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SpongeBob 101

The philosophical approach to high and low culture.

Nov 14, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 09 • By DAVID GUASPARI
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7. Where credit is due, and where it is not. Might these books disserve their readers, empty calories dulling the appetite for, and the ability to savor, the real thing? I think not, for they don’t pretend to be what they’re not. The gluttony of Homer Simpson offers less matter for reflection than the gluttony of Falstaff—but to offer it as a topic for bedtime reading is not vandalism. It’s not like offering an academic program of Simpsons studies. A Google search suggests that a degree in that specialty is not (yet) available, but suitable merchandise has appeared on term paper websites, which presumably respond to demand. There is, for example, an “analytical essay” with insights like “As a moving, ever expanding satire, [Homer Simpson] is at once the best and worst of American dadness.”

My attempt to hate “and Philosophy” books failed, although I think their edifying potential is modest and I dissent from the cover blurbs praising their “brilliance” and “fun.” The contributors are no doubt intelligent and well meaning, but it takes a kind of genius, an Orwell or a Robert Warshow, to mine deep things from shallow subjects.

David Guaspari is a writer in Ithaca.

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