Corporate Ideology and Literary Criticism:
How the New Right pushes the ideology of exploitation in the field of literary studies, and what to do about it.

(Originally published in NST: Nature, Society and Thought, Vol. 9 No. 3 (1996), pp. 311-325)

The thesis of this paper is that the program of the New Right in literary studies is to promote critical theories which legitimate capitalist exploitation.

There is a lot of excellent research on how the academic Right is funded by right-wing corporate foundations which have an explicitly pro-capitalist agenda. But there is little or nothing about why these sources now also fund literary organizations. I intend to briefly explore this connection, moving from the financial ties (which are clear) to the ideological ones (which are little discussed).

I will concentrate on the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (ALSC). It is unique, or virtually so, among groups funded by the Right-wing corporate foundations and promoted by explicitly ideologically right- wing groups, like the NAS, in that it claims in its by- laws that its sole purpose is "to promote excellence in literary criticism and scholarship". One of its founders, Prof. Norman Fruman, claims in the group's first Newsletter that

The organization is open to all those with a genuine interest in the study of literature. While accepting support from individuals, institutions, and foundations that share its concerns, it is not and will not be identifiable with any ideological position or political agency.1

No one who has read the Newsletters, however, could be under the slightest doubt that this claim is fraudulent on the part of the leadership of the ALSC, for these newsletters pullulate with hostility towards any criticism centered on their unholy Trinity of "gender/race/class," and lament "the disintegrating state of literary studies", "the gloomy state of literary studies," "the growing menace political correctness posed to free speech and academic freedom," and so on. Fruman himself admits that

a new literary society was needed, one whose primary focus would be on literature as literature and not as something else (surely the basic principle of the New Criticism), an organization that would provide those who had not lost faith in the unique value of literature with a sense of solidarity... 2

NAS President Steven Balch was "present at the creation" of ALSC, and the seed money came -- for expensive advertisements in The New York Review of Books and elsewhere, from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Harry Bradley, a John Birch Society member and contributor to the National Review 3, set up this foundation with his electronics fortune. Its president, Michael Joyce, is former president of the Olin Foundation, whose activities are "intended to strengthen the economic, political, and cultural institutions ... upon which private enterprise is based." Another former Olin Foundation president is William Simon, Nixon's friend and Treasure Secretary, who wrote in his book Time for Truth

Funds generated by business ... must rush by the multimillion to the aid of liberty ... to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty.4

Bradley is one of the "four sisters", the major Right- wing foundations which the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy has found to be supporting "free markets" -"freedom for business." [Parry]. Ellen Messer-Davidow, has published an excellent compendium of information about the corporate funding for the so-called "cultural conservatives". 5  I would like to acknowledge its help and recommend it to you all. As for the ALSC's claim that the source of its funds will not affect its views, listen to Michael Lind, former Conservative propagandist, in his book Up From Conservatism:

... by the early 1990s, ... almost all major conservative magazines, think tanks, and even individual scholars had become dependent on money from a small number of conservative foundations.

As quoted by Robert Parry, "Lind watched conservative writers develop a "reflexive self-censorship" avoiding topics that might offend the foundations. "Good team players would advance, from grant to grant, in the manner of superstars Charles Murray and Dinesh D'Souza; troublemakers would ... have their funding cut off."

In the case of ALSC, however, the pretense at being apolitical is a paper-thin disguise. But it is certain that many of the ALSC's members do not fully recognize the extent to which they have affiliated with a wing of the militant Right's campaign to promote the corporate agenda of elitism and censorship in literary studies and, as I will argue below, the same values in the larger society.

Recall that Prof. Fruman's inaugural article in the ALSC Newsletter decried the "growing menace" of "political correctness." As has been demonstrated time and again, "political correctness" is a myth -- a lie, pure and simple. Study after study -- most recently, John K. Wilson's book The Myth of Political Correctness 6, have demonstrated that the "horror stories" which made it famous are either completely or largely lies. It is in the interest of the Right to use this lie, but anyone who reads what's written about it cannot be ignorant of the mendacity involved.

The ALSC is founded on exclusion: certain critical approaches are in reality declared "off-limits", regardless of the language of the by-laws 7. This is also obvious from the harsh language used to describe the MLA. ALSC founders bemoan the decline of the New Criticism, and have declared that they'd like to reinstate something very much like it.

The ALSC leadership is now trying to lead the organization towards political activism to promote its conservative cultural goals. At its Boston convention last August many in attendance were opposed to the notion, advocated by ALSC President Roger Shattuck, that the organization should pursue "a measured increase in activism." The leadership managed to get the Convention to pass a statement opposing the "Standards for the English Language Arts" of the NCTE which includes the ominous line: "Literary criteria are subverted by a relentless and misguided intellectual egalitarianism." It also endorsed the leadership's proposal for an "examination and critique" of composition and Freshman English courses. Pres. Shattuck averred that "We must not abandon those students to essentially non-literary programs and approaches." 8

As always, the ALSC leadership arrogates to itself the sole authority over what is, and what is not, "essentially literary." Finally, the group will also conduct "an inquiry into the present state of training in doctoral programs in literature." There can be little doubt that the ALSC leadership will use the results of these "studies" to advocate the exclusion -- in other words, censorship -- of "essentially non-literary programs and approaches." 9

What we have here is hypocrisy, or, to use a better term, a "hidden agenda" on the part of the ALSC leadership. They use the bait of "pure" formalism to appeal to humanists who are sick of cultural studies, postmodernism, Marxism, and explicitly political (as opposed to implicitly political, à la New Criticism) approaches to literature. But now they are trying to use their audience's desire for formalism to create, not a "refuge from the politicization of literary study", 10 but an activist organization with a truly authoritarian agenda: expunging critical and Multicultural material from composition textbooks, changing NCTE standards to eliminate "egalitarianism", and attacking the direction of graduate study. No pure researchers after literary form are they! 11

At least one other organization of "cultural conservatism," the journal New Criterion, has long been issuing attacks on what it has termed the "academic political left", including the ACLS, the MLA, and Teachers for a Democratic Culture, while supposedly opposing "the politicization of scholarship." Harvey Mansfield, another conservative recipient of right-wing foundation funds, had conceded: "It's ironic that conservatives have to use politics to rid the campus of politics, but we do." 12

You will never read a more aggressively political book (nor a more dishonest one, filled with lies that have by now been thoroughly documented) than Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, which also attacks multiculturalism for being "political." 13

The New Criticism, with which ALSC founders have associated themselves and their aims, was itself a reaction to the socially- and historically-engaged criticism of the "Red Decade" of the 1930s, inspired mainly by the communist movement. Professor Al Filreis of U. Penn. reminds us that the anti-communism of the 1950s is the essential background for understanding the "anti- P.C." Right today, as it is for understanding the hegemony of New Criticism and of closely similar, formalist critical movements like the Chicago Neo-Aristotelians. John K. Wilson's book points out that the attack on "PC" is anti-Marxist first and foremost.14

The MLA is opposed because, for the past 15 years or so, it has provided a space for diverse, multi-cultural, and more explicitly political critical approaches, including -almost unique in American higher education today -- Marxist criticism. This is what must be wiped out, in the name of "combating P.C." To the right-wing academics who were instrumental in forming the ALSC, "diversity" is a code-word for subversion. Nothing shows more clearly their essentially totalitarian nature.15

All these "cultural conservative" individuals, associations and organizations decry "politicization" while themselves propagating, and proselytizing, a heavily political agenda. And all -- New Criterion, Dinesh D'Souza, the NAS, the ALSC, and many other groups and individuals engaged in the same project -- are funded by the same small group of fabulously wealthy corporate foundations.16

Let me stress once again that many of ALSC's rank-and file members do not share the cultural conservative political aims of its leadership. Its Graduate Student Caucus expressed these fears very clearly, as reported in the latest Newsletter. 17 The same source acknowledged that the rush towards activism on the leadership's part became "the chief topic of contention" at the business meeting.

* * * * * * * * * *

The task remains of dealing seriously with the connection between the New Right's goals in the sphere of literature, and those of the "free market" capitalists who fund them. This connection isn't hard to find, but it is too rarely made explicit. The ALSC pushes corporate ideology in the field of literature like other organizations funded by the corporate Right push it in other fields (e.g. the Law and Economics movement in Legal Studies). Lawrence Soley's study Leasing the Ivory Tower: The Corporate Takeover of Academia 18 shows with devastating thoroughness how Higher Education has caved in to corporate values in virtually every other field. He makes a compelling case that it is this move towards accommodating corporations -"privatizing" is the euphemism often employed -- that has marginalized teaching and raised tuition to the detriment of student interests. The NAS and the ALSC represent the ongoing attack on language and literature, for these are just about the only fields of study where dissident viewpoints, including Marxism, are still tolerated.

I won't repeat here the thorough demonstrations by other scholars of how New Criticism and similar critical schools are essentially authoritarian and elitist, and how any attempt to depoliticize literature (or any human activity) is a promotion of passive acquiescence in status quo economic and power relations. I wish to emphasize, however, that this is what constitutes corporate ideology in the field of literature.19

By "ideology" I mean a false consciousness, engendered by the capitalist system due to the fact that relations of exploitation are masked by exchange, the "cash nexus" that Marx analyzed. 20 Studying, and thinking about, the support for purportedly "apolitical" literary criticism, "traditional" research, and New Critical values by such heavy-handedly political organizations as the NAS and foundations like Bradley, should teach us what they already know: not only that doing so serves the purposes of exploitation, but how it does so. "Traditional", "apolitical" literary criticism abets and furthers exploitation ideologically by reinforcing authoritarian ideas and institutions -- those which encourage working people to accept their exploitation or even to embrace it.

The conservative political agenda can be stated simply: lower the cost of labor. This is what William Simon and Michael Joyce, quoted above, are talking about. This is, in fact, what the anti-communism of the `30s, the `50s, and the present is all about, too. This is why this kind of criticism is authoritarian, undemocratic, anti- working class, and beloved by capitalists.

"Lowering the cost of labor" means lowering the standard of living of almost everyone who works for a living, except top-level managers, cops, and coupon- clippers -- the rich. Every policy the "conservatives" support serves this goal: either (1) to directly lower the cost of labor and standard of living of working people; or (2) to support values which justify inequality and exploitation, and which attempt to pit one section of the working population against another -- in other words, ideologies that justify lowering the cost of labor. That is, the "conservatives'" concentration on "values" is purely to promote values that themselves facilitate the subordination of working people to their bosses.

An excellent example is the NAS's spearheading of the attack on Affirmative Action in California. It is very clear that "reverse discrimination" is a myth. But racism is profitable, and has been so since the inception of slavery. This gets cheaper labor from blacks, Hispanics and other "minorities", who have been used as cheap labor by employers since the days of slavery. Many "conservatives" came from the South, where the elite were able to keep labor costs and living standards low for most whites as well by telling working-class whites that anything blacks got would be taken from them. They are doing the same thing today! Better for them that white and black workers blame each other for their lower living standard than that both white and black blame those really responsible -- the "conservative" corporations.

Once understood as a more aggressive version of capitalist ideology -- justification for exploitation and subordination -- the politics of conservative criticism can be exposed as a part of the generalized attack on the working class by corporate interests.

Since the Vietnam War, US capitalism has faced a greater threat of competition from other major capitalist powers, lowering the rate of profit. At the same time there is no mass left-led working-class based movement for reform, much less for revolution, that was present in the `30s through the early `50s, that constituted the material basis for mildly redistributive reforms aiming at "saving capitalism from revolution." There has been no force strong enough to oppose this corporate onslaught.

It's essential to recognize the connection between corporate funding, corporate capitalist ideology to justify exploitation, and the right-wing attack, including that in literature, for another reason: it points up the primacy of class as an analytical category. Only a Marxist class analysis really threatens exploitation. Feminism and Affirmative Action are attacked in this corporate strategy because women and non-whites have historically been, and remain, a source of super-exploitation essential to capitalist profits, as well as because sexism and racism are elitist ideologies that prevent working-class unity. But only class analysis is really "oppositional" if the "opponent" is rightly understood to be a corporate ideology that exists primarily to rationalize the self- interest of the ruling class.

An aside on "oppositionality": opening up the canon and focusing on issues of gender/race/class, are also attempts at emancipatory activity. However, it is also true that critical theories which privilege the first two categories have also arisen out of anti-communism, as a result of cynicism about class as an analytical paradigm caused by the failure of avowedly Marxist societies to build free, non-exploitative, egalitarian societies based on the working class. This -- anti-communism, and cynicism -- is why "class" is the part of the gender/race/class "triad" that is usually ignored. And, when it is not ignored, it is treated as one more "subject position", in the manner of identity politics. To quote Meyerson and Neilson, this liberal view is

…a perception of class not as a structural property designating one's position in the mode of production but as an individual property. Class is reduced to a matter of income, status, and life-style… 21

rather than as the fundamental analytical category without the use of which capitalist society can't be accurately understood.

What Do We Do?

1. We should be under no illusions: the corporate ideological assault on socially and politically engaged approaches to literature will be stepped up. This is guaranteed by the Right's success in pushing justifications for exploitation in all other academic areas, and by their virtually bottomless pockets. Therefore, some response is necessary: in fact, it's already begun. Here is a modest draft of what we should do. 1. Stop acting as though "debate" is the way to meet and defeat this attack. The advice of Gerald Graff and others to "teach the conflict" is appealing to many, but it is dangerously naive, because it ignores the extent to which this battle is not over misunderstanding, but over power. 22

Gregory Jay writes:

For academics, debating the right's foundation intellectuals is bound to be an exercise in frustration, since they do not abide by the standards of research and scholarly integrity demanded on campus. Since the goal of a D'Souza or a Cheney is power and influence, not a better understanding of the world, their factual errors and misrepresentations are regularly recirculated no mater how often they are disproved. The danger of the cultural right ... lies not so much in their ideas as in the establishment of a well- funded industry for producing, disseminating and legitimating them... The careful and often tedious scholarly process for producing and evaluating ideas has been junked. In its place is a reckless publicity machine that subordinates truth and facts to the political interests of a power elite... The delegitimation of higher education, like the delegitimation of public education as a whole, belongs to a larger effort to privatize American life and so shift the power over culture to those who can pay for it. Thus everyone gets diverted arguing about political correctness or tenured radicals, while ignoring the real news: the transfer of intellectual power from the public sphere to an alternative intellectual universe of privately funded special- interest organizations. 23

2. We should stop playing "Clinton" to the Academic Right's - and the corporate Right's -- Dole: stop "moving towards the right" in a completely futile attempt to placate these critics, like the MLA Executive Council is doing by pushing to adopt amendments to make the taking of political stands by the MLA harder and harder. 24

This is just what the "cultural conservatives" and their corporate capitalist sponsors want -- because more Vietnams, more mass murders like those in Guatemala and El Salvador, pushed by US capitalists in order to secure sources of cheap labor and impoverish us, our colleagues, and our students -- are on the way. The "cultural conservatives", and the corporate interests who bankroll them, do not want the campuses to be bases of political opposition as they have been so often in the past!

Furthermore, just as the conflict of interest between working people -- including ourselves -- and employers is absolute, so those who are pushing the employers' agenda are implacable: they will never be satisfied. Take the route of compromise or retreat, and you'll either end up one of them, as not a few ex-"radicals" and "liberals" have -- witness Frank Lentricchia's recent essay in Lingua Franca, excerpted with glee in the latest ALSC Newsletter 25 -- or, by the time you decide to fight, you'll have ceded too much.

3. Forget the idea of the "media as site of contestation." Michael Bérubé and Henry Giroux are among the opponents of the Right-wing upsurge in the academy who have fallen prey to this comforting illusion that "the left" can fight the Right by becoming more "media-savvy", better at PR. 26 The mass media are big business, tightly controlled. Left, class-conscious voices that expose the corporate agenda and fight it will never be anything but a marginal presence there, because it is against their interest. Nor is "Talk radio" a venue we can triumph in, or the mass media generally. 27

4. Historicize and, above all, demystify. Expose the relationship between the cultural (as well as the social) agenda of the Right and exploitation. This is a field on we can win our students, and many others. Cultural conservatism can be exposed for what it is: an attack on all working people -- the vast majority of our students -- but only if we make the connections tirelessly and clearly between exploitation and the attacks on Affirmative Action, feminism, homosexuality.

And, and especially, on the working class. Because it is the conflict of interest between employers and employees, bosses and workers, which is the fundamental issue the Right wants to hide. Because exploitation -- profit -- is first and last what is at stake, class is first and last the issue we must speak to. No class analysis -- no demystification.

Many of our colleagues who have good intentions are very uncomfortable with this kind of analysis, and would much rather appeal to vaguer, humanistic values, or to ideas of pluralism, diversity, respect for the minority, etc. But none of these alternate ways of valorizing or justifying the opening of the literary canon and the teaching of dissident critical perspectives really speak to the essential contradiction, to exploitation. Therefore, we must not water down, much less abandon, our exposure of the basis of the conservative cultural and social onslaught in the desire to further and justify exploitation, and to drastically lower the standard of living of working people for the sake of raising profits.

5. Finally, we must "bell the cat." 28 We must talk about capitalism. It's the inhuman system of capitalism that is the root cause of all these horrors. Everything goes back to that. The power to exploit, and make people sit still for it -- or at least not fight to get rid of the system that makes exploitation possible -- is the essence of this struggle over values, including literary values.

Many people -- many of our friends, colleagues, students -- feel uneasy talking about capitalism, because the old Communist movement talked about capitalism -- often very convincingly -- yet finally failed to build the egalitarian, non-exploitative societies for which they aimed. We must overcome this reluctance. No clear alternative to capitalism will be possible until we have convinced millions -- starting with ourselves -- of that truth to which all analysis points: capitalist exploitation is at the root of these horrors.

We have to point out tirelessly that capitalism is no more "justifiable" or "humane" that was slavery, or feudalism. We have to constantly expose it. And, when our students and colleagues ask us: What's the alternative? We must say: a society free of exploitation; one run by those who work; a society that doesn't try to justify inequality and poverty for many in order to justify abundance for a few. This is the age-old ideal of the majority of the human race, after all. If the Bolsheviks and the Comintern failed to realize it, that's no reason for us to give in and accept exploitative capitalism as "eternal."

Only one hundred sixty years ago -- when my own great grandfather was already an adult -- chattel slavery seemed "eternal," part of "human nature", as Aristotle had claimed. It had existed since before the earliest historical records. Yet in a century this ancient institution, this form of exploitation, had all but vanished. Like chattel slavery, "wage slavery" is a function of specific forms of social organization, of definite historical forms of exploitation. Capitalism has a history: a beginning, and also -- and inevitably -- an end.

History shows that the competition between powerful capitalist/imperialist states -- of which "cultural conservatism" is a product and a reflection -- ultimately lead to wars of massive destruction. Already they have led to the military adventures in Central America, Kuwait/Iraq, Somalia, and most recently in the former Yugoslavia. The "culture wars" are a prelude to the real wars, and the accompaniment of the devastation of working- and middle-class communities at home.

The economic crisis in the profession is constantly before us as an example of the real consequences of this system for junior faculty; adjuncts, part-timers, and students. The fight against the Right in the field of literature is a part of this larger fight, and it is worth fighting to win.

Grover C. Furr
English Department, Montclair State University


1 ALSC Newsletter, vol. 1 no. 1, Spring 1995, p. 7; the preceding quotation from the By-laws is on page 9 of the same issue.

2 ALSC Newsletter, vol. 1 no. 1, Spring 1995, p. 5.

3 People for the American Way, The Religious Right: Buying A Movement. Right-wing Foundations and American Politics. Part Two: The Givers. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. (hereafter PAW).

4 Robert Parry, "Lost History: Rise of the Right-wing Machine," The Consortium (electronic edition) vol. 1, no. 26, Nov. 25, 1996 (hereafter Parry).

5 "Manufacturing the Attack on Liberalized Higher Education." Social Text 36 (Fall 1993): 40-80.

6 The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1995; (hereafter Wilson).

7 See note 1.

8 ALSC Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 4 (Fall 1996), pp. 12-13.

9 ibid.

10 ibid., pp. 12-13; p. 9.

11 ibid., pp. 12-13; 7; 6.

12 Messer-Davidow, 67.

13 See Wilson, p. 15; 69-72; and passim.

14 Alan Filreis, "`Conflict Seems Vaguely Un-American': Teaching the Conflicts and the Legacy of Cold War 1" (review of Gerald Graff, Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education. New York: Norton, 1992), electronic edition.; Wilson, p. 14.

15 Wilson, p. 22, quotes National Association of Scholars president Steven Balch, Roger Kimball, and George Will.

16 See the PAW report and Messer-Davidow, among many other sources.

17 ALSC Newsletter, vol.2, no. 4 (Fall 1996), p. 14.

18 (Boston: South End Press, 1995).

19 An early, historical account of how the reactionary, racist Southern Agrarian movement spawned the New Criticism is Alexander Karanikas, Tillers of a Myth: Southern Agrarians As Social and Literary Critics (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1966), Chapter X: "The New Criticism." Since Karanikas many other scholars have identified and analyzed the reactionary and Cold War politics of the New Critics and the New York Intellectuals - groups also linked by Karanikas. See Barbara Foley, "From New Criticism to Deconstruction: The Example of Charles Feidelson's Symbolism and American Literature," American Quarterly 36 (Spring, 1984), 44-64.

Lawrence Schwartz, Geraldine Murphy and others have shown how New Critical values were applied to reread central figures in American literature. See Murphy, "Romancing the Center: Cold War Politics and Classic American Literature," Poetics Today (Durham, NC) 9:4 (1988), 737-747; "Ahab as Capitalist, Ahab as Communist: Revising Moby-Dick for the Cold War," Surfaces (Electronic publication), 1994, IV.201, 1-21, at For Schwartz, see Creating Faulkner's Reputation: The Politics Of Modern Literary Criticism (University of Tennessee Press, 1988).

On the reactionary critical affinities between New Criticism and Post-Modernism, see Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), and Gerald Graff, Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). A succinct analysis is in Richard Ohmann, English In America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996; orig. ed. U. Chicago Press, 1976), 79-90.

20 This is one common understanding of the term "ideology," though it combines the fifth and sixth definitions offered in Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London and New York: Verso, 1991), p.30.

21 Greg Meyerson and Frank Neilson, "Access to Grind: A Reply to Michael Bérubé," unpublished article Dec. 1996, to appear in The Minnesota Review.

22 Graff, Beyond The Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education. Norton, 1992.

23 Gregory Jay, "Mercenaries of the Culture Wars" (review essay), In These Times September 30, 1996; cited from electronic edition,

24 In the late 1980s the MLA came under attack from the academic Right centered in the NAS. Instead of responding in kind, the MLA leadership retreated, and has continued to do so.

Several years ago the MLA membership, at the leadership's prompting, changed the constitution so that resolutions on issues other than those directly related to the profession cannot be considered. Resolutions against the Vietnam War or racism, unless narrowly tied to professional interests, would be ruled out of order. At the 1994 Toronto MLA Convention a resolution against US troops in Somalia was ruled out of order on these grounds.

In 1995 the MLA leadership went to extraordinary lengths to defeat a motion sponsored by Professor Barbara Foley of the Radical Caucus which would have called for a vote on whether or not the constitution could be amended to its old form (which did permit political resolutions).

In 1996 the MLA leadership used the Newsletter to lobby for the viewpoint of the Yale administration and against the resolution, passed by the Delegate Assembly, in support of the Yale teaching assistants' strike. They lost anyhow, but angered many MLA members by their partisan stance.

At the 1996 (Washington, DC) Convention the MLA leadership tried various measures to change the resolutions process, succeeding with a measure to allow the Executive Council to hold up on any resolution they want to and bring it before the Delegate Assembly again the following year. This gives the leadership a tool with which to block any action against unjust treatment on any worksite issue, and makes quick action -- exactly what made the Yale resolution important -- almost impossible.

25 "Last Will and Testament of an Ex-Literary Critic ", Lingua Franca September/October 1996, 59-67; reprinted in ALSC Newsletter 2:4 (Fall, 1996). It is a contradictory piece, valorizing "enjoyment" of literature in New Critical fashion, but tracing Lentricchia's own love for reading to his discovery of Willard Motley's novel Knock on Any Door, a realist work of social criticism in the spirit of Richard Wright's Native Son. Motley himself was close to the Communist Party. This is far from the kind of high culture valued by New Critics or ALSC leaders.

In his recent work Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), while claiming to reject "the neo-conservative assault on the humanities, an assault made up of equal parts of ignorance and malice" (x), Stanley Fish fallaciously identifies "close reading" as the essence of literary criticism, and then identifies these skills as "new-critical style" (69). The whole work is a good example of the fundamental affinities between New Criticism and Post-Modernism, for which see Graff, Literature Against Itself.

26 Bérubé, Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics. London and New York: Verso, 1994; Henry Giroux, "Right Wing Pedagogy," The Cultural Studies Times, electronic text. ( no longer available on-line, 9/24/98; contact me for an email of this article for personal use only - GF).

27 The main text for the concentration of the media is Ben Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly. 5th edition. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997 (first edition 1983).

28 In Piers Plowman, Passus II, this story is used to refer to the attempt of the Commons to impose limits on royal power. | | HTML'd 9 Sep 98