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Kristina Persenaire ACF Abstract FY10

The Wisdom of Bumper Stickers: Celebrate Diversity vs. One World, One Love; The Ramifications of an Ideological Paradigm Shift from the Universal to the Specific

Conference Name: Midwest Popular Culture Association

The establishment of the English literary cannon is predicated on the belief of a universal ideology that was thought to be applicable to all civilized cultures.  Supporting and propagating the canonical ideology was the ‘universal intellectual’.  However, in the 1960s the universality of this ideology came under question and there arose an increased desire for specificity in the world of academia.  The call for specificity was born, in part, by the disenfranchisement of the various sub-cultures of society.  It became implausible to say that the white man in power spoke for everybody.  For, what did this white privileged man know of the struggles of the poor, the black, the woman, the immigrant, and the homosexual?  Michel Foucault with his 1977 article “Truth and Power” outlines the new trend toward specificity that means to give a voice to the voiceless by replacing the universal with the specific.

It is the purpose of this argument to explore the impacts of the paradigm shift from ‘universal’ to ‘specific’ in the world of literary criticism and theory.  Central to this argument will be a deconstruction of Michel Foucault’s assertion that the specificity of academics creates a bridge between the intellectuals and the masses.  However, it can be argued that Foucault perpetuates the establishment of  new hegemonies, based on an ideology of the specific, within academia that results in ideological divisions that further the distance between the ‘intellectuals’ who represent specific ideologies, the ideologies themselves and those who are not aligned specifically to those ideologies.