Daphne Patai, a professor of Brazilian literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and co-editor of Theory’s Empire, argues that theory-driven tendencies in the profession have fed an obsession with “ersatz politics” among students and done lasting damage to their literary education. “We’re teaching theory to students, we talk to them about Barthes reading Balzac, and they don’t know who Balzac is,” she says. “They don’t have a background in literature because that isn’t anything that anyone thinks is of value anymore.”
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