The Condition of English: Literary Studies in a Changing Culture

By Avrom Fleishman | Go to book overview

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Educating a New York Jewish Radical

Never wear your best pants when you go out to fight for freedom.

--Fortune cookie maxim

Calling attention to English's tendency to become a minor field may arouse in some of its defenders a countercharge of bearing a covert ideology. But these stalwarts would be premature to dismiss my point of view as that of a traditional intellectual clutching ancient verities and lamenting the loss of accustomed preserves--even, in Gramsci's sense of the term, aligning himself with the dominant class. The literary values neglected and the scholarly standards compromised by recent developments in English are those which I am not alone in having made objects of aspiration rather than of possessive protection. I speak not for a cultural elite but as the product of a succession of immigrant groups in the body politic, whose intellectual and professional achievements continue to invigorate our society. And I, with others, am inclined to reassert those standards in behalf of those values--for their social benefits as well as for personal rewards.

Unlike a portion of these arrivistes, I join those welcoming new participants in the assimilation process--still functioning effectively, though not without strains, in the academic community--undaunted by the fact that separatist ideologues have made the "melting pot" a term of scorn. Like others, I have become aware of a newly emergent technological elite with strong claims to be a meritocracy, and I have reflected on the prospects for English under its prospec

-73-

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The Condition of English: Literary Studies in a Changing Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1- Establishing Shot: Academics of the New Class 1
  • 2- Tracking Shot: Origins and Outcomes 25
  • 3- Wide Angle: The Condition of English 57
  • Close-Up: Educating a New York Jewish Radical 73
  • 5- Montage Sequence: An English Department 95
  • 6- Open Ending: Expanding English/Extending English 119
  • Appendix: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia 141
  • Selected Bibliography 149
  • Index 153
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