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Professor's Spoof of Academic Theorists

May 30, 1996

* The ineffable professor Ruth Rosen has things upside down (and inside out), as usual ("A Physics Prof Drops a Bomb on Faux Left," Column Left, May 23), when she writes that the "cadre of Academic Emperors . . . claimed that their scholarship . . . constitute[s] a radical political movement and that they [are] the true theorists of the 'academic left.' "

The case is rather that those termed "cultural theorists" and whom she thinks are exposed as jargon-ridden fools and charlatans are mostly folks of her own ilk. Indeed they are the true heirs of Rosen's "self-described progressive and feminist" left. And who are they? None other than the radicals of yore who, having found themselves adrift on the sea of history when their Marxist ship sank after 1953 (although it had been torpedoed by Stalin in 1936), swam about like drowning rats until they found some wreckage still afloat: the so-called literary theory to which they have for over a quarter-century clung desperately.

Poor Rosen is miserable at finding that these "theorists" rule the Raft of the Medusa. She prefers to hope that there is a yet "progressive left" that may "survive and be credible," one that can "withstand the glare of public scrutiny and be worthy of people's respect." She is mistaken: All these would-be emperors are naked, and doomed to wither from exposure to the light of ridicule.

JASCHA KESSLER

Professor of English

and Modern Literature, UCLA

* I almost fell off my chair laughing after reading Rosen. She and Alan Sokal show how conservative right-wing intellectuals have been deceived, manipulated and intimidated by a fictitious all-powerful "left."

MAX W. STRAUSS

Los Angeles

* Three cheers for Sokal for furthering the fine art of gibberish in the social sciences. I too was a practitioner of the same art form during my 34 years of teaching with LAUSD. Each teacher is evaluated every two years through a process called the Stull Bill. (One of our former principals referred to it as the "Still Bull.") When being "Stulled" one had to fill out a form describing one's teaching objectives, how one was to achieve them and how they would be evaluated.

Most teachers greeted their Stull with dread. I had fun with mine. I decided to fill my Stull form with the pedagogical bafflegab of educational sociologists. Instead of students I had "academic information acquisition personnel," my books were "bound volumes of cellulose material imprinted with tinctured fluid," and rather than tests I had "evaluation experiences." I achieved my objectives through "established, interdisciplinary, multidimensional modal- ities."

Once, a directive from the board contained the term "site situation." From then on, each of my Stulls contained the fact that my "educational dissemination activities" (teaching) took place within the context of a "site situation" (classroom). Needless to say, every year my Stull form received the highest possible rating.

ARTHUR BENVENISTE

Venice

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