“Why read at all if you are not going to accept the work on its own terms? Criticism becomes nothing more than an imposition of the self upon the poet and his art. The poet does not teach us; we teach the poet, in the same way that a schoolyard bully proposes to teach the skinny kid who can’t defend himself. We ply our ‘theory’ upon a poet who cannot answer back. We dress it with pseudo-scientific language to impress the sophomores while remaining impervious to his thought and his humanity. This is called ‘critical thinking,’ quite uncritical about itself and predictable in its results, as if a living being were pressed through a grinder.”
While I agree with you that departments and centers for gender, race, and class studies would be almost impossible to reform, I am not inclined to fight them by shutting them down. One thing thing that makes Esolen’s article so effective is that it begins and ends with positive alternatives to the reductionism of “theory”, namely with images from Gilead. I say that we should boldy, consistently, and humanely show up how incomplete and defective are the views of human nature implicit in gender/race/class theory, chiefly by contrasting them with sounder, more holistic, more lived and livable views of humanity, like Robinson’s.
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