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Postmodern Pooh Paperback – January 15, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1964, a young English professor at Berkeley published The Pooh Perplex, a slim academic satire purporting to collect a dozen critical essays on Winnie-the-Pooh. Insightful and searingly funny, it took academia by storm and gave the humanities a much-needed poke in the ribs. Little known then, Crews would become a highly influential cultural critic, whose humor and clarity leaven many books more serious than Pooh. Now, concluding a "long if uneventful career of devotion to humanistic values and to Pooh," Crews has issued a sequel, which is, if possible, more trenchant and hilarious than the original. This is partly circumstantial, the English Lit profession having become more self-parodying than ever. In 11 sham essays (complete with footnotes of brilliantly chosen actual texts), Crews takes on deconstruction, queer theory, gender/body studies, postcolonial studies, chaos theory, etc. His genius lies in details, like the "stochastic teddy bear descent rate" chart in the gene-theory paper and the Marxist professor with a "cross-departmental chair at Duke as Joe Camel Professor of Child Development." Crews steers largely clear of ethnic studies, reserving his finest shots for the Freudian and post-Freudian pretensions he has been dismantling for most of his career. Insiders will readily recognize ‚minences grises like Harold Bloom and Stanley Fish, broadly caricatured. Occasionally, Crews falls somewhat wide of the mark. But in general his touch is too deft to be mean-spirited, and should be welcomed by a profession famous for its need and ability to laugh at itself. This small volume should be required reading for the 30,000 members of the MLA and any other bemused spectators of the academic fishbowl.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Crews (English, emeritus, Berkeley) recently created controversy with his book-length invective against Freudianism, The Memory Wars. For this updated version of his wildly popular lampooning of literary criticism, The Pooh Perplex, published almost four decades ago, Crews sinks his fangs into more recent movements, such as deconstructionism, new historicism, radical feminism, trauma studies, postcolonialism, and cybercriticism. The book gathers papers from a fictional panel on Pooh at the Modern Language Association's annual convention, all written by Crews and garnished with footnotes that allow the bathos and muddled thinking in some actual scholarship to speak for itself. But like a gang of sorcerer's apprentices, Crews's targets often wriggle free of their creator's grasp and endow his satire with some of the passion, eloquence, and wit that has earned them their following. Although his animus against Freud knows no bounds, Crews eschews cynicism and ideological agendas as ringmaster of this learned Cage aux folles, magnanimously skewering radicals and archconservatives alike. Crews's obvious pleasure in letting a stuffed bear show up those critics who have clearly kept him reading for years will keep anyone interested in literary scholarship in stitches. Recommended for larger public and all academic libraries. Ulrich Baer, New York Univ.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press (January 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476547
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,273,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To be fair, let me say at the outset that the author has been my friend and colleague for many years. I am sure, however, that I would feel exactly as I do about this book if I had never laid eyes on Fred Crews. Thirty-eight years ago, when The Pooh Perplex was published, literary criticism was a harmless activity produced largely by academics with one intellectual obsession or another (such as Freudian analysis or Marxist world-views), or by followers of easily parodied methodologies such as the self-styled New Criticsm. In the years since much has changed. The study of literature occupies a much smaller place in the colleges and universities than it did, but paradoxically, rather than banding together to save the humanities in a world less interested in their subject, academic critics have all too often split into warring camps of Taliban-like true believers, each coterie proclaiming its own often unintelligible, jargon-ridden, and preposterous ideology. What most of such schools of criticism share, under the name of what they agree to call "Theory," is a new sense that you can say anything you want if it is outrageous and pretentious enough. Many of these writers argue that there is no real world anyway, just what one perceives, so the old limits are gone.
An outraged sense of the culture-destroying impact of such nonsense underlies the parodies in Postmodern Pooh. The essays are--though it's almost impossible to believe anything could be--funnier than those in The Pooh Perplex. An example is Chapter Three, "The Fissured Subtext: Historical Problematics, the Absolute Cause, Transcoded Contradictions, and Late-Capitalist Metanarrative (in Pooh)", by a fire-eating revolutionary who holds "the cross-departmental chair. . .
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Format: Hardcover
Literary Criticism so long ago slipped over the edge into self parody that when I first found an old dog-eared copy of The Pooh Perplex at a book sale many years ago it took me more than a few pages to figure out whether it was meant to be serious or not. In a series of essays, various critics, of dubious but seemingly impressive pedigree, read the Pooh stories through the distorted lenses of their own literary/political/philosophical/psychological perspectives. It turned out of course that the book, published in 1964, had been the work of a young English professor at Berkeley (of all places) and was a parody, skewering several of the then current schools of criticism. Now, nearly forty years later, retired from academia, Professor Crews gives today's critics the satirical drubbing they so richly deserve in this manufactured set of lectures to the Modern Language Association convention. Happily, this second effort is just as funny as the first, though it is somewhat depressing to realize that his targets have become even easier to poke fun at because, one shudders at the thought, their theories are even more ridiculous than those of their predecessors.
I'll not pretend to understand all the nuances of what Professor Crews has written; heck, I don't even recognize all the schools of thought he's sending up, nor all the specific people he seems to have targeted. Everyone will discern Harold Bloom in the person of Orpheus Bruno, whose lecture is titled The Importance of Being Portly, and whose last three books are titled : My Vico, My Shakespeare, My God!; What You Don't Know Hurts Me; and Read These Books.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent skewering of a branch of academia that seems to set itself up for it. Crews put a lot of work into these essays, which are clever, intelligent, and extremely funny. He isn't nearly so vicious in his satire as many of his speakers (and their real-life counterparts) are in their literary-political maneuvering, but he exposes the void at the heart of much modern literary criticism where the work itself used to live. Pooh is as good as any other subject when the theory drives the criticism, which is why this book works so well.
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Format: Paperback
38 years is a long time to pass between publication of a successful book and that of its sequel, and lovers of The Pooh Perplex must have feared that it would be last they would read of Frederick Crews's parodies of different styles of literary criticism as applied to the works of A. A. Milne. Nonetheless, the book written in the early years of his career at Berkeley has been followed with another written when he was on the verge of retirement.

Postmodernism did not exist in the early 1960s, nor did radical feminism; even ordinary sane feminism was not much heard of. On the other hand Freudian psychoanalysis was much more prominent then than it is now. The targets of Crews's parodies have accordingly changed over the years, but the accuracy of his shots has not, and the new series of articles is as brilliant as the first. They are less amusing to read, however, probably because some of the modern fads threaten a wider public. The victims of psychoanalysis were for the most part willing victims, but the victims of therapists who claim to recover lost memories of childhood abuse can include almost anyone.

Crews is careful to document the fashionable nonsense that he attributes to his lightly fictionalized authors. For readers who doubt, for example, whether Jacques Derrida and his followers could seriously have proposed that apartheid in South Africa was a consequence of phonetic writing which, "by isolating and hypostasizing being, ... corrupts it into a quasi-ontological segregation", he supplies a reference to the original article. Likewise for many other examples.
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