Emile B. wrote:"I find it remarkable that there is no shortage of literary academics who will claim for their work some political or social value after the fact of its creation, but there are precious few who will claim that their work was written with genuine political or social intent in mind before its inception."
Emile B. also wrote:"I have always presumed throughout this blog debate that the best scholars are those who could do something other than read texts, attend department meetings, publish, and teach. In other words, they can and do choose to do something else. Of course, I've argued there are more meaningful things to do, but at the very least it would be refreshing to see a scholar overcome his or her ego investments and admit he or she chose to do something less meaningful than something else. This is another version of my overarching argument against moral vacuousness."
It may be that we are approaching the law of diminishing returns, or perhaps just circling and circling and making no *real* headway in this discussion, and I think what I would ultimately like to see is an even more formal debate, or set of debates, that would actually move us--"ultimately ultimately"--in the direction of something like humanities curricula reform [which BABEL is aiming at], and even a re-envisioning of various ways in which cultural critics and artists can work together toward real social change, while at the same time, we'll have to cut some of our so-called "losses" and run with them--i.e., yes, yes, yes, some of us are not saving people in burning buildings or working for NGOs in Sudan or counseling war veterans and we do not want to argue that writing about Shakespeare and Foucault is more important, or let's say "socially useful," than those things--but this may be a moot point if we start all over and say something like, "it's not about deciding who is doing *real* cultural-social-political work and who is not, but is pretending to [after all, doesn't this smack, just a little bit, of the kind of privileging that can simply shut down possibly beneficent avenues of intellectual and other kinds of "work"?]; rather, it's about each individual recognizing what their true talents and gifts are, as well as commiting themselves to developing those talents and gifts in deep ways, and then plying their particular chosen 'trade' with as much ethical commitment as possible and also with the *hope* that what they do might matter somehow." It's a question of a seriously committed ethico-critical POSTURE as much as it is of supposedly measurable RESULTS, in other words. And yes, I'm talking about virtue. Which is not to say virtue cannot be measured--I realize that it can be, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Now if, as E.B. argues over and over again, that he just wishes people would "own up" more to what it is they are really supposedly all about [i.e., stop claiming your work is social or political when it's just writing about literature and has no "real world" effects], have you forgotten about Stanley Fish? Hell, he "owns up" to that all the time, and as a reult, is always rankling his critical theory/literary studies cohorts. Plenty of scholars own up to it all the time. As to those who do not, let's divide them into two groups, and say that one group spends a lot of time loudly declaiming the socio-political intent & impact of their scholarship, and get a lot of career mileage out of that as a result, and spend no time worrying about the fallout from the fact that they have't helped anyone but themselves, and they have expended a lot of ink and silicon chip power on words, words, words, words, words for . . . nothing [but hey, probably an overtstatement on some level, nevertheless, since the laws of physics teach us that any kind of expended energy at all has to "go" somewhere and "do" something, but still . . . .]. Let's say that the other group, which I very much believe includes myself, JJC, Kofi, Dr. Virago, and quite a few others, do in fact write their work "with genuine social intent in mind *before* its inception." [...]
To be moved, however slightly, out of oneself, is the beginning of ethics. If we can achieve this in an hospice or the quiet of a scholar's study, it is a small miracle. And I say we have to do both, and when E.B. asks us to consider doing both--of course. Let's keep considering it, but together, and not apart, with amity, and not with rancor, with regard [and love] and not dimissiveness. Yes, it's important every now and the to call bullshit "bullshit" and to tell the emperor he is naked, but then . . . what next? Let's get together do that "something else" E.B. is referring to . . . together.
[edited later in the day to remove some praise of my own work -- the post wasn't supposed to be about me, or a horn-tooting occassion, but about moving onwards]