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Postmodern Pooh [Paperback]

Frederick Crews
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Oct 2003
'Almost 40 years ago, Crews mocked post-war academic fashions in The Pooh Perplex, a set of scholarly essays on A A Milne's great bear. Now bear and dons are back for a fresh dose of pin-sharp...A guilty treat for all survivors of Post 1970's arts degrees.' Boyd Tonkin. The Independent 'Fred Crews is a Person of Very Great Brain. What he pooh-Poohs, deserves it. Reading this book actually makes me grateful that I toil in the jargon-choked fields of psychology instead of the impenetrably murky caverns of literary criticism. But literary criticism is luckier than psychology: It has Fred Crews to light the way.' Carol Tarvis 'If literary theory can generate a book as funny as 'Postmodern Pooh', you have to love it.' Elaine Showalter in the London Review of Books 'A brilliant and savagely witty skewering of the combatants on all sides of the academic culture wars...Pitch-perfect lampoons...This is the last academic satire you'll ever need to read.' The Washington Post

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; New edition edition (9 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186197566X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861975669
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A brilliant and savagely witty skewering of the combatants on all sides of the academic culture wars' -- Washington Post

'I found Crews' pastiches of post-structuralist, Marxist, feminist, cyber-, new historicist and post-colonialist literary theory painfully hilarious.' -- Sandy Starr, Spiked Magazine

'If literary theory can generate a book as funny as Postmodern Pooh, you have to love it.' -- London Review of Books

'Professor Emeritus of English at Berkley, Mr Crews mixes fact and fiction as he pokes good-natured fun at his field.' -- Wall Street Journal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Frederick Crews is Professor Emeritus of English at University of California, Berkeley. Nearly 40 years ago he wrote The Pooh Perplex, a trailer for this book. He is also the author of The Memory Wars, a withering attack on 'recovered memory syndrome' and numerous other works. He is one of the most distinguished critics in the United States.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars beginners guide to postmodernisms 7 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I use it for my university students as part of their 'sociological theory' & 'sociological thinking' studies

I give it as a present to close friends who 'struggle' with understanding the relevance abstract theory in their everyday lives

Crews little book is useful to my students and a fascination to my friends because it: entertains, informs and educates in about equal measure
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5.0 out of 5 stars post-modernism of very little brain 15 Jan 2010
"The Pooh Perplex" by Frederick Crews was a biting satire of the vocabulary and pretentiousness of much literary criticism of the 1950s, presented as the sort of "dumbing down" casebook popular in post-war academic circles. "Post-Modern Pooh" is a sequel in the form of the proceedings of a high-minded symposium on Pooh studies. The targets have been updated and are such things as the opacity of much post-modern writing, the denial of objective facts, and the ambiguity and all-pervasiveness of sex-based interpretations of literature. These are works of genius. It is difficult to know how anyone can take post-modernism seriously after reading them.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Literature Department Ought To Have It 3 April 2006
In the 1960 Frederick Crews wrote The Pooh Perplex, a collection of parodies of literary critics. This is a follow-up to that book. Literature Departments are fighting Theory Wars now (and the quest isn't for The Truth, but a better job). Almost every current literary theory is pilloried here, almost every trendy posturing is exposed. This will appeal to anyone with a sense of humour who has had to be a footsoldier in the Theory Wars.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it really is that good 6 May 2012
By sanyata
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
its not just funny its genuinely brilliant and on the mark.
some of the claims in here are priceless, like feminists saying that einstein's equations discriminate against women, that support for hitler is better than classical liberalism etc.

the level is surprisingly high, and you should probably have some knowledge of the university to appreciate this. but never the less, highly recommended. in fact, an intelligent could even use it as a crash course in postmodernism.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 22 Oct 2001
By Norman Rabkin - Published on Amazon.com
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. . . at Duke as Joe Camel Professor of Child Development." The persona of the ridiculous Ms. Gulag gives Crews the opportunity to quote highly respected and successful academics who still see Stalin and Mao as gentle forces for good, even for good sex. And here, as throughout the book, the footnotes citing real publications are astonishing, sometimes almost too horrible to be funny: a fictitious analyst of a passage in Pooh will make a dumb claim, and Crews will pretend to support it in a footnote by quoting an even dumber comment by a real critic, with chapter and verse identified. Another politically oriented writer, a Calcutta native wonderfully named Das Nuffa Dat, provides parodies of other involuted critics whose methods, applied to interpreting the toy bear, give us hours of laughter as the emperors' clothes disappear. And so it goes with such eminences as Stanley Fish and Harold Bloom, with hardline feminists, nonsensical Derrideans and Lacanians, semioticians, and many more. Begin with the first presentation, "Why? Wherefore? Inasmuch as Which?" by the Sea and Ski Professor of English at the University of California at Irvine (her prizewinning dissertation was on "Heidegger Reading Pooh Reading Hegel Reading Husserl: Or, Isn't it Punny How a Hun Likes Beary") and you won't be able to stop. Crews's humor is Rabelaisian: the bawdy puns are frequently side-splitting, (and of course they parody the self-involved style of named and revered critics), and the wordplay reminds one of Joyce. But for all the laughs, ultimately the message is dead serious: Crews obviously wants to show us that the loss of standards that allows such junk to dominate the intellectual world is helping our culture to do itself in. Postmodern Pooh is a comic masterpiece; it is also an indispensable warning. You can't afford not to read it.
73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars silly academics 23 Oct 2001
By Orrin C. Judd - Published on Amazon.com
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. And one assumes that Dudley Cravat III, whose contribution, Twilight of the Dogs, is one long bellow against the "sickness unto death" of the modern university, must incorporate at least a significant touch of William Bennett. Knowing who the victims are in these instances definitely adds to the enjoyment. Unfortunately (no, make that fortunately) most of the other models for these characters will be so obscure to anyone outside academia that the reader, at least this reader, won't know recognize them.
You can figure out, without too much trouble, that specific lectures are aimed at Deconstruction, Marxism, Feminism, Queer Theory, Postcolonialism, Evolutionary Psychology and so forth. Much of the enjoyment of the book lies in the way Crews can make the Pooh stories fit these absurd theories. He'll leave you half convinced that the Hundred Acre Wood is alternately a seething pit of repressed homosexual longings or pedophiliac torture; the oppressed colony of a brutal imperialist master; and a laboratory of Darwinism. The very capacity of these simple children's stories to bear the weight of each of these ideologies only serves to undermine them all. Such infinitely plastic criticisms must ultimately be about the theories themselves, not about the text that is supposedly under consideration.
One final feature of the book is particularly amusing, and especially frightening. Though the lectures are obviously made up, the footnotes appear to all refer to genuine sources, with titles like "The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination" and "The Vestal and the Fasces: Hegel, Lacan, Property, and the Feminine". I suppose someone trying to complete a doctoral thesis will write just about anything, but, please God, tell me no one has actually ever read them.
It all makes for very funny reading, but with a serious subtext. This is the kind of garbage that kids are being taught, with a straight face, in our schools today. That scares the heck out of me. Hopefully Professor Crews will keep that skewer pointy. We need someone to puncture the pretensions of these self-important intellectual nitwits.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, pointed, good-natured satire 18 Feb 2003
By Cynthia S. Froning - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as brilliant as its predecessor, but less amusing 30 Jan 2006
By John Duncan - Published on Amazon.com
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theory in search of a subject 2 Nov 2003
By Suetonius - Published on Amazon.com
You need to have some familiarity with the exciting, contemporary, cutting-edge American literary intellectual scene to get the very best out of this. Being a simple foreigner like Pooh, and a scientist to boot, I don't. That hasn't bothered me much in the past, but now I'm not Saussure.

The question is how much theoretical overkill the poor old bear can take. The answer is, while theory is its own justification and the printer ink holds out, the sky's the limit. A galaxy of thinkers is here to enlighten us courtesy of Prof. Crews: the Derridean, replete with deeply stunning insights and theoretical rigor verging on mortis; the neo-Marxist, living embodiment of Dr. Johnson's wise remark on hope and experience; the barking second-generation feminist; the Lacanian-Deleuzoguattarian (they won't lie down, you know); last but very far from least, the Vicar of Bray type, author of 'The Last Theory Book You'll Ever Need' and several sequels in the same vein.

The footnotes - genuine quotations from distinguished theorists - should be studied with the attention they deserve. These are the guardians of the culture. Go on, give yourself a fright.

For me the best-realized figure is the Roger Kimball clone, Dudley Cravat III, who by some extraordinary oversight has been invited to contribute to this panel. I suspect the author has most sympathy with, or anyway least antipathy to, this character, but that doesn't save him from a ribbing. "Much has changed, and all of it for the worse, since we ourself, nearing completion of our Harvard dissertation, attended the MLA convention of 1976 and discovered that once-abundant assistant professorships for tradition-minded young scholars had vanished overnight."

Many of these theories can be applied with equally gratifying success to subjects as diverse as anthropology, historiography, even literary criticism (not to mention fundamental physics, but that's another story). The names may change, the fads certainly, but forty years on this crew will still be transgressing importantly, if they haven't disappeared up their own discourse: Felicia Marronnez peering myopically at the world through the lenses of a new theory of everything (or nothing, depending on how you look at it); Carla Gulag fixated on some new Jameson and panting for the revolution; N. Mack Hobbs, America's highest-paid (and therefore indisputably best) humanities professor; and Dudley Cravat III harking back to a lost golden age when French theory with an American accent ruled the world.

An acquired taste, perhaps, but an interesting and very clever concoction.
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