Tuesday, November 12, 2013


'Data mining' – the computational extraction of meaningful information from large data sets – includes a technique wherein you count how many times a word appears in a book or a set of books.  From it we learn that 19th-century American authors mentioned 'Europe' more than we realized; so, critics can reposition these writers as a part of a cosmopolitan discourse. But, as Stanley Fish asked, what if the word 'Europe' comes after the words 'never been to'? Such scientific readings ignore literature's actual wonderful stories and meanings. We must act to stop it.
There are other ways literary academics have perverted our reading. Academics frequently look at a work's relationship to colonialism. Thus, Shakespeare's The Tempest is now about the Caribbean in the European imagination. Beyond this thematic hijacking, esteeming Shakespeare itself is seen as complicity in Euro-centric dominance. Western students are told they must abandon their own literature for that of 'the other' in the name of post-colonial social justice. In fact, literature isn't even called literature any more, it is just a 'text,' meaning a socio-cultural artifact. Really!
Largely anti-western, some academics claim that the global spread of the web has now made national boundaries obsolete. But westerners do not go online to read Chinese news in Chinese. We read about our own nations and cultures in our own languages. The nation has not disappeared into cyberspace. What the Internet has done is diminish our attention spans. Thus, rather than use the Internet as an excuse to undermine attention to our national literary classics, academics must uphold cultural standards by modeling attention to our substantial works.
It is wonderful that academics have made us aware of the political implications of the western canon as well as the impact of the Internet on readers' sense of belonging. But, as a pro-western culturist, I draw opposite conclusions from said realizations: we must emphasize our canon because it binds us, because it glorifies the West, because it makes me proud to be from a civilization that created such treasures. And no matter the frequency of the word 'blog' online, we need to esteem longer traditional classics over blog posts to uphold morals, cultivate cultural pride, and raise intellectual standards.
People love stories; we love being a part of the western story. Teaching that literature is a quantifiable tool of imperialist oppression in a post-national world is worse than anti-humanistic, it is anti-western. And, as such, it hurts us collectively and personally. Culturist students must challenge their professors' quasi-scientific, anti-western agendas in reading 'texts.' They must announce their pride in doing the hard work of reading long literature classics in the Internet age. We need to cultivate a generation of tough, literature-loving, pro-western scholars in order to foster a much-needed western cultural renaissance.

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