Canon Bashing

Canon Bashing

This academic year, the New York Times Magazine observed the end of spring term with an article (“The Battle of the Books,” June 5) on the current anticanonical fashion in teaching literature. The Magazine has taken a noticeable interest in culture, lately: an article earlier in the year on trends in academic feminism; and another, just two weeks before this one, on the fate of the humanities at Columbia University. But the story in question, mostly about some professors at Duke, was thrown together and written up in the usual way by James Atlas—Times correspondent on the Intellectual Beat, and author of a novel, The Great Pretender. Last summer, in the same kind of article for the same journal, he had addressed with equal relish a somewhat different subject: the life, relations, and picturesque anecdotes of Professor Allan Bloom. Not two years before, it was the neoconservative intellectuals and their undisputed ascendancy in the culture of 1985; Duke University, in that year, not having yet made its appearance on any of the relevant maps. The hype in these pieces is always the same—cheap reverence, and a pandering servility. But our concern here is not with Atlas, whom we leave to his projects, but rather some of his new informants, and the things they want us to believe.

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Lima