Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Case for Anti-Intellectualism

From yesterday's Guardian letters:

As an American academic, educated at what is probably the top research institution in the world, Harvard University, I beg to differ on Arnaud Chevalier's glib assessment of French v British universities (French employment crisis, April 8).

While the facilities may indeed be "grotty", and the salaries are, perhaps, lower, it is 20th-century French thought - in literature, philosophy, sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis, architecture, and many other fields - that is globally influential. Nothing produced in Britain even comes close. British universities may be producing a well-trained and smoothly-tailored upper class, but it is in France, still, that the most important theoretical advances are being made in the liberal arts. British cultural and literary studies is a thin regurgitation of French and German original thought.

At Harvard, when Oxbridge graduates came, as they did, for advanced degrees, they often fell laughably short of Harvard standards. Narrowly trained in one field, the Oxbridge degree does not appear to produce either the dynamic originality of American thought or the intellectual richness of the French, who seem to understand that the best thinkers are those who reject the majority of what they've been taught in school (Foucault, Derrida, Bataille, Baudrillard, Lacan, Le Corbusier, to name a few).

France has been the major cultural force in modern Europe. My apologies to Oxbridge, where conceptual advances seem less important than old school ties and reinforcing class distinctions. We Americans know that we have jazz, Walt Whitman and Faulkner, but France has everything else.

Dr Annie Seaton
Harvard University

From what I can tell, written without a trace of irony. A list of spoofers, every one. Where's the fieldwork, where are the empirical data, where's the verification and testability? This is tantamount to a cast list from Aristophanes. Either you go and find out what the world is like, or you sit on your fat arse all day and speculate as to what it might be like.

Or else, of course, you channel (I almost wrote "sublimate") your rage and despair into blogging.

Angry of Tunbridge Wells

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