Here, one hits a wall.  The “culture wars” were a particularly bad time for romantic criticism, and that bad time is not entirely over.  The ironies are onion-layered.  How to explain?  One can only offer a ‘story’.  In Dick Hebdige’s account, the Victorian-Edwardian-Modernist notion of culture as the “best” achievements of the past, vis a vis Arnold & (), began to come unseamed with British Marxists like Raymond Williams, but even Williams was quite provincial compared to Bourdieu, who reset the stage for thinking about culture as ideology.  Perhaps one can simply say that after WWII, modernism began to come undone. Continental philosophers, including members of the Frankfurt School (Benjamin, Adorno) and then Derrida, still clung to a notion of art as resistance to cultural fantasies, but with the caveat that art had to undo all that seduces us with utopian or paradisal appeal – the siren song of the culture industry.  Although Cornel West aligns himself with the Frankfurt School, he nevertheless rejects, I think, an ongoing romantic project and systematizing holism one finds in Continental Philosophy, in favor of a more British-American pragmatism. On the one hand, we have in the Frankfurt School a group of thinkers who are no longer ‘white’ in the sense that they have been to the ghetto if not the concentration camp.  Derrida, too, born in the Maghreb, and at some point in his youth a non-citizen, also isn’t quite white (even if, above all, he seems like a witch-doctor style sorcerer).  Wouldn’t pragmatism be more white than the Continental Philosophy that transplanted itself to America?  Can one be more white than Whitehead?  Well, the point is that Continental Philosophy is still grounded in an enlightenment project that West calls the “epistemology factory” – an attempt to take hold of truth as form, which pragmatism simply drops.  More on this later.  One point here, though, is that pragmatism opens itself (perhaps naively) to spiritual experience, and to paradise.  {Granted, pragmatism was an Edwardian project, that predated WWII}.   

Fast forward to Jerome McGann and Terry Eagleton.  They would make mincemeat of Wordsworth, using historical materialism.  Considering the deep account of Wordsworth’s paradisal energies in M.H. Abrams, this seems to be a tragedy.  But, it had to happen – particularly because of Wordsworth’s whiteness.  After WWII (and before), the British Empire had crumbled.  Wordsworth was a vestige of sublime Britishness.  In the United States, the civil rights movement had happened, as had Vietnam.  American imperialism was in full swing – and perhaps this imperialism was more pragmatist than idealist – but (and this is all a jumble to me) whiteness was visible.  By whiteness I mean a tendency to totalize, a tendency to use time and abstraction through discipline to attain total ends.  I mean a certain distance from physical pleasure, from the body, from the earth.  A lack of rhythm.  A body that dances from the waist up. A corporate whiteness that thinks nature does not exist. 

Ironically, the whiteness – the dirty hands that think they are clean – that McGann attacked in Wordsworth (and in Romanticism) really exposed McGann’s whiteness.  He totally misses the sensuality in Wordsworth.  He doesn’t seem to get the bliss.  Abrams got it (see his discussion of Plotinus and Spinoza) and, since the ecocritical turn, recent critics have been getting it.  Nature exists, but we just have to see that its ecological web of relations penetrates us through and through.  We can’t be white.  As Latour once tried to argue, we’ve been indigenous all along.      

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