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The Pooh Perplex : A Freshman Casebook Paperback – February 14, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In this devastatingly funny classic, Frederick Crews skewers the ego-inflated pretensions of the schools and practitioners of literary criticism popular in the 1960s, including Freudians, Aristotelians, and New Critics. Modeled on the "casebooks" often used in freshman English classes at the time, The Pooh Perplex contains twelve essays written in different critical voices, complete with ridiculous footnotes, tongue-in-cheek "questions and study projects," and hilarious biographical notes on the contributors. This edition contains a new preface by the author that compares literary theory then and now and identifies some of the real-life critics who were spoofed in certain chapters.

About the Author

Frederick Crews is a professor emeritus of English at the University of California at Berkeley. His many books include The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy, The Random House Handbook (currently in its sixth edition), and Postmodern Pooh.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (February 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226120589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226120584
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first read The Pooh Perplex in the summer before my freshman year of college; my father presented it to me as an encapsulation of the reasons why he had abandoned his English major. I had not yet encountered Leavis, Crane, and the other critics so marvelously parodied in Crews's book, but I spent a good few hours shrieking with laughter at Myron Masterson's vision of Kanga as castrating "'Mom' figure" and Simon Lacerous's characterization of the bear himself as a flabby old Tory with a string of knightly titles and an overfondness for condensed milk.

Then I came to college and took a Literary Criticism and Theory class; with wonder, I recognized in my casebook more and more of the bizarre characters inhabiting Crews's topsy-turvy hermeneutic milieu. Oddest of all, I found that my reading of The Pooh Perplex had actually provided me with a fairly solid overview of structuralism, Marxist theory, and other critical concoctions my professor obliged me to imbibe. And when I gave Crews's work a second reading, I discovered a myriad of hilarities that had previously passed me by.

Though it is depressing that Crews's zany satire can help a student of literature grasp the principal critical theories of the past fifty years, I disagree with my father's justification for forsaking his major. Many critics unintentionally self-parody; to endure their bombast, the reader must absorb the good, dismiss the inane, and find in the ludicrous a scrap or two of humor. Fortunately, we have Crews to assist us with that last task. Satire is a dying art; read The Pooh Perplex to understand why it is still necessary.
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Format: Paperback
It was probably the publication of Postmodern Pooh, Frederick Crews's second venture into Pooh studies, that explains the renewed availability of The Pooh Perplex more than 40 years after its first appearance. But whatever the reason, it is an excellent thing that modern readers can get hold of it, both because it is a brilliant and witty book in itself and also because it makes a natural companion for Postmodern Pooh.

For those who have not met the book before it should be explained that it is a series of parodies of different styles of literary criticism (those that were fashionable in the 1960s) applied to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, collected together as a "case book" of the kind that was then popular for elementary English courses, and accompanied by Questions and Study Projects prepared by the editor, ostensibly Crews himself, but in reality as much of a parody as the articles themselves.

No doubt one would need to be familiar already with the parodied styles to get the most from the book, but no matter; one can get a great deal of amusement from it without any specialist knowledge, and some of the sources are fairly obvious even to non-specialists, the Freudian analysis by "Karl Anschauung", for example, or the proletarian analysis by "Martin Tempralis". On the other hand, readers born since the book was written may not easily recognize F. R. Leavis thinly disguised as "Simon Lacerous".

The non-specialist reader will easily be tempted to believe that Crews is exaggerating. Surely no serious expert on English literature could really express some of the sillier ideas expressed in this book? Alas, he amply demonstrates with real quotations from real (and apparently serious) publications that they could and they did.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a brilliant send-up of the pretentious critiques that has masqueraded as literary criticism since pseudo-intellectualism was first invented by which mental-nonentities could parade as our moral superiors. Just read it. Absolutely convincing, and a breath of fresh air. You will love it - unless you are one of the poseurs, of course. But it will still be devastatingly funny.
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Format: Paperback
Frederick Crews made his name back in 1963 with this punchy, sardonic parody of academic self-importance. Over 45 years later, it retains its power to cut to the quick. Though not laugh-out-loud hilarious, it has a wit that exposes truth to the light of day. Though it goes on a bit longer than is actually necessary to prove its point, it remains a reminder to those of us who work with words and ideas of why we need to be humble.

In his facetious introduction, Crews tells eager freshman that this book "is frankly designed to keep you in confusion." Since too many freshman texts to exactly that, this take is all too just. The satirical articles then go on to deflate the most pompous mid-century literary critics, including Lacan, Bloom, and Eliot. Some of the references may be dated, but even if we don't recognize all of Crews' individual targets, we know the type.

The paradoxical aspect is that this book could almost be used to teach how to do criticism correctly. By mocking what the various schools do wrong to make themselves ridiculous, Crews also shows how they can be made communicative and useful. That being the case, every English major should have a copy of this book thrust into their hands. Literate and dense, but readable and funny, this is a must for all of us working in the humanities.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had read this book in grad school and had to search it down through used sources (out of print), but it was well worth a second reading. Crews was a professor at U.C. Berkeley and wrote this little casebook to introduce freshmen to the various, and often highly conflicting, modes of criticism. His introduction states that he hopes those reading the essays will learn that all ideas are not "truth," and will thus carefully think through what they read in college, discard those ideas they cannot accept, and become better critical thinkers themselves. The essays themselves are all criticisms of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. Clever, clever, clever. Yes, Pooh is "that kind of bear," worthy of high academic thought. Each essay gives an academic bio of the writer. Sarcastic, witty, sometimes guffawh worthy, they set the tone for what follows. The essays are heavily laden with self-conscious academic language and ego-blown self-referencing. Some are laugh out loud funny. Crews pokes fun at the Ivory Tower while providing a model for what not to do in careful argumentation. Yep, it's a totally geek book. I love it and am glad I found a copy.
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