There’s quite a bit on the web about Franzenfreude, which is presumably the pleassure taken at Jonathan Franzen, his writing, and so on. He has, the NY Times maintains, written the Great American Novel, a masterpiece which captures our society; “its majestic sweep seems to gather up every fresh datum of our shared millennial life.”
Some people are less than happy with this. They see him as the chronicler of the lives of people like the reviewers, who hardly represent “American life”. There is, some would say, really just a single story allowed.
On thinking about this, I thought back to the NY Times piece on experimental philosophy and our discussion of it. It was hard not to see some of the pieces in the Times as professionally conservative, but did any of us think of what was said in terms of professional gate-keeping? In terms of the insistence by (some of) a layered conglomeration of power sources that philosophy will not be too different from what they think it is?
Should we have raised such questions? Could such questions be connected to our long term concern about the dearth of women in the profession? Is there a gate keeping on the content of analytic philosophy that is preserving not just a power structure but also a single narrative.
It might be worth thinking about the practices of our discipline. If conferences and edited collections of essays are thought to need to have familiar faces with the familiar views in the leading positions, as we are sometimes told by distinguished visitors to this blog, then the maintenance of a power group and its narrative seems very clear.
So what’s being naive about it? I think the charge should be considered if we assess episodes of the sort I’ve mentioned in terms of the intellectual or practical merit, and leave out that we’re engaged in the construction and maintenance of a quite political practice. If nothing else, the popularity of it is on the wane with all sorts of funding sources.
The danger of a single story may vary with the kind or narrative in question, but this video might prompt us to find some analogies with fiction: