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fsm (and quality)

Exactly. I never quite believed that there was a thing called "the canon." There were something called "the classics," and the idea was that there were a collection of works of human civilization that, because of their intellectual quality or their historical importance, or both their intellectual quality and importance, were regarded as an essential part of education. So Plato is both important historically and has high intellectual quality. Marx is certainly important historically; you can have debates about the intellectual quality of the work. But both of those are important for people to read. The idea is that we are conveying to you a human civilization with a number of cultural and intellectual achievements of quality and importance. And now that's challenged. Now the idea is, oh well, one book is as good as another. I debated a guy once at another university who said, "Well, you know, Bugs Bunny is as good as Shakespeare. I mean these are all just texts. One text is as much of a text as another text." And indeed one English department at one university said, "We really shouldn't call ourselves the Department of English Language and Literature, we should be called the Department of Textual Studies." And from the point of view of textual studies, well, a cereal box is as good as a sonnet by Shakespeare. It's all just some nonsense. You can always say in French, "C'est la textualité du texte." A certain kind of textuality is all that counts. So that, I think, is ... that isn't just stupid, it's self-destructive. Because if you don't believe that there's a distinction in quality then why on earth would the taxpayers pay you, why would the students pay you to teach this stuff, if one opinion is as good as another and one text is as good as another? That is, I think that the mission that we're engaged in is predicated on a belief in quality.
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