A small smackerel of lit crit
By Jennifer A. Salcido, Managing Arts Editor
I am in college. I know I am in college (well, aside from, like, classes and dorm life and all that logical stuff) because, for an entire afternoon, I was traipsing around Amherst with "Postmodern Pooh" under my arm. A collection of short essays from the December 2000 Modern Language Convention (edited by Frederick Crews-a retired professor who is renowned for a similar casebook, "The Pooh Perplex"), "Postmodern Pooh" may seem a little absurd at first. Skeptics of postmodern studies, math nerds and PTA Moms will all probably scoff at the idea-analyzing Winnie-the-Pooh? Please. It's a children's book, an uncorrupted display of all that is good and simply wonderful in society! Friends, I am not a math nerd. I am not a skeptic of postmodern studies (it's okay if you don't take me seriously, postmodernism doesn't even take itself seriously). And, regretfully, I am not a PTA Mom (I tried, they kicked me out-the whole lack of children and a minivan thing didn't jive too well with them). Realizing this, I threw caution and my paranoia to the wind. After all, it is only in this environment that one can properly immerse himself in such an endearing endeavor in erudition-for, as I have established, I am in college now, and it certainly isn't uncommon to encounter texts which tie together subjects far more disparate than those in "Postmodern Pooh."

The essays and voices in this collection are as varied as the furry little creatures that populate the Hundred Acre Wood that it deconstructs. Everyone from renowned literary critics to militant feminists to cultural studies buffs sporting strobe-lights and MIDI-sequenced background music has a say in this piece of timeless cultural criticism. Here we have Marxist readings, feminist readings, queer readings, cyberculture readings, gender studies readings, postmodern readings, poststructuralist readings, parental readings; we have men talking about women, women talking about women, women talking about men talking about women, men talking about pigs and kangaroos and huge colonial oppressors (or, in laymen's terms, the Heffalump).

Seemingly every permutation (and yet they've barely scratched the surface! I'm left begging for a sequel) of "Pooh studies" are represented, and represented well. The reading is largely accessible, exceedingly interesting and always entertaining. The writers take as many shots at each other as they do at the zaftig bear and his creator (Milne), and they spare no time in overturning and complicating each other's theses. What results from the interplay of the theories and their authors themselves is a carefully layered argument-an exercise in proving the benefits of not taking cultural texts for granted, no matter how simple they may seem. It is, after all, this same spirit of imagination and fantasy that Milne's characters encouraged in the first place-why, then, should we be so reluctant to adopt this philosophy in writing/reading criticism of it?

While you shouldn't go into this expecting to get a complete picture of what postmodernism is, nor a complete idea of what falls under the umbrella of postmodern textual analysis, don't be so quick to write this collection off as ridiculous and sparse. Embrace the playfulness and meta-narrative nature of postmodernism and critical studies themselves, and you're sure to find that while Pooh may be all stuffing, this book surely isn't.

Issue 00, Submitted 2001-11-28 17:22:01