I was struck, though, by this quote:
Progress will depend on faculty, many of whom have been educated, in Theory’s arrogant and angry terms, to “interrogate” texts, recovering
what David Bromwich, in “Literature and Theory: Notes on the Research Programs
of the 1980s,” calls “tact,” or the capacity to “show some feeling for the
language in which the work was written, for the period in which its author
wrote, and for the particular inflections that its style gave to the idiom it
inherited and revised.” [emphasis mine]
That word "arrogant" is interesting, especially when paired with Wayne Booth's second principle for pluralists:
I will try to publish nothing about any book or article until I have understood it, which is to say, until I have reason to think that I can
give an account of it that the author himself will recognize as just.
Last night on the telephone I was speaking with a colleague about how much he dreads teaching a particular poet he hates. He mentioned that he would have to pretend to like the poet, but I suggested that he let the students know that he doesn't like the poet. After musing about that for a bit, he said that the problem is that they will feel free to not like the poet, but that they have not yet earned the right to dislike him, because they haven't yet tried to understand him. In other words, he didn't want to feed an arrogance by which students think they can pass judgment on a work or poet they haven't really tried to understand.
Perhaps all professors are arrogant; I know I sure can be. Perhaps the most important thing we can take to a work of literature is not a theoretical approach, but an attitude of humility.