, gene sequencing hardware, an internet search startup of Steve Young-it failed, cable TV software, Field Programmable Gate Array stuff. Wrote for Novell's network engineer magazine back in the day.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 06:53PM

Very cool. When I was working in the interior decorating industry, I was trained to write mill work orders for custom products in which very precise verbiage, with words in a certain order, was required. I was good at that and enjoyed it. A mistake might have cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: June 20, 2021 08:33AM

I’ve heard of companies hiring English majors to write software. Writing code that people can actually read is an art form.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 09:58AM

>>50 years ago, a high school graduate could buy a house and raise a family on one income. In that world, you could afford to get a degree in English.

There was a time when a college degree (in anything) set you apart. Now an undergraduate liberal arts college degree seems little better than a high school diploma. You are just one of a crowd. A lot of times it is just seen as a jumping-off point for grad school.

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Posted by: G. Salviati ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 06:01PM

In order to put this thread in RfM context, consider the following additional comments:

The Book of Mormon can be adjudged from (at least) three perspectives: (1) History; (2) Science; and (3) Literature. We can dismiss the BoM quickly and easily through a consideration of (1) and (2); since it is clearly NOT history; and the miracles claimed in the book, e.g. the lighting of the Jaredite barges, are unscientific. However, what about the BoM as literature? Here, if one takes a traditional structuralist view, a host of criteria might be invoked that paints the BoM as poor quality from a literary point of view. (There are many such criticisms out there, but such is well beyond my paygrade.) However, if one takes a postmodernist view, no such criticism can be offered because meaning and interpretation (i.e. value) of the BoM (or any other text) can only be found from the relation between the reader and the object, i.e. the book itself. Thus, the above cited quote:

"The deconstructionists . . . reject this last tenet of structuralism. Meaning is not inherent in a text itself, they argue, but emerges only as the interpreter enters into dialogue with the text. And because the meaning of a text is dependent on the perspective of the one who enters into dialogue with it, it has as many meanings as it has readers."

In short, if a text has as many interpretations and meanings as it has readers, the value of the book becomes entirely relative to those readers! Thus, suppose your TBM friend or relative states:

"I don't care if The Book of Mormon is true history, or true science. It is a wonderful book; it has provided me with great inspiration, insight, and meaning; and has lead me to a deeper understanding of life and God; including the revelation that God exists, and that the Mormon Church is true."

Now, as a (hardcore) postmodernist, you have nothing to say about such a comment--even the last phrase, because for you truth itself is relative. However, as a objective "structuralist" critic, and anti-postmodernist, you might challenge everything that your friend said; perhaps as follows:

"I don't care what you might think about the BoM, or what you think you gained by it; the book is false historically and scientifically, and as literature it is complete garbage, Most importantly, propositions are true or false; and there is no inference that can be made from anything stated in the BoM to a conclusion that Mormonism is "true" in any objective sense of that word."

O.K. So given the above, what about my initial responsive statement above:

"I have no problem with postmodernism as applied to literature . . . [I]t seems to me that removing strictly objective, structuralist, interpretations in literature, in favor of a multitude of subjective interpretations, places higher value on both the literature itself and the interpreter. First, it expresses the power of language to connect with the human spirit and draw life meaning in subjective, personal ways, removed from the demands of the constraints of structuralism. Second, it emphasizes a value of literature to the individual that transcends rigid categories, meanings and interpretations. I am ready to go so far as to say that literature can inspire (subjectively) the acquisition of objective truth!"

In other words, personally I am willing to pay the price of postmodernism as applied to literary and religious texts, and allow my (or your) TBM friend to claim *personal* inspiration and insight from the BoM (or the Bible). And to the extent that the BoM *does* provide inspiration to some people, I am willing to acknowledge that it has literary merit. But that is where my acquiescence to postmodernism abruptly ends.

Unlike hardcore postmodernists, I am not willing to extend this postmodernist license to science or "truth." For me, "Truth" represents "facts of the matter" as applied to the external world. However inspirational someone might find the BoM, it does not follow that the book itself is in *any* sense "true" or that Mormonism is in any sense "true," which truth can and must be objectively determined through facts and evidence.

One of the problems with hardcore postmodernism (as applied to the hard sciences; the social sciences; culture, morality, etc., is that once you have abandoned objective truth, there is nothing left to ground (or assess) ANY worldview that seeks to correlate one's beliefs with facts.

O.K. Hopefully that unties the hand from the bedpost. :)

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: June 18, 2021 06:25PM

G. Salviati Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One of the problems with hardcore postmodernism
> (as applied to the hard sciences; the social
> sciences; culture, morality, etc., is that once
> you have abandoned objective truth, there is
> nothing left to ground (or assess) ANY worldview
> that seeks to correlate one's beliefs with facts.
>
> O.K. Hopefully that unties the hand from the
> bedpost. :)

It does.

But turns the bed into something of a rabbit hole controlled by the bed knobs.

https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Bedknob

Presupposition of objective truth based upon facts while enlightening in my opinion just avoids Derridean demons.

"One had to presuppose something, the Derrideans admitted, or else one could not say anything."

Kant's cringe, DesCartes has me seeing double.

"And to the extent that the BoM *does* provide inspiration to some people, I am willing to acknowledge that it has literary merit."

What is inspiration factually, objectively, substantially?

A worldview of correctly (I assume objectively) correlated beliefs with facts?

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: June 20, 2021 08:47AM

To play Devil’s advocate, are you suggesting D&C 1:16 was right?

“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.”

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