The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Critical Studies = A Vacuum: Part One

There is a left-wing “tradition,” decades old now
and imported from Europe, of cyclists amassing at key city intersections and
just sitting there for the purpose of immobilizing and snarling motor traffic.
It’s called “Critical Mass.” There are chapters of this club of thugs in many
major American cities, just as there are still chapters of Occupy Wall Street
extant. OWL simply wanted to stage a massive “sit-down” demonstration to bring
Wall Street to a screeching halt, which it didn’t, and wasn’t interested in
cycling anywhere, but was motivated by the same malign purpose.
 What do they
want? “Respect” by disrespecting of the liberty of motorists to mind their own
business. More and wider tax-paid bicycles lanes. The banishment of private
cars from city streets, so they can have those streets all to themselves and
claim a victory for the “environment.”  I’m
sure there is a host of other ends and complaints. They’ll get into fights with
motorists, or just sit there and wiggle their Spandex fannies at hapless
drivers and be as obnoxious and barbaric as they can be. “Try and nudge me out
of the way,” they dare. “I’ll trash your car if you do and see you charged with
vehicular assault all the same.”
Critical Mass shut-downs of streets and
thoroughfares are similar to the Muslim practice in major cities of blocking
streets to perform prayers, which can happen with or without a government’s
permission, cooperation, or sanction. It happens in New York City, in London,
and in most European cities. Muslims want Americans to submit to Islam in the
name of Allah; “Critical Mass” wants Americans to submit to force in the name
of “social justice.” In an American context, “Critical Mass” is part and parcel
of the Progressive agenda.
describes one thuggish tactic of such in-your-way-and-in-your-face “community
Critical Mass takes place without an official route or sanction, participants
in some cities have sometimes practiced a tactic known as “corking”
in order to maintain the cohesion of the group. This tactic consists of a few
riders blocking traffic from side roads so that the mass can freely proceed
through red lights without interruption. Corking allows the mass to engage in a
variety of activities, such as forming a cyclone, lifting their bikes in a
tradition known as a “Bike Lift” (in Chicago this is referred to as a
Chicago hold-up), or to perform a “die-in” where riders lie on the
ground with their bikes to symbolise cyclist deaths and injuries caused by
automobiles, very popular in Montreal. The “Corks” sometimes take
advantage of their time corking to distribute fliers.
practice of corking roads in order to pass through red lights as a group is in
contravention of traffic laws in some jurisdictions and is sometimes criticized
to be contrary to Critical Mass’ claim that “we are traffic”, since
ordinary traffic does not have the right to go through intersections once the
traffic signal has changed to red. However, groups of cyclists are allowed to
pass signals as a group at least in Germany and Austria. Corking has sometimes
led to hostility between motorists and riders, even erupting into violence and
arrests of motorists and cyclists alike during Critical Mass rides.
Francisco’s Critical Mass
mobs are especially sanctimonious about their
ability to cause chaos in the name of “social justice” for cyclists.
But, back indoors and safely out of the path of the
cycling fascists (who in New York City are dangerous to pedestrians and
arrogant even without being part of a mob), another kind of “critical” amassing
takes place, especially in academia.
There are billions of people for whom faith is an
essential thing: a consolation, an inspiration – a part of their identity. It
matters not which “faith” it is: Christian, Judaism, Islam, Buddhist, whatever.
But there are a relatively handful of theorists and philosophers for whom
“Critical Studies” also comprise a consolation, an inspiration, and are
incorporated into their collective identity – as nihilists. They, and not the
lobotomy-capped cyclists, are the vanguard of destruction for the sake of “deconstruction.”
They help to make the bike-lifting fascists possible.
What are “Critical Studies”? The list of those
“Studies” includes Critical Legal Theory, Critical Literary Theory, Critical
Race Theory, and Critical Art Theory. Wikipedia has an
enormous entry on the subject allied to and linked to information on the
history and ends of the Frankfurt School, whose members birthed the
hydra-headed monster.
The purpose of Critical Studies is two-fold: to
destroy with the aim of instituting socialism, progressivism, or collectivism
with a socialist interpretation of literature, jurisprudence, and sociology;
and to make mush of the mind of anyone subjected to “Lit-Crit.” There is no
other end. If nothing replaces what is destroyed, that is an acceptable and satisfactory
end to the Critical Studies advocates. The Frankfurt School began in Germany.
Its principal members were Marxists who fled Nazi Germany to settle mainly in
the U.S. Here they established The New
School for Social Research
in New York City (now simply The New School),
which remains the chief representative and practitioner of its agenda. Many of
the founders returned to Germany after WWII and reestablished the Frankfurt
Let’s start with Critical Literary Theory. Literature
was the first victim of the Frankfurt School’s attentions; critical theory then
spread like smog to smother the studies of law, race, sociology, and politics
and anything else it could infect with irrationalism. For all I know, there
might be a school of Critical Cooking Studies. Little remains untouched by the
Frankfurt School’s intellectual depredations. Critical Studies is a postmodern
The Stanford Encyclopedia of
defines postmodernism.
postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set
of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as
difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyper-reality to destabilize
other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic
certainty, and the univocity of meaning. The term “postmodernism” first entered
the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with the publication of The Postmodern
by Jean-François Lyotard….
French, for example, work with concepts developed during the structuralist
revolution in Paris in the 1950s and early 1960s, including structuralist
readings of Marx and Freud. For this reason they are often called
“poststructuralists.” They also cite the events of May 1968 as a watershed
moment for modern thought and its institutions, especially the universities.
The Italians, by contrast, draw upon a tradition of aesthetics and rhetoric
including figures such as Giambattista Vico and Benedetto Croce.
There is a paper about Critical Literary Studies which
is shared in common with a number of educational institutions, including
secondary schools, such as Mesa Public Schools, in Arizona, called Literary
Theories: A Sampling of Critical Lenses
, or Literary Critical Theory,
as Washington State University prefers to call it. Como Park Senior High School in
St. Paul, Minnesota, prefers Literary Theories, as does the Mountain
View/Los Altos High School District
, Johns Hopkins University,
and numerous other academies of Progressive indoctrination. Harvard, Princeton,
Yale, and other major schools have their own renditions of Critical Studies.
Frankly, I had no idea that “Critical Literary
Theory” was being taught in any school below the rank of community college. Many
of these sites break up “Literary Theories” into flash cards or feature
multiple-choice or question-and-answer formats. The School of Visual Arts in New York City
has its own method of spaying students’ minds under Critical Literary Studies. But
the most popular Critical Literary Theory paper is the consensus favorite. I’ll
treat its wording to stand in for Washington State
’s and Purdue’s,
because they all say the same things:
Literary Theories: A
Sampling of Critical Lenses
theories were developed as a means to understand the various ways people read
texts. The proponents of each theory believe their theory is the theory, but
most of us interpret texts according to the “rules” of several
different theories at a time. All literary theories are lenses through which we
can see texts. There is nothing to say that one is better than another or that
you should read according to any of them, but it is sometimes fun to “decide”
to read a text with one in mind because you often end up with a whole new
perspective on your reading.
A subtitle might be: How to Marginalize Literature
or Obliterate it, and incidentally emasculate a student’s cognitive powers. The
first sentence is crass and invites adlibbing. Taken literally, it could mean
that people read “texts” in a variety of physical positions, and we must
understand why. With their noses to the pages? With Coke-bottle glasses? But,
never mind that. In Critical Literary Studies, books do not exist. Nor newspapers, nor essays, nor even single
sentences. Only “texts.” “Texts” can be “fun.” A “text” is a thing in and by
itself, whose significance and meaning can’t be taken at face value, but must
be wrestled with as a “social construct.” Everything in Critical Studies,
regardless of the realm – jurisprudence, race, art, contracts, cooking, and
even obituaries – is a social construct. A “social construct” is an entity
created by the economic and social environment of any given historical period, powered
by that irresistible but intangible Marxist/Hegelian evolutionary force,
dialectal materialism.
And, what you see in a “text” depends on the kind
of “lens” you’re wearing or were saddled with by your economic and class
station. You have no choice in the matter, although Critical Theory assumes it
can persuade that you’re just a pan of cookie dough ready for the
cookie–cutter. Your mind, after all, say the Critical Studies advocates, is
also just a “social construct,” and can be molded to see it all the Progressive
way.  In short, they say it can be
brainwashed. They would never put it that way. 
It’s one of the few “negative” social constructs they dislike
encountering. The other is totalitarianism.
Critical Literary Studies are salted with a lexicon
of specialized terms.
criticism, “archetype” signifies narrative designs, character types,
or images that are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of
literature, as well as in myths, dreams, and even ritualized modes of social
behavior. The archetypal similarities within these diverse phenomena are held
to reflect a set of universal, primitive, and elemental patterns, whose
effective embodiment in a literary work evokes a profound response from the
reader. The death-rebirth theme is often said to be the archetype of archetypes.
Other archetypal themes are the journey underground, the heavenly ascent, the
search for the father, the paradise-Hades image, the Promethean rebel-hero, the
scapegoat, the earth goddess, and the fatal woman.
The Encyclopedia
is a little clearer on the subject of postmodernism, which is:
late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism,
or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute
sensitivity to the role of ideology in
asserting and maintaining political and economic power. Postmodernism as a
philosophical movement is largely a reaction against the philosophical
assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European)
history—i.e., the period from about the time of the scientific revolution of
the 16th and 17th centuries to the mid-20th century. Indeed, many of the
doctrines characteristically associated with postmodernism can fairly be
described as the straightforward denial of general philosophical viewpoints
that were taken for granted during the 18th-century Enlightenment,
though they were not unique to that period. The most important of these
viewpoints are the following.
is an objective natural reality,
a reality whose existence
and properties are logically independent of human beings—of their minds, their
societies, their social practices, or their investigative techniques.
Postmodernists dismiss this idea as a kind of naive realism. Such
reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an
artifact of scientific practice and language.
So much for studying literature. Chess Hanrahan, a
private detective in Honors
, had these summary thoughts about modern and postmodern criticism:
critics either faulted his books for subjective reasons, or devoted most of
their writing space to their dislike of the subject. Others forgot the purpose
of a review or critical essay and concentrated on how stylishly they could
disagree with Munro without substantially refuting his thesis. A typical modern
critic was as likely to grasp or report the substance of a book – good or bad,
and whether or not he liked it or approved of it – as it was that a chimp would
appreciate a thermometer. He’d worry it, nibble on it, look through it, try to
clean his ears with it, or use it to fish for maggots.
Never mind the critics. Teachers can also swing
from tree branch to tree branch in search of the best
way to instruct
their high school students in “Lit-Crit.” For example, here
is a sample teacher’s guide on how to teach Shakespeare and foster
interpretations, close readings, and treating any one of the Bard’s “autotelic artifacts” as a kind of piñata chock full of goodies and social
constructs from the capitalist Elizabethan Period:
Oral interpretation of a poem
Select a poem or short excerpt from a story or novel and plan an oral
interpretation of that text. Determine the meaning you want to convey through
your pacing, emphasis, rhythm, tone, sounds, and nonverbal cues. Then, perform
your oral interpretation for your class or create a video of your performance
to be shown to the class. Garner some responses regarding the meaning that was
conveyed through your performance to determine if the conveyed meaning matches
your intended meaning…..
Storytelling.  This storytelling
activity was developed by Sarah McArdell Moore, Madison, Wisconsin.  Chose
a partner, tell them a story—any story, something that is comfortable for
you.  Topics could be a childhood memory, an apology, a surprise, a recent
challenge, or any number of things.  Give the story a beginning, middle
and end, give it details.  Each person will have 3-5 minutes.  After
both people are finished give the students 5 minutes to write down the other
persons story [sic].  Now tell
the person back their own story….
Circle Dash: Every one stands in a circle around
one person who stands in the middle the object of the game is for 2 people in
the circle to silently signal each other to switch places. The person in the
middle tries to get to get to an open spot before the switchers.  The
person left takes the spot in the middle.  This is a silent game.
Minefield: Everyone stands in a circle and
tosses and [sic] object they can find
that aren’t [sic]sharp or breakable
in the center.  Spread the objects around so that the whole center is
evenly covered.  A volunteer closes their eyes.  The rest of the
group, using only their voices, tries to direct the volunteer to the space
directly across from them in the circle without hitting any of the objects in
the “minefield…..”
Create Shakespearean language. Based on
their reading of a Shakespeare play, have students create their some dialogue [sic] or insults using iambic pentameter
or other uses of figurative language.  Have students perform their
dialogue or insults in the class…..
And so on. And so much fun! Please, teacher, don’t
let on to the students that you’re patronizing their tiny little heads. It’s
easy to let that slip if you regard your helpless charges as a mob of gullible troglodytes.
However, one has difficulty deciding if this is a kindergarten class or some
kind of therapeutic role-playing session for imprisoned juvenile delinquents
and other socially arrested young people. Of course, this is contingent on
whether or not Shakespeare is still permitted to be taught to semi-literate
students. After all, Shakespeare was a member of the “white privileged” ruling
class who strived to keep women in their place and petticoats and “poeticized”
their oppression and exclusion. One’s school may not want students to get the
idea that Shakespeare was some kind of genius or better than the writers of Friends or Muffin the Mule.
What is the sum total of all the “Lit-Crit”
“explorations,” “close readings,” recognizing “signifiers,” and “bringing
oneself to the text” to extract from it things that aren’t really there but
which can be called “adventures in validation”? 
Nothing. After all, once you’ve learned that
Shakespeare changed his socks less frequently than you did and learned how that
habit affected his prose about how to diminish the role of women and prevent
their self-expression and in general glorified the ups and downs of the ruling
class, you’ve learned all you’re going to learn.
Then you can move on to learn that Rachmaninoff’s
music was no better than any given, belligerent, obscenity-laden “rap” song. Or
rap chant. And that the TV series Orange is the New
contains more significant and culturally relevant linguistic signifiers and signifieds than can be found in any “text” by Victor Hugo, Ayn
Rand, Terence Rattigan, Maurice Maeterlinck, or even in the Declaration of
Independence. And what, pray tell, are those?
Jack Lynch of Rutgers
and “signified” are terms used in one branch of linguistics
and literary criticism to describe the components of a sign: the
signifier, to put it simply, is the word, and the signified is the thing or
idea it represents. Signifiers needn’t be confined to words; they can include
any system of representation, including drawings, traffic lights, body
language, and so on. Much of the literary criticism of the last twenty-five
years has focused on the relationship between the signifier and signified, and
therefore on the very nature of meaning.
And, please, dear student, don’t try to find any signifiers or signifieds in Professor Lynch’s explanation. Granted, it is a “text,”
but “texts” by the doyens of Lit-Crit are exempt from close readings and any
kind of critical examination.
And perish the thought – if you’re still capable of
thinking – that the deconstruction of literature is not so much the purpose of
Critical Literary Studies as it is the deconstruction of your mind.
There’s the bell. Now on to Critical Legal Studies
and other academic train wrecks. We will cover it and related subjects in Part


The Supreme Court Gaieties


Critical Studies = A Vacuum: Part Two


  1. Edward Cline

    Posted for HIlda, who for some reason can't leave a comment:

    Ed, unlike most other columns on the issue your is packed with logical arguments based on facts. It's such a pleasure to read. I can't resist qu

    Hilda N.
    Hilda N.

    Key points from this article:
    1. It is not the right decision for the Court to redefine the plain, straightforward meanings of English words. Nor is it the right decision for the Courts to order a state legislature to draft its statutes using a language/dialect that the majority of its citizens do not speak.

    2. Language does evolve – but court orders enforced by the guns of federal marshals do not constitute an "evolution" of language.

    3. There were real rights violations for same-sex couples. These rights violations were wholly remedied by civil unions. The law is about correcting rights violations, not making people feel good.

  2. Tom

    And we are paying to have this crap taught to our children in public schools and universities.

    Good piece, Ed.


  3. Teresa

    What a bunch of memories this horror has brought to mind! We've all been accused of being the result of a certain type of thinking and getting that yukk reaction. Thanks for adding clarity to the muddy subject- if you know what I mean.

  4. Unknown

    I kept catching myself trying to make sense of the nonsense, for example trying to align "signifier/signified" with Objectivism's "word/concept." I can't imagine the effect on a mind that doesn't have a rational foundation with which to detect and counter such an insidious invasion.

  5. Unknown

    I kept catching myself trying to make sense of the nonsense, for example trying to align "signifier/signified" with Objectivism's "word/concept." I can't imagine the effect on a mind that doesn't have a rational foundation with which to detect and counter such an insidious invasion.

  6. Unknown

    I kept catching myself trying to make sense of the nonsense, for example trying to align "signifier/signified" with Objectivism's "word/concept." I can't imagine the effect on a mind that doesn't have a rational foundation with which to detect and counter such an insidious invasion.

  7. Teresa

    What a bunch of memories this horror has brought to mind! We've all been accused of being the result of a certain type of thinking and feeling that yukk reaction. Thanks for adding clarity to the muddy subject- if you know what I mean.

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