Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton — the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing. In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalogue, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”
The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilisation of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.[…] [Consider] the resentment of a Columbia University undergraduate, who had been required by the school’s core curriculum to study Mozart. She happens to be black, but her views are widely shared, to borrow a phrase, “across gender, sexuality, race and class.” “Why did I have to listen in music humanities to this Mozart?” she groused… “My problem with the core is that it upholds the premises of white supremacy and racism. It’s a racist core. Who is this Mozart, this Haydn, these superior white men? There are no women, no people of colour.” These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of one disgruntled student; they represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today.
Yes, what could the music of Mozart possibly have to offer a black woman, any black woman? After all, he was a composer of pallor, and male, and therefore, apparently, in the service of evil. Mozart ain’t for dark folk. Nothing to learn or enjoy there.*
Seven years, good grief. As is the custom here, posting will be intermittent over the holidays and readers are advised to subscribe to the blog feed, which will alert you to anything new as and when it materialises. Thanks for another million or so visits this year and another six thousand comments, many of which prompted threads that are much more interesting than the actual posts. Which is kind of the idea. And particular thanks to all those who’ve made PayPal donations to help keep this rickety barge above water. It’s much appreciated. Newcomers and people with nothing better to do are welcome to rummage through the reheated series and greatest hits. There you’ll find, among other things, great feats of artistry, an ongoing catalogue of leftwing agonies, the bewilderment of George Monbiot, the mind-blunting effects of pretentious racial guilt, and a righteous denunciation of the barbecue patriarchy.
IKEA is that friendly shop where you get cheap furniture from the inside of a giant, unending warehouse. Black metal is the kind of music that sounds like someone screaming while trapped inside a burning church. They each possess a fervent fan base. And to tell you the truth, the names of the furniture in IKEA sound a lot like the names of black metal bands. Consider this quiz an educational way to learn the difference.
The government is “waging naked class war,” says the Guardian’s Owen Hatherley. Can leftwing pop music avert catastrophe?
Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes.
If what these educators want sounds a bit like grooming, a little predatory, that’s because it is.
The problem is that adversarial role-play, like that of leftist academics Furr and Garelick, has little to do with reason, refutation or how the world actually is. It does, however, have a great deal to do with how those concerned wish to seem. In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism - and in order to justify funding, influence and status - great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t.
San Francisco’s radical nudists are remarkably needy. Your children must, simply must, see their genitals.
Imagine you’re out shopping with the kids in tow and having to weave your way through large groups of unattractive men waving their tackle at you. One doesn’t have to have “unrealistic issues of body shame” to find the exhibitionism tiresome or inappropriate. And the denials of any sexual aspect are also unconvincing, especially given that so many of the participants are enthusiasts of fetish clubs and websites catering to people who like public sex and scandalising others, and for whom the whole point is to have an audience, whether titillated or repelled. It’s rather like how the people at last year’s ‘protest’ claimed they just wanted to be left alone - while squealing for attention on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection.
George Monbiot encounters the exotic underclass. Things go badly wrong.
Maybe George wrote the article to show us how difficult it is to be virtuous, indeed heroic, at least as he conceives such things. I suspect, though, that any moral lesson is quite different from the one intended. You see, George believes in sharing, by which of course he means taking other people’s stuff. Yet he’s remarkably unprepared for that favour being returned. Say, by two burly chaps with neck tattoos and ill-tempered dogs. And as these burly chaps were members of a “marginalised group,” and therefore righteous by default, George was expecting noble savages. Alas, ‘twas not to be.
As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity.
That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us:
Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.
Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind.
What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand?
And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas:
The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity.
There we go.
This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.”
Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate.
Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected.
What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.
See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus:
BLACK MAN EATS TRUFFLES.
The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said,
Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.
In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
I gather some of my readers are Bond enthusiasts. In which case, and with the new film looming, this audio documentary on the various Bond scores - and the long-running dispute over who wrote what - may be of interest. It’s an hour long but stay with it. There’s
plenty of period ephemera and some amusing revelations.
Belgian performance artists nail some culture into us.
Sweat is a performance piece by Peter De Cupere, choreographed by Jan Fabre, in which five narcissists spend fourteen minutes rolling about and jumping up and down - naked, obviously - while attempting to fill their transparent plastic overalls with all manner of body odour. “The intention,” we’re told, “is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distil it. The concrete of the sweat is sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat.” Yes, you can smell the sweat. If that’s not a good night out, I don’t know what is.
When being callous and vindictive is a badge of feminist virtue.
Male readers should note that - according to Amanda, her admirers and the ladies at Feministing - you have, and can have, no legitimate feelings on the subject of abortion, even if the images above were of something – or someone – you helped create. Except, that is, for the nasty, misogynist, controlling feelings that Amanda and her peers will assign to you, based solely on your gender.
Dr St John’s more recent and even more ambitious project is Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. For the heathens among you who don’t already subscribe, and for whom the terms noisecore and bloghouse are just strange and scary words, the Dancecult journal is “a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the shifting terrain of electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs) worldwide.” Its concerns are of course numerous and deep. Current gems include Media Studies lecturer Dr Hillegonda Rietveld’s Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory, an article rendered lofty by obligatory references to Deleuze, Guattari and de Sade, and which “addresses the role of house music as a nomadic archival institution,” one that is “keeping disco alive through a rhizomic assemblage of its affective memory in the third record of the DJ mix.” Some of you will, I’m sure, feel a strong urge to contribute, thereby helping to expand the boundaries of human knowledge on matters of great and pressing import.