Postmodern Pooh

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Thirty-seven years ago, a slim parody of academic literary criticism called The Pooh Perplex became a surprise bestseller. Now Frederick Crews has written a hilarious new satire

in the same vein. Purporting to be the proceedings of a forum on Pooh convened at the Modern Language Association's annual convention, Postmodern Pooh brilliantly parodies the academic fads and figures that hold sway at the millennium.

Deconstruction, ...

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Thirty-seven years ago, a slim parody of academic literary criticism called The Pooh Perplex became a surprise bestseller. Now Frederick Crews has written a hilarious new satire

in the same vein. Purporting to be the proceedings of a forum on Pooh convened at the Modern Language Association's annual convention, Postmodern Pooh brilliantly parodies the academic fads and figures that hold sway at the millennium.

Deconstruction, poststructuralist Marxism, new historicism, radical feminism, cultural studies, recovered-memory theory, and postcolonialism, among other methods, take their shots at the poor teddy bear and Crews takes his shots at them. The fun lies in seeing just how much adulteration Pooh can stand.

Reading this book actually makes me grateful that I toil in the jargon-choked fields of psychology instead of the impenetrably murky caverns of literary criticism. But literary criticism is luckier than psychology: It has Fred Crews to light the way."

—Carol Tavris

"Hilarious and accurate. Crews has made the punishment fit the crime."

—Joan Acocella

Note to Adobe eBook Customers: The Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader version is copyable and printable, but there is a known problem printing to printers that do not use the PostScript page description language. This problem occurs with some HP LaserJet, Epson Stylus inkjet, and Epson impact printers. Consult your printer’s documentation to find out if it is PostScript compatible. This does not affect your ability to read the book on screen.

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Editorial Reviews

Joan Acocella
Hilarious and accurate. Crews has made the punishment fit the crime.
Carol Tavris
Frederick Crews is a Person of Very Great Brain. What he pooh-poohs deserves it.
Denis Dutton
Postmodern Pooh is an astonishing book: hilarious, deliciously cruel, and intellectually stimulating.
James Hynes
A brilliant and savagely witty skewering of the combatants on all sides of the academic culture wars . . . These are pitch-perfect lampoons . . .
The Washington Post
Mark Pendergrast
Once again, Crews made me laugh until I wept.(Mark Pendergrast, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Merle Rubin
Sparkling wit and brilliant parodies . . . make this a funny book.
Los Angeles Times
Barbara Fisher
Really good academic fun. The Boston Globe
Michael Pakenham
Postmodern Pooh should be required reading.
The Sun [Baltimore]
Publishers Weekly
In 1964, a young English professor at Berkeley published The Pooh Perplex, a slim academic satire purporting to collect a dozen critical essays on Winnie-the-Pooh. Insightful and searingly funny, it took academia by storm and gave the humanities a much-needed poke in the ribs. Little known then, Crews would become a highly influential cultural critic, whose humor and clarity leaven many books more serious than Pooh. Now, concluding a "long if uneventful career of devotion to humanistic values and to Pooh," Crews has issued a sequel, which is, if possible, more trenchant and hilarious than the original. This is partly circumstantial, the English Lit profession having become more self-parodying than ever. In 11 sham essays (complete with footnotes of brilliantly chosen actual texts), Crews takes on deconstruction, queer theory, gender/body studies, postcolonial studies, chaos theory, etc. His genius lies in details, like the "stochastic teddy bear descent rate" chart in the gene-theory paper and the Marxist professor with a "cross-departmental chair at Duke as Joe Camel Professor of Child Development." Crews steers largely clear of ethnic studies, reserving his finest shots for the Freudian and post-Freudian pretensions he has been dismantling for most of his career. Insiders will readily recognize minences grises like Harold Bloom and Stanley Fish, broadly caricatured. Occasionally, Crews falls somewhat wide of the mark. But in general his touch is too deft to be mean-spirited, and should be welcomed by a profession famous for its need and ability to laugh at itself. This small volume should be required reading for the 30,000 members of the MLA and any other bemused spectators of theacademic fishbowl. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Crews (English, emeritus, Berkeley) recently created controversy with his book-length invective against Freudianism, The Memory Wars. For this updated version of his wildly popular lampooning of literary criticism, The Pooh Perplex, published almost four decades ago, Crews sinks his fangs into more recent movements, such as deconstructionism, new historicism, radical feminism, trauma studies, postcolonialism, and cybercriticism. The book gathers papers from a fictional panel on Pooh at the Modern Language Association's annual convention, all written by Crews and garnished with footnotes that allow the bathos and muddled thinking in some actual scholarship to speak for itself. But like a gang of sorcerer's apprentices, Crews's targets often wriggle free of their creator's grasp and endow his satire with some of the passion, eloquence, and wit that has earned them their following. Although his animus against Freud knows no bounds, Crews eschews cynicism and ideological agendas as ringmaster of this learned Cage aux folles, magnanimously skewering radicals and archconservatives alike. Crews's obvious pleasure in letting a stuffed bear show up those critics who have clearly kept him reading for years will keep anyone interested in literary scholarship in stitches. Recommended for larger public and all academic libraries. Ulrich Baer, New York Univ. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A delightful sequel to the 1963 bestseller The Pooh Perplex that, like its predecessor, both skewers and synopsizes contemporary lit-crit approaches. Comprised of "methodologically acute papers on Pooh from leading figures in our field" presented at a Modern Language Association forum (or so the tongue-in-cheek preface informs us), the volume aims to examine Pooh in ways that generate "usefully conflictual" comments. This goal was achieved, says youthful-gadfly-turned-ironist-emeritus Crews (English/Berkeley). There's so much more to laugh at in literary criticism now than in 1963: while the first Pooh volume spoofed Freudian and Marxist academics, this one offers an even riper lot of ideologies for delectation. In 11 essays, including "Why? Wherefore? Inasmuch as Which?" and "The Fissured Subtext: Historical Problematics, the Absolute Cause, Transcoded Contradictions, and Late-Capitalist Metanarrative (in Pooh)," the Bear with Very Little Brain is dissected in light of gay studies, gyn crit, new historicism, meme studies, cultural studies, psychoanalytic studies, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, and more. Deliciously named imaginary contributors include N. Mack Hobbes, Sisera Catheter, and Calcutta-born Das Nuffa Dat. Identifying these characters is one of the many pleasures here: Could they be Stanley Fish, Judith Butler, Edward Said? At least Orpheus Bruno, writing on "The Importance of Being Portly," definitely appears to be Harold Bloom (clues to identity can be found in the footnotes). The essays display such erudition that they provide a backhanded overview of modern critical theory. More important, they reveal the author's humanistic faith even as "our humanism itself, by thislate date, has become full of Pooh." English majors, arise: Your field has been satirized, and well. Enjoy this in small doses, for it may be Crews's last Pooh, and you'll want to savor every semiotics joke that comes along.
From the Publisher
"So all you lit-crit junkies, rush right out and snag a copy of Postmodern Pooh. Once again, Crews made me laugh until I wept." —Mark Pendergrast, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Sparkling wit and brilliant parodies ... make this a funny book." —Merle Rubin, The Los Angeles Times

"Really good academic fun." —Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe

"Postmodern Pooh should be required reading." —Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810123847
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2006
  • Series: Rethinking Theory
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 701,063
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Crews is professor emeritus of English at University of California, Berkeley. In addition to The Pooh Perplex, he is the author of The Memory Wars and other books about psychology.

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Read an Excerpt


Why? Wherefore? Inasmuch as Which?


Felicia Marronnez is Sea & Ski Professor of English at the University of California at Irvine. All of her degrees, however, were awarded by Yale University, and it was from Yale's English department that she relocated to Irvine in 1990, with the specific aim of helping to narrow the sophistication gap between our two coasts. In view of her prizewinning dissertation, "Heidegger Reading Pooh Reading Hegel Reading Husserl: Or, Isn't It Punny How a Hun Likes Beary?," Marronnez has been well situated to demonstrate how the ethically serious Derrideanism of the Yale school illuminates the subtleties of the Pooh books. That promise was fully realized in her subsequent monograph, (P)ooh La La! Kiddie Lit Gets the Jacques of Its Life (Yale University Press, 1992).

"Well," said Pooh, "we keep looking for Home and not finding it, so I thought that if we looked for this Pit, we'd be sure not to find it, which would be a Good Thing, because then we might find something that we weren't looking for, which might be just what we were looking for, really."

One might say that the reader who has grasped the full significance of this passage has seen to the bottom of both Winnie-the-Pooh and its author. Yes, one might say that. But "one" would thereby be branded as a simpleton, a theory-starved dunce. "Grasped the full significance"? "Seen to the bottom"? Not very likely.

Pooh, it's true, manages, through byzantine byways that I will track below, to body forth the key principles of Deconstruction with uncanny fidelity. And that fact, given the apparent temporal priority of Milne over Derrida, would seem to prove the timeless pertinence of the latter's approach to textuality. Yet what is the leçon of Derrida, that consummate rhetor of the iterable and the dehiscent, if not that clear sight, the grasping of significance, and even historical precedence (to say nothing of timeless truth) are all illusions, effects of that very différance that constitutes the only legitimate object of critical scrutiny?

I wonder how many of you went for my feint that we might learn something here about the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. C'est pour rire. Pooh Bear, at least, knows better:

I sometimes wonder if it's true
That who is what and what is who.

After all, J. Hillis Miller has pointed out that "there is not any 'Shakespeare himself,'" and Derrida once observed that "there is not, strictly speaking, a text whose author or subject is Jean-Jacques Rousseau.'" It's fairly clear, then, that Miller is right when he characterizes every author as merely "an effect of the text." "A. A. Milne" himself or itself concedes the point in the preface to When We Were Very Young:

You may wonder sometimes who is supposed to be saying the verses. Is it the Author, that strange but uninteresting person, or is it Christopher Robin, or some other boy or girl, or Nurse, or Hoo? . . . you will have to decide for yourselves.

As for "the reader," spare me! The term elides difference, attempts to inscribe on a bubbling bouillabaisse of potentialities one model of a stolid, passive, tabula rasa receptor. Grant yourself a "reader" and you automatically become a writer — worse, a communicator with a plain message that "the reader" will supposedly open like some ersatz telegram announcing that he has been declared a finalist in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

Now that we've dispensed with both author and reader, you will be interested to learn that I'm going to go right on discussing them. And the same holds for both truth and literary meaning, notions at once fallacious and essential to the work of Deconstruction. After we have registered the fatal instability of our concepts, they still remain our concepts, all the more precious for our awareness that they, and therefore we, fail to intersect with "reality" at any point. As Pooh shows in numerous ways, we cannot do otherwise than yearn for unwobbling transcendence, especially when we see it dissolving into linguistic supplement and remainder.

Think of the scene in which Winnie-the-Pooh, supposedly on a purposeful march to call on his friends, pauses squarely in the middle of an entropic stream. Oblivious of its unilinear flow toward oblivion, slack-jawed Pooh, stubby arms at perfect rest on beloved belly, sits on a rock as solid as the one Dr. Johnson kicked to refute Berkeley. Using a passing dragonfly as a quadrant, he aims his nose straight at the warming sun. Heliotrope: that is Derrida's stunning metaphor for our arching toward the Logos, source of all the false light by which we (think we) "discern the significance," "see things in perspective," "apply the light of common sense," or "develop a vision."

Pooh's eyes, however, are closed. Paunchy Panza, catching the rays without rejection. He seeks nothing, perceives nothing, propounds nothing, but merely sings the noncommittally conditional, innocently egoistic "I could spend a happy morning / Being Pooh."

Being — Dasein! What is Pooh in this tableau if not the personification (ursification?) of Man stripped of all striving, truly attuned, for once, to that discursive impossibility, a Nature without cultural excess or archive? No dispersal here, no deferral or dissemination. But took what happens next:

The sun was so delightfully warm, and the stone, which had been sitting in it for a long time, was so warm, too, that Pooh had almost decided to go on being Pooh in the middle of the stream for the rest of the morning, when he remembered Rabbit.

"When he remembered Rabbit." Rabbit the nosy busybody, the restless, envious brain, the all-around expert who always gets it wrong. Rabbit is discourse itself, particularly in its most seductively "present" form, speech. And though Pooh never wants anything from Rabbit but food, it is no coincidence that the act-ivation of his bodily need co-insides with the prospect of his vulnerability to the Pooh books' most logorrheic talker. There is no free lunch, not even in the sacred forest of childhood. Once having felt a pang, we can gain our sustenance only by becoming dealers and supplicants within the web of signifiers, that differential network of traces both producing and exceeding "meaning" without ever duplicating the object of desire. Now we can discern why Pooh, in Rabbit's company somewhat later, gets "into a comfortable position for not listening to Rabbit." Here he attunes himself, defensively, to gentle forest sounds "which all seemed to be saying to Pooh, 'Don't listen to Rabbit, listen to me.'" But Rabbit, of course, prevails, and Pooh is swept from trance into transaction yet again. To submit to Rabbit is to be drawn into the "present" as it attempts to "be itself," the advancing edge of nervous conative (go native?) will. Pooh, however, doesn't have to like it. He senses — or rather, we sense through him — the speciousness of such contemporaneity.

Copyright © 2001 Frederick Crews

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Table of Contents

1 Why? Wherefore? Inasmuch as Which? 3
2 A Bellyful of Pooh 19
3 The Fissured Subtext: Historical Problematics, the Absolute Cause, Transcoded Contradictions, and Late-Capitalist Metanarrative (in Pooh) 33
4 Just Lack a Woman 47
5 The Importance of Being Portly 65
6 Resident Aliens 81
7 Gene/Meme Covariation in Ashdown Forest: Pooh and the Consilience of Knowledge 97
8 The Courage to Squeal 117
9 Virtual Bear 133
10 Twilight of the Dogs 147
11 You Don't Know What Pooh Studies Are About, Do You, and Even If You Did, Do You Think Anybody Would Be Impressed? 163
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012



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  • Posted August 22, 2011


    Im only writing a review because it said i would be tge first one to write one. I actually didnt even read the book. Good luck.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2001

    A Stuffed Bear Shows Up the Professors

    A wonderful book, though its charm probably requires some grasp of academia and the ideologies or intellectual 'disciplines' being satirized. Even (but only) a few academic ideologues may crack a smile, before undoubtedly reverting to character in the rush for yet more publications and conference panel invitations.

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