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Critical Theory Go-Bag

March 11, 2014

In the Patriot Post: “Zombie Nation” by Bill Franklin referring to “Dead Poets Society” and responding to the recent Wall Street Journal article about zombie academics:

The collegiate educational establishment has gone nuts. The psychobabble of today’s elite on university campuses obsesses over class, race, gender, inequality, its victim status, and the sins of our fathers … and zombies (I don’t want to leave that out.) It is turning its narcissism into fraudulent disciplines of academic scholarship.

Spoken like an engineer, which Franklin upfront admits to be (with education at Tufts), but refusing to acknowledge that his preference for STEM-subjects does in fact mean he is a kind of “educational snob”;

I don’t believe I’m an educational snob.

If you don’t believe it’s raining, is it not raining? See Moore’s paradox.

Critical theory is important in ways that many engineers cannot understand. It stems from a misunderstanding of humanities as if it were a subject distinct from the present. Franklin believes that humanities study should be like “The Monument Men”, fighting to recover lost stolen art from the past. But it’s also about learning to see with various lenses. It’s both (and neither), like a zombie should be! An engineer may have very little use for critical theory, but critical theory has very little use for analyses of usefulness. When utility becomes the end-all measure of the importance of a thing, we all become zombies.

At HuffPostLive today a live chat: “Zombie Studies 101” with English Professors Kyle Bishop and Sarah Lauro, and with Tiffany Mark, a zombie cosplay mom, Jason Luna, a rpg-fantasy graduate student in a zombie class. Bishop says:

We study a lot of things that aren’t real. In the liberal arts particularly we’re not terrible interested if something is real or not because if people care about it, if people create it, if people invest time and interest in it, then it does become real.

EXACTLY! The engineer takes reality for granted and works to build with it. The social constructivist questions the fabric of reality. These are both investigations of Nature but very different kinds.

Lauro steals the show with the best quote of the video segment, (made better by her immediately following with reference to Gilgamesh):

We’re all going to die.

Are we just hiding behind zombie metaphors? No, as Bishop says, metaphors can bring out the truth in a more telling way than any direct assault might. Bishop notes “The Fool” – see also the tarot card Fool:

In medieval courts, the court jester was someone who was not expected to follow the same rules as others. He could observe and then poke fun. This makes the Fool unpredictable and full of surprises.

Becker’s last question was about survival preparedness. The gamer-grad-student, recognizes the need for water and a melee weapon. Sadly, Professor Bishop takes the question seriously and something about shelters with “clear shots”. Professor Lauro selects a slightly more intellectually-driven choice that applies for both the fantasy world inventory list and to Haitian folklore scholarship: salt. Take this with a grain of salt, a classic cliche, and salt provides electrolytes to possibly help counteract some neuro-toxins (?) or at least if you are drunk, some salty food with your bread and water?

My research has also revealed other potential zombie cures besides salt. So, in my zombie apocalypse go bag: my puppy, maybe some frogs (zombies might be afraid of frogs), some alcohol, preferably rum (for Baron Samedi). And juju! Juju beads or beans? Magic charms or candy? Both!

Let’s see what else? Love? …and comedy, maybe a recording of some standup, and some jazz . Also we are going to need facts; download a copy of Wikipedia and some classic books so we can read them without internet. Probably some engineering and medical texts would be most useful, but some classic DWEM texts might also be good, ya know, for culture… hahah – why would we need that?

We’re going to need food and water (iodine pills? maybe also iron pills?) And lots of other things. Do we need Shakespeare for survival? Neither of the English professors went there but I think it would have made a stronger argument.

Because Critical Theory is useless in an apocalypse world of self-reliance in a survivalist mentality. Gladly, that’s not the world we live in. In the real world, even if there is a Katrina-like-apocalypse, we need help from the community; we can be prepared, but we need our friends and neighbors to help, we are not alone, and laughter is good medicine.

Therefore, Ms. Mark, the zombie mom, might be the most prepared because she is ready to become part of the zombie community horde – no, strike that, she’s going to be their leader; to quote Milton:

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven

[and again we can blame that same English teacher for that quote earworming through my brain]

Meanwhile at MSU Social Work: “Enrollment now open for summer 2014 zombie apocalypse course” contact: Glenn Stutzky.

One Comment
  1. Kyle Bishop permalink

    The show was live! I wasn’t prepared for that question, and Sarah had been giving all the best answers already, and I panicked! I choked in the clutch!

    Tiffany really did have the best answer there.

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