Modern North American Criticism and Theory: A Critical Guide

Modern North American Criticism and Theory: A Critical Guide

Modern North American Criticism and Theory: A Critical Guide

Modern North American Criticism and Theory: A Critical Guide

Synopsis

Modern North American Criticism and Theory presents the reader with a comprehensive and critical introduction to the development and institutionalization of literary and cultural studies throughout the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first. Focusing on the growth and expansion of critical trends and methodologies, with particular essays addressing key figures in their historical and cultural contexts, the book offers a narrative of change, transformation, and the continuous quest for and affirmation of multiple cultural voices and identities. From semiotics and the New Criticism to the identity politics of whiteness studies and the cultural study of masculinity, this book provides an overview of literary and cultural study in North America as a history of questioning, debate, and exploration. A further reading list accompanies each chapter. Key Features
• Breadth of coverage from Northrop Frye to Fredric Jameson and from The New Criticism and the Chicago School to New Historicism, African-American Studies and Canadian Literary Studies.
• Focus on the history of modern criticism.
• Accessibly written.
• Theoretical debates are set in full historical, cultural and philosophical contexts.

Excerpt

Modern North American Criticism and Theory presents the reader with a comprehensive and critical introduction to the development and institutionalization of literary and cultural studies throughout the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first in North American universities. Focusing on the growth and expansion of critical trends and methodologies, with particular essays addressing key figures in their historical and cultural contexts, the present volume offers a narrative of change, transformation and the continuous quest for and affirmation of multiple cultural voices and identities. It is a narrative on the one hand that traces the movements, schools of thought and institutional allegiances that have emerged, while, on the other hand, it considers the ways in which the close reading and formal analysis of works of literature have given way to more politicized and theorized accounts. From semiotics and the New Criticism to the identity politics of Whiteness Studies, the cultural study of masculinity and the challenge presented to assumptions of cultural value by Comics Studies, Modern North American Criticism and Theory provides an overview of literary and cultural study in North America as a history of questioning, debate and exploration.

While emphasizing the practice and theory of literary and cultural criticism in many of its historically specific guises, the present volume also provides extensive critical coverage of related cultural issues in the articles, and the contextual discourses that inform those issues. Clearly the focus is on the institutional practice of criticism and, with that, an implicit narrative develops concerning acts of institutionalization. Another way to understand this is that there takes place repeatedly instances of accommodation, domestication and, in some cases, normalization of currents of thought imported or translated from other disciplines, other fields of thought, and, in the case of so-called high theory from the late 1960s to the 1980s, other cultures of critical thinking.

This is inevitable in any process of institutionalization. It is a matter of what Jacques Derrida has referred to as auto-immunization. Any institution – but it has to be said the university is particularly good at this, and thus exemplifies the means by which institutionalization maintains itself – takes in and makes over just enough of some other in order to keep it going. In that act of self-interested maintenance there is also an act of hospitality. Such reciprocity is an inescapable feature of any accommodation. One welcomes the other into one's home, across the threshold, boundary or border as a gesture of hospitality and welcome. But intrinsic to this welcome, inextricably tied up with any such act, is a desire to render the foreign, the other, that which is different, less other, less strange or threatening perhaps. Hospitality assumes both tolerance and neutralization, and it seeks to maintain a . . .

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