Essay

Cultural Cholesterol [flash fiction]

Criticism. How do you receive criticism? What is it about the critique of literature that differs from your parents criticism? Is it really as different as we would like to say, at least those of us in the Academy (or should that be Academies, yes, those of us in the Academies of Higher Learning [is that what we do at University?])? Questions beget questions, I used to say, and herein now it is no different.

But let me say that Susan Sontag was correct in her diary entry–how long ago, now? Decades ago? Yes! Correct was she when she said that most literary criticism is “cultural cholesterol.” Cultural cholesterol. Oh yes! Fabulous, no?

She said that criticism was a “reactive indignation,” meaning? Yes, most critique is only reactive. Yes, of course, we have come to say, some of us, at least, that is we who are still concerned for literature, the literary . . . who does not know that literature is a branch of Epistemology? Where was this going?

Ah! As she said, “Most notions about literature are reactive — in the hands of lesser talents, merely reactive”; and as I add, “especially Post Structuralist critique.” The latter was born of a seething resentment of everything literary by those who loathe anything related to what too many, in their minds, have called Western Civilization. Yes, that mouthful is worth the chew. Hard to swallow?

Something like Deconstruction becomes a dog whistle for those who feel they can no longer be a part of a tradition that they imagine would have marginalized them if they had not rested intellectual and academic hegemony from the previous bearers of a tradition all Post-Structuralists then had to lambast as fake, or so the individual psychologies go into the mentality that has bred a hatred of literature, a hatred of the literary, a dismantling of all that has ever gone into literacy, being literate; thus creating systems of under-education–entrenched at all levels as it is, leaving paths clear for Power to become even more Powerful and Money even more monied, each trading in the other with the other . . .

We have become like the fool who chases the devil in the forrest of Truth and Law and cuts down all the trees of Law and Truth to get at Him, the Devil, only to find that the devil turns to face this fool who no longer has a stick of Truth or Law between him and the devil.

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