Departments on the Defensive

From the New York Review:

* Academic criticism can thus be regarded as an innovation of the 1920s, like the lie detector, water skiing, the timed traffic light, and the bread slicer.

* the pitched battles over curriculum and methodology waged both inside and outside the profession were largely beside the point, given literature’s dwindling share of the cultural pie. As Guillory puts it in the new book, “It does not matter how politically ambitious the aims of literary study might be if literature itself continues to contract in social importance.”

* “By the later 1960s, the literary professoriate had begun to tire of producing ‘readings’ of literary works.” But rather than finding something to do with literature besides interpret it, they simply moved on to producing interpretations of everything: films, works of visual art, philosophical systems, archival documents, feelings, society itself. “A door was opened leading beyond literature to all of culture,” Guillory writes. “But having passed through this magic portal, it was difficult to return to literature, to be content with that object.”

* criticism as “the profession of the unprofessional.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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