All this time I’m taking off has principally been devoted to study; to reading, to formulating a basic view of the world, and figuring out exactly what I want to do with my life, and what I want to study in grad school. A lot of that is crossing stuff off of my reading list, and some of that reading is literary theory.
I’m reasonably sympathetic to a lot of the big projects of literary theory: figuring out why people look at things a certain way, attempting to recognize and circumvent the blind spots of contemporary attitudes– a lot of research in those areas is worth looking at.
But what I really hate, and what consequently makes me read a lot less theory than I should, is the general obscurity with which a lot of it is written, the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, and (frequently) the outright hostility to many scientific achievements.
It’s perfectly legitimate to question the shameful and unfortunate ways science is occasionally used, or even to draw a line in the sand between science and the humanities, but I absolutely cannot stand writers who think they’ve figured it all out, who think that reading a little Foucault makes you better than all of the schmucks who work in biology labs across the country. I think you can attribute a lot of the parochialism of the humanities and social sciences today to this sort of attitude.
Steven Weinberg talks about ‘jurisdictional’ advances of science, when the progress of science occasionally makes a question subject to science, where it had previously been an area for humanistic speculation. You have to wonder whether opposition to science in the humanities is more jurisdictional sour grapes than anything else. One hopes that such third-grade attitudes will fade away in the near future.