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The Pooh Perplex was first written over 45 years ago, but a few years ago the University of Chicago Press put out a new edition, which contains a new preface by the author.
Mark Dever explains the basic idea in an annotated bibliography on inerrancy:

[A book] not written by an evangelical Christian, but which has proved to be good medicine when first encountering various literary criticisms is Frederick C. Crews, The Pooh Perplex (E. P. Dutton, 1965). In this book, Crews carefully, sarcastically, and humorously "proves" that the Winnie the Pooh stories actually have multiple authors. There could hardly be a more enjoyable send-up and devastating critique of many kinds of literary criticism, not to mention an expose of the arbitrariness of any such studies’ "assured results."

The full subtitle is: In Which It is Discovered that the True Meaning of the Pooh Stories is Not as Simple as is Usually Believed, but for Proper Elucidation Requires the Combined Efforts of Several Academicians of Varying Critical Persuasions.

Professor Crews’s sequel is Postmodern Pooh.

Update: See also this essay: “New Directions in Pooh Studies: Überlieferungs- und religionsgeschichtliche Studien zum Pu-Buch.”


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19 thoughts on “The Pooh Perplex”

  1. Don’t know how I’ve never heard of these books before, but they sound great. Reminds me of “Book”, a novel by Robert Grudin published in the 90s. It’s also a brilliant academic satire, complete with footnotes that revolt.

  2. David says:

    I had a New Testament professor who saved a special recording of the lecture about this from decades back. It was ridiculously hilarious. However, I never knew there was a book, and I’m going to request these from my library now that I know they exist. Wooohoo!

    Justin, thanks for the heads-up!

    1. David says:

      Just put them on hold at the local library!

  3. Wen says:

    One of my favorite texts. This is actually assigned reading for religious studies grad students at duke. If you enjoy it, the sequel, Postmodern Pooh, is a good read as well.

  4. All, if you are interested, Dorothy Sayers did something similar with her hilarious article “The Dates in the Red-Headed League.”

  5. Richard says:

    John Warwick Montgomery makes frequent references to “The Pooh Perplex” in his lectures. Highly recommended–it takes deconstructionism apart.

  6. étrangère says:

    Strange. There was an article online for years called ‘New Directions in Pooh Studies: Überlieferungs- und religionsgeschichtliche Studien zum Pu-Buch’, by David Clines, but that now appears to have been taken down or be on a site my antivirus warned against. Anyone know if it’s the same, or is an author having a laugh by publishing under a variety of names?

      1. étrangère says:

        David – I know that came up in google, but my antiviral software screamed at me when I tried to go to it yesterday, as it seemed to be hijacked by another site.

        1. David says:

          I’m on the website right now. It’s fine. Try a different browser (I’m using AV software and Popupblocker software in Firefox and it works). There were other sites that have been taken down that may have previously archived the essay. It’s original location was on the server of the University of Sheffield (http://www.shef.ac.uk/bibs/DJACcurrres/Postmodern2/Pooh.html).

          1. étrangère says:

            I’m glad it’s fine, but don’t worry about me: I’ve got it saved to disk somewhere from 5 years ago, I’m sure!

  7. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

    Tolkien did something similar with the Lord of the Rings in the introduction to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

    1. MarkO says:

      Matt
      haven’t read the intro yet, still trying to find it. What core value is there in JRRT intro to AoTB?
      thanks

  8. Adam says:

    Don’t forget about Mr. Ronald Knox’s landmark Bunyan study, wherein it is shown that thoroughly through extensive empirical demonstration that the second half of Pilgrim’s Progress is the work not of Bunyan but of a middle-aged 17th-century Anglo-Catholic woman (Pseudo-Bunyan). Cf. his _Essays in satire_.

  9. Aldous Huxtable says:

    Just ordered this from Amazon. Such a great idea.

  10. Eric Davis says:

    Hilarious. Glad that someone has creatively taken the time to show how goofy much of the “scholarly” work in text criticism really is.

  11. R. Hall says:

    Great comic on literary criticism: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/impostor.png

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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