@JananGanesh on ‘Franzenism’: American Writer comments

The reader of Mr. Ganesh’s purely speculative ‘life report’ on the career of Mr. Franzen, which ends not with praise for Franzen the writer, but presents this author as an ‘anti-left crusader’, in sum, a ‘political elitist’. Not quite in the mold of Bellow, whose admiration and enthusiasm for Bloom’s paranoid hysteric , ‘The Closing of The American Mind’  about the the ‘Left’ of another decade , demonstrates that we are not reading V.S. Pritchett. This reader can think of no other literary critic to match the insights offered by Pritchett, even the redoubtable James Wood,  lacks the precision, brevity and insights offered even in Pritchett’s briefest of reviews.

According to Mr. Ganesh, Franzen, as writer, will not meet with the success that his concept of ‘Franzenism’, another name for the perennial critical hysterics about the ‘Left’, that is the argumentative mainstay of this elitist newspaper.

But Mr. Franzen has a decided rival in Jordan Peterson whose blend of culture bound psychology, Jungian Archetypes and campaign against the Post-Modernists, ‘the cultural Left’, Derrida among them: these villains, whose cultural,political,relativism and its ascendancy in an American context, is chronicled in  French Theory by François Cusset. And for the French  philosophical,intellectual and political context of ‘Post-Modernism’ read ‘French Philosophy of the Sixties, an Essay in Antihumanism ‘ by Ferry and Renaut. Mr. Peterson,  attacks the ghosts of ‘Post-Modernism’ as part of his strategic attack on the ‘Left’. 

Mr. Ganesh provides , as a matter of argumentative convenience, a narrow rhetorical frame for his defense of ‘elitism‘.  The larger political picture of the Defense of Elitism and its detractors like the ‘Left’ and the threat of the ‘Relativists’  is a cornerstone of ‘Conservatism’,  in its contemporary iteration. That political present is presented as an expression of an inevitability, that is the product of the leadership of an ‘elite’. The Neo-Liberal Project, that led to economic and political catastrophe, is the project of an ‘elite’s’ economic,political, social engineering. The very concept of the evils of  ‘social engineering’ was once one of the key arguments against the ‘Left’, yet the Neo-Liberals were as dedicated practitioners of that form of enforced social control as the ‘Left’

Final thought: it’s hard to realize, even to conceive, that Franzen had translated Karl Kraus, such is his American provincialism.   

American Writer




@A.J. Maher @StephenKMackSD

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.  I first read Gore Vidal in a Bantam paperback titled Sex,Death and Money published in 1968.  In it was an essay titled ‘French Letters: Theories of The New Novel’  that criticised the work of Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Butor, Simon and Pinget. Vidal’s wide ranging interests and his literary sophistication were a revelation of a kind: I was not quite ready, or more likely simply unable to comprehend. It wasn’t long before Vidal had engaged with the work Writing Degree Zero of Barthes.

Yet subsequently I read Rorty’s ‘Philosophy as a Kind of Writing’ An Essay on Derrida. The reader can decipher this essay as an advocacy of Derrida, but also as a defense of his own ‘Philosophizing’ as conscious exercise of philosophy as a literary genre.  After his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. I had also read  John Sturrock’s ‘The Word from Paris’ and his insightful essay on Derrida in the London review of Books titled Sabotage.


There are many more Sturrock essays in the archive of the LRB on the subject of ‘Post- Structuralism’ . He was both an advocate and a unsparing critic of Derrida. I also have read Frederick Crews ‘Follies of the Wise’ the chapter titled ‘The End of the Post-Structuralist Era’ that identifies its nihilism as intellectually corrosive.

As you can tell , my engagement with Derrida and the Post-Structuralists, and their critics is of long duration.  The provincial Mr. Peterson is at war with the ghosts of Derrida and his epigones. It has escaped Peterson’s notice that Derrida and his acolytes  have simply faded from the intellectual scene. Derrida serves the important function of being  Peterson’s straw man.




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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