Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities

John M. Ellis, Author Yale University Press $47 (270p) ISBN 978-0-300-06920-4
Sparks fly in this polemical look at the growth industry in ""race-gender-class"" theorists who threaten to reduce literature to mere tools of oppression. Ellis, professor emeritus of German literature at the UC--Santa Cruz, begins his attack by tracing the origins of political correctness philosophy to the anti-Enlightenment views of Rousseau and the dangerous ethnic tribalism Rousseau's views unwittingly abetted. The race-gender-class critics themselves come in for scathing criticism as Ellis points out their misuse of other disciplines, self-serving suspicion of evaluative criteria, overdependence on ad hominem attack and sundry other scholarly sins. Ellis scores an occasional point when demonstrating these critics' abuse of logic, the parochial narrowness of their analyses and their intemperate response to criticism. Unfortunately, the fervor of Ellis's attack just as often leads him to overstep bounds. He paints his opponents in extraordinarily broad brush strokes: Marxists, feminists, deconstructionists, new historicists, cultural studies critics are all charged with the same crime of reading their own political conclusions into literary works, regardless of what the work itself is about. Yet as trenchant as this criticism is, it's hard to ignore the fact that Ellis reduces the diversity of his opponents in the same way that they reduce the diversity of literature itself. Ellis writes clearly, concisely and powerfully, but too often simple prose spills over into simplification. Readers' Subscription selection. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/21/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-300-07579-3
Open Ebook - 268 pages - 978-0-585-37198-6
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