Horse Pie

Yes I’ve missed it. The irrelevant comments about people’s spelling and grammar. The thwack of keyboard upon human reason. The erroneous and fictitious anecdotes. The endless comparisons to Hitler. That’s right. It’s time to argue about something on the internet.

I’ll get started. Here is an hilarious xkcd cartoon about pretending to be a literary theorist. It’s very funny, because it points out what we all know, that literary theory is a load of bullshit and we could all just make up crap and experts in the field would be fooled. We know this because occassionally we’ve looked at essays by actual graduate students and academics in the field, and it looks like a big load of meaningless drivel. To further illustrate the point, here’s a website that generates essays about postmodernism completely indistinguishable from the real thing.

Except that while I couldn’t distinguish these essays from actual essays, isn’t it possible that academics in the field actually could. After all, it would be pretty easy to make made up maths ‘papers’ and hand them around, and see whether people on the street can tell they’re made up. All the essay writer proves is that I lack the ability to tell the difference between these made up essays and real ones. The two alternative explanations for this are clearly: 1) there isn’t one, or 2) there is, but I don’t know what it is. It seems pretty arrogant to just plump for option 1) without even considering the second.

Now my mind isn’t made up on this. Several people I know who’ve actually studied English at university have a pretty low opinion of literary theory also. And even assuming it isn’t a big pile of horse pie that hardly justifies it’s existence. After all, what’s the point of studying literature at a level nobody else can understand. At least when asked what the point in maths is, we can pretend that it’s essential for the advanceent of science. Or better still, we can point them to Hardy’s apology, which neither we nor they will ever get round to reading.

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