Non-American readers perceive canonical American texts differently than do Americans. This is especially true in the Chinese and Indian perceptions of African American texts from the 1960s. Some big-name critics I have been reading over the past few years assert that “theory” as an area of English studies is dead—pointless in its own solipsism—or “ended,” as Jonathan Culler and others have written. Houston Baker, in his latest book “Betrayal,” seems to express that, while theory is not dead, it is pointless unless it embraces key current social issues. Baker, as an original member of the New Black Aesthetic Critics, should be expected to posit a humanistic center to his theories; to his credit, he has not changed that opinion in fifty years. Indeed, the positing of the human and human concerns at the core of original and New Black Aesthetic Criticism is one of the key reasons this school of criticism was shunned by Yale and its Structuralism at the same time (early 1970s). English studies were not only controlled and garrisoned by Anglophiles and Francophiles, they were desperate from 1965 (J. L. Austin’s Speech Act Theory) to 1979 (the high water years of Structuralism (especially Giroud) and Deconstruction (especially Foucault)) to turn itself into an algorithm so that it could compete with its affiliates in the hard and applied sciences for funding. To say that academic theory failed miserably in its attempt to become relevant and funded by a government that could not spell “deconstruction,” much less understand the theories, is telling only the more obvious part of our last fifty years of theory in the Academy.
|Keywords:||Transcultural Theory, Cultural Criticism|
Chair, Tenure and Promotion, Department of English, Literacy Education, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA