The Critics Bear It Away, by Frederick Crews
The undermining of traditional intellectual values in universities over the past two decades has taken its inspiration from successive waves of French and Marxist-derived theory. Most sensible observers, understandably repelled by the jargon-ridden, nihilistic, and anti-humanitarian tendencies of this imported theory, have avoided the necessary task of refuting it. Among the few to have assumed the distasteful burden in the area of literary studies are John Searle, John Ellis, David Hirsch, Richard Levin, and Frederick Crews.
In a previous collection of essays, Skeptical Engagements (1986), Crews exposed the hollow tendentiousness of, among others, Georg Lukács, Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas, Geoffrey Hartman, Stanley Fish, and Frederic Jameson. In that book Crews coined the term “Left Eclecticism,” wittily capturing the seemingly diverse array of new theory—“not just orthodox Marxist but also structuralist, deconstructionist, feminist, gay, Lacanian, Foucauldian”—all of which boiled down to a familiar political radicalism. Now in The Critics Bear It Away, largely a collection of essay-reviews, Crews pursues Left Eclecticism’s seepage into the academic study of American literature.
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