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This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

Too Many Words C.H. Sisson

I am puzzled by this exercise because I did not know that there was a new critical orthodoxy. I had of course heard of some of the views you adumbrate under that heading, but I assumed that the wilder of them represented the discourse of only a few crack-brained academics who are paid to study literature but find the subject boring. One can understand that such people should prefer to hear the sound of their own voices talking cleverly about abstract subjects. It is a weakness some academics have. To put forward an absurd proposition, refine upon it, and to go into battle about it with other like-minded persons, is for some a form of entertainment, though it seems to me a dreary one. I suppose that with some, such activity might even pass for work, though that would be conditional on someone being willing to pay for it, as has unfortunately been the case in recent years. Certainly quite remunerative careers have been made out of it. Some bad examples have been set in France, in the highly politicised facultés des lettres which seem to have flourished there in the post-war period. But after all literature is not the only subject in which there are academics who are corrupted by showing off before the sillier and more impressionable of their undergraduates, to say nothing of the young graduates labouring at Ph.D.s in order to join the gang.

All this, however, belongs to the sociology of university ...


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