My Not So Meaningful Analyses

Is there a point to cultural studies aside from dissention?  In An Introduction to Fiction, cultural studies is described as an “outspokenly antidisciplinary practice”—so, I’m wondering how one is supposed to actually practice an approach to analyzing texts that is founded upon anti-criticism.

Mark Bauerlein asks if cultural studies provides any evaluative standards to serve as a framework for studying individual texts.  He doesn’t answer his own question and goes on to say that “if there is no clear methodological procedures or evaluative principles in cultural studies, it is hard to see how one might popularize it, teach it, make it into a recognized scholarly activity.”  Because there is a blatant absence (intentionally so) of guidelines to be applied, how is any individual anticriticism a valid product in the literary studies world?  It would seem that one putting into operation the cultural studies routine achieves little more than promotion of his own bias.

Because cultural studies seeks to “blue disciplinary boundaries and frustrate the intellectual investments that go along with them,” I think the individual analyzing the text seriously displaces and sort of obscures his credibility.  Without conventions or adherence to any real structure, the anticritic lacks the anticipated evidence that should coincide with criticism.  Bauerlein insists “A single approach will miss too much, will overlook important aspects of culture not perceptible to that particular angle of vision.”  My contention is this:  don’t we presently have a school of thought that seeks to elicit an array of responses while rejecting one, single accepted critique?  It’s called reader-response criticism.

Additionally, we have the postconstructuralist cultural critique, which strives to criticize texts according to various socialist, leftist constructs.  If one was asked to evaluate Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron utilizing the cultural studies theory (also, likely a limiting term), how would he effectively dissect the social disaster that is that story without implementing a single method.  As radical as the postconstructuralist methodology appears, I can at least see the standards to which one refers in evaluating a text.

Since cultural studies “spans culture at large, not this or that institutionally separated element of culture,” a cultural critic can’t wholly evaluate anything.  Hoe does a cultural critic examine material and offer comprehensive reasoning and insight when his entire approach looks to “pick up an insight here and a piece of knowledge there.”  I wouldn’t put any stock into the reliability of a cultural studies anticritic.  The cultural studies nature of zero-specificity implies (for me) zero validity, as well.

I don’t think a criticism should focus on openness, as much as it should emphasize meaningful analyses.  The fact that people denounce the term criticis, up front, should generate a warning—if a label intrudes upon their ability to produce an authentic response, should we assume they will be unable to extrapolate pieces from a text without finding offense in any given word; thus, basing an entire anticriticism on the cultural deception of that given word.  Or, maybe I’m a sheep like everyone else.  I welcome establishment.


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