Monday, December 19, 2005

Violence Symbolique (With Apologies to Pierre Bourdieu)

Academic peer review (if you can survive it), as recounted by Naomi C. Reed:

".... I want ... to speak to Olin-Ammentorp's assertion that the senior scholar's paper was a "critique" of the work of her colleagues. The senior scholar gave a paper taking issue with recent scholarship on the representation of Jewishness in The House of Mirth. In the paper she suggested, for example, that I — along with a number of other critics — was akin to a suicide bomber because I asserted that Lily Bart was less than pleased at the prospect of a marriage to the Jewish Simon Rosedale. In fact, she closed her paper by drawing an equation between current work on Jewishness in the novel and Hitler, directing the audience to passages of Mein Kampf.

Any sense that her presentation was a scholarly exchange, a matter of mere "critique," is thus a gross misrepresentation of what went on that day. Instead, the paper was an unfounded, at times vicious, attack on the work of her colleagues, not all of whom are so fortunate as to be "well established." As the Lily Bart of this scenario, I can say quite honestly that the slings and arrows of the Bertha Dorsets of this world are far too real, and that the Edith Wharton Society would be well advised to acknowledge it." (Naomi C. Reed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 16, 2004).


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