[Marxism] Passage on Bellow, and Then Some

Ismail Lagardien ilagardien at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 6 09:16:05 MST 2012

Love this passage: 

"I have a blind spot for Bellow's work; never 
understood what the fuss is about. Can't read the 
guy with any pleasure at all, though I've frog-
marched myself through the oeuvre. It's a weird 
combination of shallowness with grandiloquence; 
Big Ideas, or at least, resounding abstract nouns, 
thrown about with freshman-seminar abandon by a person 
who clearly hasn't done much actual thinking at all, 
and an attempted Runyonesque loose-limbed breeziness of
style that reeks of contrivance and the lamp, and gimps
-- to my ear -- painfully down the page."

Reminds me of what I used to tell my students: "yes, read the texts I recommend, read any and all texts you wish, but never under-estimate the value of thinking". The point I always tried to make is that students, actually, know a lot more than they think, or we (teachers) give them credit for. In many instances we simply give them ways of expressing themselves formally. I start from the belief, at least in political economy, that students "know" about poverty or inequality. They have an idea that the Prime Minister is an idiot/genius, before they get to my classes. We sometimes merely "help" them with ways of thinking, or direct them to other people who have expressed their ideas much better. Sure we give them new knowledge, but the kids aren't brain dead when they get to class.

Last year at Elon, one of my students made a three-minute statement about capitalism that was about as trenchant as any I have heard - and he had never read a page of Marx! Another student, after I mentioned Polanyi's Double Movement, told a friend on Facebook, that that "spoke to him" and gave him clarity on his own ideas. He (independently) went to the library after our class, one day, and retrieved The Great Transformation and, guess what? Before that, the book had not been checked out in four decades (or something like that).

I miss teaching.


Ismail Lagardien

Nihil humani a me alienum puto

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