The Hollow Men

I hate to go all ad hominem, but if I am, especially when it comes to someone like Harold Bloom (see, “Harold Bloom by the Numbers“) , I have to go for T.S. Elliot: “We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men / Leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!” It’s not so much Bloom’s freakish careerism, if not greed, that’s so bothersome, although that’s disturbing enough.

What gets my goat is that Bloom– and the journalist, Carlin Romano– seem so blissfully unconcerned about the ways that Bloom’s ideas reflect the self-serving decadence of academic intellectual work at this particular time in U.S. history. “This is cactus land / Here the stone images / Are raised, here they receive / The supplication of a dead man’s hand / Under the twinkle of a fading star.”

Romano calls Bloom an “unsteady Midwest autocrat… oblivious as his ritual pronouncements fall on deaf ears.” Fair enough. What’s disturbing is that way that Bloom’s status seems to excuse him from complicity in the long list of problems– from labor exploitation to administrative salaries to rising tuition– facing academia. Isn’t there a connection between these problems and the old autocrats like Bloom?


About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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