- Paperback: 150 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (11 Mar. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226120589
- ISBN-13: 978-0226120584
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 546,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Pooh Perplex Paperback – 11 Mar 2003
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More About the Author
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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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.
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.
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.