Ouch. If you’re interested in somebody taking Cornel West to the intellectual, literary, and ethical woodshed, go over to Inside Higher Ed to read Scott McLemee’s review of Cornel West’s recently published as-told-to memoir. (Yes, the professor hired a ghost writer!)
McLemee is right. Cornel West is not an academic celebrity—he is the parody of an academic celebrity. Think Stanley Fish without real cleverness and rhetorical élan. Think Harold Bloom without striking flashes of literary insight. Think Bill Ayers without any actual radical activism in his past. What McLemee leaves unmentioned is the fact that West is a phenomenon of a now passing era. He was created by post-civil-rights era white guilt, and its insatiable need to promote and celebrate and coddle and indulge their image of the “Black Intellectual,” a role he has played so well for nearly three decades.