What's Left of theory



Publication Details

Leane, E. & Buchanan, I. 2002, 'What's Left of theory', Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 253-258.


The question about poetry after Auschwitz has been replaced with that of whether you could bear to read Adorno and Horkheimer next to the pool (Fredric Jameson, Late Marxism, p. 248).

In Cultural Studies today, the answer to this question would undoubtedly be no: theory and leisure cannot be enjoyed at the same time.

A brief anecdote is a useful way of illustrating this. During a tutorial on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (part of a course on popular fiction taught by Ian Buchanan), a student offered the following piece of rather stunning resistance to theory: while she was sure that hidden meanings could be found in Buffy and Angel (no contemporary discussion of vampire narratives could avoid such a digression!) she hoped the lecturer would refrain from doing so because it would spoil her enjoyment of those programmes. Her wish in requesting this, as she went on to specify, was precisely to preserve the (to her) meaninglessness of Buffy and Angel. What is stunning, of course, is that thought and enjoyment are characterized as mutually exclusive—it provokes the inference that there is no opposite to ‘mindless entertainment’ at all, that in effect even to be entertaining a text must first of all be apprehensible as ‘mindless’.

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