Of course, we all know that “master narratives” aren’t cool anymore–and yet, I would argue that the bland doctrine of “diversity”, which now coats just about every product of any humanities department that you could name, is the most coercive rhetorical straightjacket of all. These pieces may “go down easy” with other professional academics–but they also pass right through the ideological digestive systems of readers (undergraduate students that have been forced to take a history/sociology course or two; “lay readers” that might pick up one of these books, by accident, whilst combing their local bookstore’s history section for the latest gossippy nonsense about Hitler’s sex life) outside of this charmed circle. Sure, “consensus historians” got a lot of things “wrong”. Their reasonably coherent portrait of America was achieved through the exclusion of many segments of the population (basically, anyone that was not middle-class). However, it was this very “short-sighted” theoretical base which allowed a scholar like Hofstadter to set himself and trade “unamerican” blows with the best of his right wing opponents (see, for instance, The Paranoid Style in American Politics). Having recently lived through my first American Presidential campaign–and heard, from the inside, the kinds of debates which are generated by a discourse that allows one group of partisans to march into battle with an exclusive right to fly the banner of “VALUES”–all I can say is: bring back that lying progressive master narrative–right, the fuck, NOW!
I have just read a swathe through a group of scholarly studies of the New Christian Right, each of which takes at least a moment to lament the indignities that Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, et al heaped upon this movement, in its formative stages, back in the sixties. So tactful… So tenderly respectful of the historically-produced subjects that forced things like “family values” and “law n’ order” onto the political docket at the expense of social justice… Mustn’t play the patronizing academic elitist… We must take these people–and their worldview–seriously. At the very least, we mustn’t label them
It would indeed be folly not to take the effects of this group’s presence on the political stage seriously–but the people themselves? Why not just be honest? These people are morons. What’s more–and more to the point–they are out of sync with the “American tradition” (as it was constructed by the likes of Hofstadter)–a tradition of reasonable progress and modern statecraft which goes back to the “Founding Fathers”, and even, in embryo, as Perry Miller’s (now ignored) oeuvre demonstrates, to the Puritans themselves.
Now, if Hofstadter were alive, and I had a chance to speak with him, I have no doubt that he would label me a leftist extremist and walk away from me as quickly as possible. I do, after all, want to see human carnivorousness outlawed, the repeal of all copyright laws, and, well, massive, worldwide, wealth-redistribution. It’s not as if I think Hofstadter had any ultimate answers to the problems of the nation. But he was grounded enough to declare that, sometimes, history yields still-born (or, at least, brain-dead) progeny. The prophets of “diversity”, in repudiating “consensus history”, and all standards (except the standard that there shall be no standard), have deprived themselves of a valuable weapon in the rhetorical war on real-world injustice. The parallel ascendancy, in the 1980’s, of the Reaganite Right and critical theory in the humanities was no accident. The more “democratic” scholarly discourse becomes, the further it gets from the demos. Unless you are willing to contest the “meaning of America” (“but there is no…”), you will never get a political word in edgewise. And it doesn’t matter how much you “care” about the plight of the marginalized. The name of the game is to marginalize the most harmful elements in the country (hi American Digest! fuck you Jim Kalb). We know that objectivity isn’t possible. Enough with the microstudies and the conferral of “retroactive agency” upon oppressed dead people… An academic establishment that doesn’t have the self-confidence to envison a “main current of American thought” (hush! there is no “main current”! sure, sure–but let’s just pretend there is one, okay?) deserves to find itself adrift in a sea of stupidity.
Good night friends!
or, “Bye Bye Blogosphere”
All of a sudden, I just don’t care about comics anymore! ‘Ceptin Cerebus, of course, which I’m more determined than ever to process, from beginning to end, in front of your very eyes, dear readers! But…arguments about New Frontier? Squadron Supreme? What on earth was I thinking? There are a lot of really cool people out there writing about comics–they’re still on my sidebar, and I plan to keep reading them, because I like them a lot… However–film, literature, politics, philosophy–that’s what you’re going to get from me, more often than not, for the foreseeable future… (I’m also having a lot of fun discussing the quotidian over at Milescoverdale.)
Okay–back to my paper!
“It’s Always Gonna Be Somethin’ With You, Isn’t It Pete?”
(adapted from a very Marvel moment from the final scene of Joe Vs. The Volcano… Have you seen this site? 40 sound clips from the film! All of them worthy of a berth on your answering machine! J V the V is one of the finest films made in my lifetime… I am not kidding–and, what’s more, it’s no accident that the people responsible for this film’s “5.3” rating on the IMDB also went for George W. Bush last year…)
Anyway–here are a couple more missives from the mists that survey the “soap-operafication” (I prefer to call it neo-existential romance) of the superhero genre at Marvel in the mid-1960’s… Creators and readers alike discovered (in some cases, to their chagrin) that Parker’s problems were going to persist, regardless of whether he got dates…in fact, as Paul O’Brien notes, the complete dork, as a figure, is much more amenable to a “power fantasy” narrative than the chronic worrier… All of this set the stage for the Golden Age of Neurosis that Conway would foment in the early seventies!
Good Afternoon Friends!
“You guys know that Cap is a defender of the establishment”
What Would Albert Rodriquez Say About New Frontier?
uh….probably the same thing, don’t ya think?
(from Captain America #110–February 1969)
The cool thing is that, a few issues after this letter was printed, even Stan’s Cap would find himself besieged by very Rodriquezian thoughts (i.e. page 3 of issue #122: Colan’s Cap saunters down a New York street, trailing thought balloons of self-doubt…”it isn’t hip–to defend the establishment! Only to tear it down! And in a world rife with injustice, greed, and endless war–who’s to say the rebels are wrong? But I’ve never learned to play by today’s new rules! I’ve spent a lifetime defending the flag–and the law! Perhaps–I should have battled less–and questioned more!)
This sets the stage perfectly for Englehart’s Cap’s manic-depressive crisis of belief late in Nixon’s presidency, and–on the other side of the Kirbyan abyss–Gruenwald’s Cap’s realization that he (and each of us) exists to judge the laws–and the country–he once defended…
Good night friends!
Just Follow Roy…
Who says Vertigo and Bill Jemas ushered in the “Age of the Comics Writer”?
(well Sean Collins, for one, has said this)
But I think that Chet Jelinski would beg to differ!
You know how some people wish it could be Christmas all year ’round? (okay, okay…I’m one of those people)
I wish that the “Age of Roy Thomas” could’ve lasted forever!
But, even assuming that you aren’t quite as mad about “The Boy” as I am, you’ve gotta admit, this is a fun letter–and it aptly demonstrates that, even back in the days of Gary Groth’s craftsman-gods, the reading public understood the importance of the superhero scribe!
Good night friends!
Arts and Crafty
If you know anything about me, you know that this is the big one, as far as superhero comics and I are concerned… Hopefully, this will translate into wonderment in the classroom! We’ll see!
This week’s post is a snapshot of the lettercol reaction to “The Coyote Gospel”. I chose this route because I don’t want to impose my reading upon the students just yet (also, the letters are mostly quite good!)–but if you’ve got anything to contribute, please… impose away!!
The Animal Man lettercol provides the perfect opportunity for a segue to my other announcement, which is that–during this end o’ semester craziness, anyway–my new plan is to use this site to post daily (or near-daily) lettercol items (with brief annotations)… We’ll call it “Missives you (might’ve) Missed” or something like that…
good night friends!