Monday, April 28, 2008

Hooking Stanley Fish: Terrorists' Salon or Terror in a Saloon?

In general, higher education does not know how to speak for its interests. It offers a stance that is defensive, cowardly and likely to be ineffective.
Stanley Fish

I was reading the New York Times last night - no re-runs of House at that time - and I happened upon Stanley Fish's Blog for guys who wear turtle-neck sweaters under tweed all year round and women who no longer feel the need to shave their legs or under-arms and still see themselves as really 'selling it, Sister!'

Stanley is unreadable. He knows John Milton, but does not know what to do with Milton, because Milton understood that reading was a simple means to accessing something of truth.

Stanley Fish, to most interpretive communities, denies The Humanities to Humanity. Truth for Stanley Fish is a paycheck with alot of zeroes, but in essence, completely subjective.

Stanley Fish and his wife looted the State of Illinois of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Stanley's tenure as Dean of Arts and Sciences at University of Illinois Chicago Campus - the one Bill O'Reilly confused with University of Chicago. Stanley and his Missus, Jane Tompkins were salon buddies of terrorists Billy Ayers and his Old Lady Bernardine Dohrn.

Stanley was writing about his salon days with Hyde Park's beloved bombers:

Confession time. I too have eaten dinner at Bill Ayers’s house (more than once), and have served with him on a committee, and he was one of those who recruited my wife and me at a reception when we were considering positions at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Moreover, I have had Bill and his wife Bernardine Dohrn to my apartment, was a guest lecturer in a course he taught and joined in a (successful) effort to persuade him to stay at UIC and say no to an offer from Harvard. Of course, I’m not running for anything, but I do write for The New York Times and, who knows, this association with former fugitive members of the Weathermen might be enough in the eyes of some to get me canned.
Did I conspire with Bill Ayers? Did I help him build bombs? Did I aid and abet his evasion (for a time) of justice? Not likely, given that at the time of the events that brought Ayers and Dohrn to public attention, I was a supporter of the Vietnam War. I haven’t asked him to absolve me of that sin (of which I have since repented), and he hasn’t asked me to forgive him for his (if he has any).
Indeed in all the time I spent with Ayers and Dohrn, politics — present or past — never came up.
What did come up? To answer that question I have to introduce a word and concept that is somewhat out of fashion: the salon. A salon is a gathering in a private home where men and women from various walks of life engage in conversation about any number of things, including literature, business, fashion, films, education and philosophy. Ayers and Dohrn did not call their gatherings salons, but that’s what they were; large dinner parties (maybe 12-15), with guests coming and going, one conversation leading to another, no rules or obligations, except the obligation to be interesting and interested. The only thing I don’t remember was ideology, although since this was all going on in Hyde Park, there was the general and diffused ideology, vaguely liberal, that usually hangs over a university town.
Many of those attending these occasions no doubt knew something about their hosts’ past, but the matter was never discussed and why should it have been? We were there not because of what Ayers and Dohrn had done 40 years ago, but because of what they were doing at the moment.
( emphasis my own - I just had to share Stanley's sharing of the SALON concept with you Helots)

And, Stan, you wrote this because. . .? I told you Stanley Fish is unreadable! Stan. What was the authorial intent, here? In my interpretive community, a Saloon, - but first - To answer that question I have to introduce a word and concept that is somewhat out of fashion The Saloon. The Saloon is gathering, at a very public place that sells spirits for consumption on the premises, usually on a busy street, of persons who have worked very hard all day long and meet to share insights on assholes at work, assholes in sports, assholes in the news, assholes in education, assholes in and out of Public office and assholes in general.

Billy Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are frequently mentioned with spice and explosive metaphorical flourishes. I mentioned Stanley Fish and was treated to a purely subjective deconstruction of his canon of work by Smash McKenna ( Leo High School'78) a Union Pipe Coverer: ( Meaty hands prayerfully encase a bottle of Miller Lite and byzantine blue eyes dart mischievishly knowing and a deep throated offensive lineman's bark cuts through the offal of less weighty words timidly misting a dewy din of noise at Keegan's Pub -10618 S. Western Ave. Chicago, IL)

'Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost is the echo of human voice, not real genuine voice. I completely agree with Cammy Paglia that Fish is a totalitarian Tinkerbell. Now, I'm not saying there is not a moment or two of real delicate thought, but, generally, Fish is a semiotic totalitarian. I mean, Okay - Milton's blind - Get Me? - and if Milton, say, leaves a Fin ( $5) on the bar and it gets snatched up by Nualla here - Hey, Nualla, Sweetie, get everyone from the street to the shithouse another round -she takes the Fin-icky from the blind old bastard. See? Is it a gift, theft, or slight of hand on a blind man? For Crissakes, Fish would tell kids in his class it is all up to each one to decide. Bullshit, the bitch is stealing from a blind man - not you Nualla its a hypothetical. HEY! What do mean I'm barred, bullshit! Hickey tell her I was talking about Fish. . . Shit you started this. You're an asshole Hickey! Barred til tomorrow? Come on!'

"ideas have no consequences." Stanley Fish

Stanley - sure they do.

Click my post title and don't read Stanley Fish

1 comment:

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Pat, what a rollicking, remarkable piece on Stan Fish, Milton, and reality. I'm going to send it to my friend -- and Miltonist -- Al Labriola, who is a professor at Duquesne and who won the Silver Star (no such luck with Stan Fish) in Vietnam. I have heard the word "semiotic" used in an essay since I was unlucky enough to read something about Noam Chomsky.

Steve Maloney, Ph.D., English Lit (long ago -- and don't mention it to anyone at the bar)