PALO ALTO, CA – The suicide letter left by Stanford football has been criticized by the literary community for its “poorly cited” bibliography, prompting a series of back and forths between several journalists, literature publications and even members of Stanford’s own English department. Though there have been no outright accusations of plagiarism, the issue has nonetheless spawned an international outcry coming on the heels of the letter being shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
An image from the jacket of Stanford Football: Deconstructing 116 Years of Grotesquerie and the Fabulism of Crowds (Stanford University Press, 2007)
“It’s ridiculous,” said Ramon Saldivar, chair of the Stanford English department and author of The Borderlands of Culture: Américo Paredes and the Transnational Imaginary (2006).
“The bibliography is fine. I’ll tell you exactly what this is: cultural backlash. Six years of anti-Americanism has manifested itself in European disdain for the kind of revolutionary research represented by Stanford football’s suicide letter. They haven’t directly said ‘plagiarism’ but we all know what’s at stake here, what they’re insinuating. I stand by the football department and their work. It’s daring stuff. It’s the kind of writing that made this country the locus of late twentieth century literature at the expense of continental Europe, and they know it.”
Saldivar’s strong words are just one example of the growing division between pro-Stanford football suicide letter supporters and a loose group of European intellectuals based primarily in Paris and Brussels who call themselves “post-symbolists”.
Columns, op-ed pieces and essays defending the letter have appeared in publications as diverse as The Paris Review (which is actually based in New York), the Wall Street Journal, and the National Review – the conservative political opinion bi-weekly founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. – in response to the French literary journal Les Temps Modernes‘ initial criticism of the bibliography. Each has taken a distinctly pro-American stance, with journalist Tom Wolfe writing a particularly scathing column in the National Review‘s Feb. 9 issue:
[Les Temps Modernes publisher] Claude Lanzmann is a stooge. He is a backwards, small minded hellion with no vision. Even worse: he is uncreative. Francophilia is dead in America (if it was ever alive) and Lanzmann is the reason why: despite the magnificence of crepes, Baudelaire, the musicality of their language and Zinedine Zidane, the French have systematically destroyed any semblance of hope for a love of the French. Why? Because they kept on being French, which is to say they maintained a palpitating cloud of superiority no matter the cost. I’m sure Lanzmann read Stanford football’s suicide letter and felt in his testes the same cold dread that descended on the terrible lizards when the Yucatan turned into a gigantic crater. Like them, Lanzmann and his ilk are destined to become paleontological curiosities, studied as examples of evolutionary dead ends and serious misallocations of brain power. If you sliced him up I’d expect Lanzmann to look exactly like a stegosaurus: miniscule gray matter up top, with most of the higher functions located in the ass to help with walking. I piss on the Eiffel Tower.
Lanzmann responded by labeling Wolfe a “silly American” and calling on fellow Europeans to “collectively sniff in [America’s] general direction.”
The post-symbolists’ issue with Stanford football’s suicide letter revolves around the idea of “Jungian-epic dualistic banality”, an idea they claim was first put forth by Belgian philosopher Ivan O. Godfroid in his seminal Psychiagenia: A Gauge Theory for the Mind-Brain Problem (Neuroquantology, 2003). In its letter Stanford football claims that something similar to Jungian-epic dualistic banality is the primary cause of the poor attendance, low enthusiasm and general apathy of a Palo Alto home crowd, though the letter calls the phenomenon “because we sucked for so long”-ism. Post-symbolists interpret the lack of an acknowledgement of Godfroid as borderline plagiarism.
Responding to the claims of numerous European writers, philosophers and intellectuals, political commentator Bill O’Reilly noted that they should “shut up” and “stop supporting terrorists with their panty armed leaflets and ‘ideas’ and spineless flags with no stars or even stripes.”
Added O’Reilly: “It’s not like anyone even knows where Belgium is. They haven’t done anything for us since Jean-Claude Van Damme. Time Cop is a masterpiece. It’s a wonderful film, and I thank them for it. But what have they done for us lately? Nothing. In my book that puts them right up there with [Osama] bin Laden and [Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Mississippi head coach Ed Orgeron defended Stanford football’s suicide letter, calling it “a beautiful elegy on par with Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!”
“Whitman took our grief over the death of Lincoln and expressed it for the common man, and for the uncommon man. He took grief and transformed it into beauty. That is the purpose of art: the mediation on the transient leading to an acknowledgement that temporality is the first requirement of the truly beautiful. Stanford footbaw is no longer with us, and we now know why: because it was more beautiful dead than alive. We should celebrate that,” Orgeron said.
Regarding the issue of plagiarism, Orgeron noted that Godfroid’s ideas had their precedent in the numerical monism of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras.
“Everybody is derivative. Look at Swingers: they talk about how Reservoir Dogs steals from Goodfellas, and then the next scene they’re stealing from Reservoir Dogs. This is exactly like that, only with literary constructionism and empirical archetypes and footbaw,” Orgeron added.
Despite the citation furor Stanford football’s suicide letter was recently shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and its £30000 ($59,000) award.
Newly hired Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh was not aware of the existence of the letter, nor of the suicide of Stanford football. Harbaugh – until recently the coach of Division I-AA University of San Diego – was told of both, as well as the controversy over the letter’s bibliography. He was visibly confused.
Said Harbaugh: “I don’t see what the problem is. It sounds like they followed proper Modern Language Association citation guidelines.”
28 responses to “Stanford football’s suicide letter criticized for bibliography”
I have no idea what Ed Orgeron looks like, where he’s from or how good a coach he is, but every time I see his name (100% of the time in this blog) all I can thibk about is the word footbaw. Brilliant use of intra- and inter-blog repitition for the sake of humor. You’ve been watching South Park, haven’t you?
I’m assuming you’re aware that Ramon Saldivar is actually a professor at Stanford.
I looked up Les Temps Modernes on Wikipedia and found only a small blurb. Why them?
Brian, yeah. I stumbled upon Saldivar at Stanford’s English website. I also randomly picked Les Temps Modernes from Wikipedia’s list of French literary journals, so… apologies to Claude Lanzmann, who gets called a small minded stooge facing extinction by a very angry Tom Wolfe for apparently no good reason. At least I do my pseudo-research.
And, no, I haven’t been watching South Park. I’ve only time for one Comedy Central show and that show is the Colbert Report.
I think Bill O’Reilly, Ed Orgeron, the Stanford English department, and the European pansies talking about the bibliography are missing the biggest point of this: the Pac-10 is now the Pac-9! Who will replace the Cardinal? Fresno State? Boise State? No! Whoever comes into the Pac-10 needs to have Sun Belt Conference kind of money to make it worthwhile.
What is Stanford going to do with the stadium they just built for the team? Now it will be relegated to the semi-annual World of Warcraft Conference. And the Stanford tree is now out of a job; absolutely no one wants that thing roaming the streets of Frisco with nothing to lose.
By the way – great pic from the Aggies taking down Stanford – that’s a legendary game around Davis.
There’s a site that lets you create daisy chains of college football consequence. Davis beat Stanford, who beat blank, who beat blank, etc. The Davis win allowed you to discover that Sister Mary’s School for the Deaf could beat Florida by proxy – and it was all made capable due to Stanford losing to Davis that year.
Jon Tu you’re my hero.
It appears Ivan O. Godfroid is also a real person. I smell a defamation suit.
Better dead than corrupt.
I seem to recall some ugly club squash graft rumors in the late nineties, so glass houses.
Stay focused! We are now dealing with a Pac 9. Now what is going to be done about it?
so its the 8 dwarfs now? cal doesnt count either so 7 dwarfs. zona and asu suck. 5? ucla, oregon state, wazzu, they all suck. washington blows. oregon is yellow. the conference is gone.
You must be a very spiritually satisfied person, because you obviously aren’t getting material compensation for this swill.
What? I can’t hear you. I have a Heisman in my ear.
Spoken like the bandwagon tool you are. Like Ferrell, USC and tennis braceleted trophy wives, you and your “writing” are overrated.
What? I still can’t hear you. I have a Heisman in my other ear.
Lame responses. The surprise is overwhelming.
BeauDemon, 1. Socrates, 0.
Making fun of Stanford football is like heaping shit onto a shit pile that’s already got too much shit in it.
This might be one of the funniest posts I’ve read in a while. The Orgeron quotes are classic. Good job.
Wait a minute. I see a humongous flaw in the reasoning of this article. It is entirely based on the shaky assumption that Ed Orgeron can read.
Jon Tu–Do NOT listen to the critics..you got pen! Actually, your citations are right on. I would substitute Les Annales for Temps Modernes only because it is the quantitative historical French journal that pompously claims a scientific basis for truth. Saldivar and Orgeron are classic.
You need to come out of the literary closet and start to post on BootboardPlus. God knows this Board needs some spicing up: all the contributors do is parse the lack of impact players, worry about recruiting,quibble endlessly over how much Stanford football sucks and how long it will continue etc.
Here’s a challenge: how about a piece on the two Johns, Etchemendy and Hennessy and their unwavering commitment to Stanford athletics.
Keep writing; you might be the next PJ O’Roark.
Thanks Leon. Except I’m not a Stanford fan, so I probably won’t be getting a paid subscription to a message board for Stanford football. But the O’Rourke comparison was nice.
I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is really excellent D. Good job, cheers dakkakfgkdeg
cts this angan red articlest sound pesatnya r developing pay terus w