Johann Wenzel Peter , Fight of a lion with a tiger , 1809

Here are the Literary Critics worth reading: the Top 16 Who Have Prevailed So Far and Have Made It To the SWEET SIXTEEN!

Every year, Scarriet holds their version of March Madness, with 64 authors competing for the championship.

In 2010, the first year of the tournament, we used every Best American Poetry volume, David Lehman, editor, to determine the field.  Winner: Billy Collins

In 2011, Stephen Berg, David Bonnano, and Arthur Vogelsang’s Body Electric, America’s Best Poetry from the American Poetry Review. Winner: Philip Larkin

In 2012, Rita Dove’s The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry. Winner: Ben Mazer

In 2013, casting about for players, we amassed 64 Romantic poets, including modern and contemporary poets fitting the Romantic mold. Winner: Shelley

This year, Scarriet used the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John McGowan, and Jeffrey J. Williams, which has produced a true clash of giants:

Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Sidney, Coleridge, Baudelaire, Marx, Freud, Pater, De Beauvoir, Saussure, T.S. Eliot, etc.

The earth actually shook as the combatants went toe to toe in this year’s March Madness.

The critc-philosophers who made it to the Sweet 16 are:


1. PLATO d. Sidney

2. DANTE d. Aristotle

3. POPE d. Aquinas

4. ADDISON d. Maimonides



6. COLERIDGE d. Burke

7. POE d. Peacock

8. SHELLEY d. Emerson


9. BAUDELAIRE d. Saussure

10. FREUD d. Benjamin

11. WILDE d. Pater

12. (John Crowe) RANSOM d. T.S. Eliot


13. (Edmund) WILSON d. Northrup Frye

14. (J.L.) AUSTIN d. Cixous

15. (Edward) SAID d. De Beauvoir

16. (Harold) BLOOM d. Sartre

Scarriet would ask you not to try this at home: The winners are all white men.

We are really sorry, VIDA.  But when women—or the women presented in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism—only write on women, this narrowness itself contributes to a certain amount of self-marginalizing.

This is a universal problem: if the oppressed are thrown in an intellectual hole, how do they dig themselves out—in a truly broad intellectual fashion?

Perhaps this is why there’s a certain dislike for this kind of competition: the best rises to the top, producing an historical unfairness, given what human history has been.

We see the problem.  We make no apologies, however, for our experiment.


  1. July 31, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    We’re really sorry VIDA, but when me make the rules for who’s considered competitors in our totally fake competition, we can’t really be blamed for the resulting white male battle royal, nor their totally surprising victories. To reiterate: Just because we made the whole thing up doesn’t mean we can be blamed for any exclusions. Ladies (and really all non-white people), stop being so narrow and self-marginalizing, yo!

  2. thomasbrady said,

    July 31, 2014 at 11:47 pm


    As I sit on my yacht, smoking my cigar, let me reply to you this way.

    First, it is not true this competition is “fake.” When Shelley plays Emerson, just to take an example, the field is my breast—my heart and mind. The human heart is at least as legitimate as actual sports arenas, which serve popcorn and hotdogs, wouldn’t you say? The peanut crunching crowd is not everything. Emerson does play Shelley—there is a contest just as much as there was when the White Sox played the Reds in the fixed 1919 World Series: though “my” contest is not fixed; there is no deception, nothing “fake” about the Emerson Shelley contest, as there was in 1919, since I fix all the way, so there cannot be any deceptive type of fixing. And even though I “fix” the contest, the words of Shelley and Emerson and Scarriet are there for all to see: Shelley and Emerson compete on a human level under the brightness of argument (whether the game is played at night, or there is a TV blackout, or not.) We don’t have to say Shelley won because of a bad hop grounder. He won because he won someone’s heart.

    As for the “exclusion” argument, you are confusing the problem with the solution. Historically, men have been the philosophers. Edmund Wilson, represented in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism which we used, chooses to write about 6 writers in his Axel’s Castle: Yeats (white male), Valery (white male), T.S. Eliot (white male), Proust (white male), Joyce (white male), and Gertrude Stein (rich white female). No one can avoid the dyer’s hand. This—the exclusion of “ladies and non-white people” is the problem.

    The solution, however, is not the same thing as the problem. Is the solution to integration the ghetto? Should we put women writing about women here, and leave the men to write about everything else? Who, do you think, is the public going to be more interested in reading? The logic is irrefutable—refute it if you can. Self-marginalization is precisely the result of equating philosophy and gender. How can philosophy and gender possibly be the same? Who would dare to equate them—except an oppressor? “Women,” say the men, “you may philosophize all you please! But just remember, will you, that philosophy regarding women is a rich subject, and we hope you will exploit it to the ends of the earth! Leave the other kind of philosophizing to us, okay?” “Thank you, men,” cry the women; “at last we shall be free! Everyone will see what women can really do when they are not bossed around by men!”

  3. August 1, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Right. How could starting each tournament with a single canonical anthology and then leaving things up to the heart ever reinforce problematic notions of thought and art? My bad.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    August 1, 2014 at 1:36 am

    True. We tend to start with canonical texts. But we explode a lot of superiority and canonicity along the way. We don’t “reinforce the problematic.” We expose the problematic. Are you saying young women should not study philosophy, but rather women? What an insult to them. A flattering, insidious insult.

  5. August 1, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Man, my bad again. Here I thought I was saying these rankings are just a very slight reordering of tired hierarchies. It turns out I was telling women what to read. Wait, what?

  6. thomasbrady said,

    August 1, 2014 at 2:37 am

    I know, I know, Plato will always be important. How boring. No, you’re right. It’s my bad. I need to turn history upside down, correct all the injustices of the past. What was I thinking? Hey,but John Crowe Ransom upset T.S. Eliot. That was a shocker. Baby steps…

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