The University of Resentment: Alan Kaufman’s Wild Idea
By Kwame Opoku-Duku, Forum General Editor
“I am very unhappy with current attempts throughout the universities of the Western world by a group I have called ‘the school of resentment’ to put the arts, and literature in particular, in the service of social change…pseudo-Marxists, pseudo-feminists, watery disciples of Foucault and other French theorists…are transparently at work propagating themselves in our universities…I would say that there is no future for literary studies as such in the United States. Increasingly, those studies are being taken over by the astonishing garbage called “cultural criticism.” At NYU I am surrounded by professors of hip-hop. At Yale, I am surrounded by professors far more interested in various articles on the compost heap of so-called popular culture than in Proust or Shakespeare or Tolstoy.” (Excerpted from “Bloom and Doom,” Harold Bloom interviewed by Ken Shulman. Newsweek v124, #15. Oct 10, 1994. PAGE 75.)
Harold Bloom’s interviews in which he speaks of his disdain for the school of thought he refers to as the “school of resentment” have always weighed heavily on my mind. Bloom has always served as a beacon of sorts in my literary journey. I’ve been taught to use him as the primary source for literary criticism since I was 14. As far as I knew, his word was the law.
The “school of resentment” was first mentioned by Bloom in the introduction to his 1994 work, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. He claimed he sought to protect the Western canon from the leftist vigilantes who wanted to infuse the canon with minorities and women, regardless of their aesthetic merit. Of course, this was nearly 20 years ago. But living in San Francisco in 2011, it’s impossible not to question how much water this “school of resentment” holds.
One of the biggest sources of pride here at City College is that the school created the first Gay and Lesbian Studies department in the United States back in 1989 — not to mention the school’s longtime, tireless work to promote equity and inclusion among all students. And the reason we’re so proud of it is that if we didn’t do it, no one might have.
It seems to me that the fear of minorities, women and the LGBT community being read by children is the precise reason why it needs to be done more. I know that reading Go Tell It on the Mountain literally changed my life upon first reading it at the age of 14, and I know it’s something Bloom could probably never understand. Let’s face it; he’s set in his ways. Continue reading Nonsense in the current social order