Postmodern Pooh
Frederick Crews
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Postmodern Pooh* online

Postmodern Pooh

Frederick Crews
North Point Press
192 pages
January 2003
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

previous review next review

OK, Postmodern Pooh is not for everyone. You have to be at least vaguely familiar with the terms postmodernism and Derridean discourse, to have heard of the schools of thought that have dominated academic literary criticism in recent decades. But even a fairly superficial acquaintance with them is enough to find this parody of the seriousness with which critics have taken themselves and their methods highly amusing. These are movements that are a joy to rip apart, as the academics write in turgid, incomprehensible prose with a great self-importance.

Frederick Crews takes the children’s classics Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne and invites a range of professional literary critics to sink their claws into them. In actual fact, Crews has invented an MLA (Modern Language Association) conference where 11 radical speakers represent various contemporary directions in literary criticism. The text of their speeches (which do need to be read in the order given, as individuals often comment on previous lecturers) are preceded by biographies: “Sea & Ski Professor English at UC Irvine”; postcolonialist Das Nuffa Dat; the Exxon Valdez Chair in Humanities, founder of the journal Quelconque [something or other]; a specialist in “the application of scientific rigor to the study of children’s literature.” He even finds a way to make fun of the victims’ movement of recovering repressed, often Satanic, memories, by creating a mother whose daughter revealingly winces in pain at each mention of the character Piglet.

The academic writers in this field are looking to make careers in the hard-fought and narrow field of academia, and they seem to compete for the most far-fetched writing style. Let’s take on Marxism:

“The characters’ classless equality and their lack of anything in particular that needs doing indicate that they dwell at either the beginning or the end of History – that is, either before or after the several cycles of exploitation that began with the earliest organized exchange of goods and services.”
Or militant feminism:
“Note that it’s only the male characters – and all of the male characters – who are made uneasy about their identity. They are, shall we say, less than cocksure as to who they are. There seems to be a certain estrangement between the Pooh males’ executive ego upstairs and the reluctant John Henry who’s supposed to be doing the heavy lifting below.”
How about theorizing along the lines of whether Shakespeare was really the author of his works:
“Among Milne’s contemporaries, very few meet the triple criteria for authorship of Pooh: metaphysical pessimism, extraordinary literary gifts, and a knack for writing sympathetically about animal characters. There is, of course, Franz Kafka, a worthy candidate in all three respects.”
Or a reactionary for whom these new radical directions are just a bit much:
“The characters’ well-trimmed fur and feathers, their diffident and tactful manners, their geniality and community concern all attest to the author’s transparent aim, that of imparting Western Values to a conservatively attired little lad of sound English stock.”
Once again, this book is not for the general reader. But if you’ve dabbled at all in the past 30 years of academic writing about books, you’ll be rolling on the floor in laughter – or at least chuckling – all the way through.

© 2003 by Nancy Chapple for Curled Up With a Good Book

buy *Postmodern Pooh* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.