In his groundbreaking new book, Melville Biography - An Inside Narrative, Hershel Parker goes to war against the theorists with an Old Testament wrath. I say, bravo! Parker brilliantly portrays how the rise of theory has degraded academic standards and slowly strangled the art of original research. The apostles of New Criticism argue that it is not important what Herman Melville intended when he wrote his masterworks; nor is it important what impact social events and commercial pressures had on his work. All that matters is the marvelous web of theories the New Critics can spin around his work. Parker calls this out for what it is: a rationalization for laziness, and a supreme act of narcissism.
Behind Parker's rage is a passionate plea for academics not to cede the field of original research to journalists. He fervently hopes they will shake off the fever that has gripped them for almost half a century and embrace once again the fundamentals of scholarship. Anyone concerned about the state of our universities and the quality of our social discourse must read this outstanding book.