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

Recyclers and Commonsensicals Michael Hulse

I have been asked for a response to a piece of paper which looks very serious and makes an immediate impression of horns-out contentiousness. In recent years, it tells me, a new orthodoxy in critical discourse on literature has not only emerged but indeed hardened, and this orthodoxy must imperatively be challenged. The piece of paper lists the seven deadly sins that the new and rigid orthodoxy has been committing; a 'contemptuous dismissal' of anything sounds as if I ought to be against it, certainly a 'contemptuous dismissal of versions of reality' (heavens, where will these people draw the line?) and 'self-righteous sectarianism' is something that me and all my right-thinking buddies simply will not put up with. This is excellent stuff! The piece of paper then lists the seven tasks that the virtuous must now take upon themselves; they all seem to involve keeping alive, ensuring and broadening, so plainly they are good things. This too is excellent! And it is so agreeably symmetrical, the seven deadly sins so tidily balanced by the seven tasks of the virtuous: how neat, how pat! And how very much unlike anything at all outside the caricatured and schematic world of polemics.

My reaction to the piece of paper with its parallel lists is in fact, as will already have become apparent, partly one of scepticism: I prefer to hold the paper at arm's length, and would indeed have liked to leave it in a fumigator for an hour or ...


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