Daily Archives: August 18, 2010

Kermode, Frye, the French, and British Criticism

kermode

An excerpt from Imre Salusinszky’s interview with the late Frank Kermode in Criticism in Society:

IS: Why was Frye, as well as the subsequent theoretical modes that have originated in America and France, rejected by British critics?  Why are they so resistant to theoretical criticism?

FK: I think they’ve probably been less resistant than that formulation suggests.  There are people like Stephen Heath in Cambridge, for example, who in his own individual way has followed the French line.  Culler is not British, but is a product of the British academy.  At Cambridge, in my time, there was a great hunger among undergraduates for more of that kind of thing — that’s why Heath’s were enormously popular courses.  On the other hand, there was bitter opposition to it.  The animus against theory is very strong in English departments in England, especially among the older teachers.  Cambridge, of course, is exceptionally hostile to any kind of thought at all, as far as the English faculty is concerned.  There’s always this feeling you get among certain sorts of English critics that all this French nonsense is something which you can blow over with one good “huff.”  People like George Watson think that, just as they can demolish Marxism in a twenty-page article, they think they can demolish the entire French critical effort with an obvious exercise of common sense. (105)

Woodstock, Day 4

Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Child”

Monday, August 19, 1969: Among those who played Woodstock that four day weekend were Janis Joplin, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, and the very unhippie show-stoppers, Sly and the Family StoneJimi Hendrix closed out the concert — to a very small audience because almost everybody else had already gone home.  His performance therefore was sort of like Woodstock’s Woodstock: more people claim they were there than actually were there.  (The one person I know who did go to Woodstock sorrowfully admits that she, like many others, left Sunday afternoon to be home for Monday and so missed this celebrated performance.)

Despite hippiedom’s self-declared ethos of revolution, Frye didn’t see it that way:

The conception of “participatory democracy,” which requires a thorough decentralization, is also anarchist in context.  In some respects this fact represents a political picture almost the reverse of that of the previous generation.  For today’s radical the chief objects of loyalty during the thirties, trade unions and the revolutionary directives of Moscow, have become reactionary social forces, whereas some radical movements, such as the Black Panthers, which appear to have committed themselves both to violence and to racism, seem to descend from fascism, which also had anarchist affinities.  Similarly, anarchism does not seek to create a “working class”: much of its dynamic comes from a bourgeois disillusionment with an overproductive society, and some types of radical protest, like those of the hippies, are essentially protests against the work ethic itself. (“The University and Personal Life,” Spiritus Mundi, 29)

Hendrix’ iconic rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” after the jump.

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