Criticism in the Age of Discourse
Goodheart, Eugene, CLIO
There was a time in the recent past when a literary education required the cultivation of the critical faculty. Criticism, the interpretation and evaluation of works of literature, occupied a prominent place next to literary history and textual criticism. The practice of criticism continues in literary journalism, but it has lost its prestige in the academy. What has replaced criticism in prestige is discourse, that is, the transformation of works into texts and their placement in a rhetorical system based on ideology: Marxist, feminist, post-colonialist. Discourse does not interpret the work as a whole, but rather appropriates elements of it to the discourse. Whether a work is good or bad, distinguished or mediocre, is usually irrelevant to the discourse. Judgments are dictated by political or ideological interests and biases. How does the text, formerly the work, illuminate or fail to illuminate the class struggle in nineteenth-century France or the plight of women in eighteenth-century England or the situation of Indians under the Raj? Interesting questions for scholarship, but not to be confused with criticism.
The reasons for this transformation lie not only in the internal history of the discipline, but also in the political and cultural history of the past four decades. I have no desire to repeat a story …
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Publication information: Article title: Criticism in the Age of Discourse. Contributors: Goodheart, Eugene - Author. Journal title: CLIO. Volume: 32. Issue: 2 Publication date: Winter 2003. Page number: 205+. © 1998 Indiana University, Purdue University of Fort Wayne. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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