The Politics of Interpretation: Ideology, Professionalism, and the Study of Literature

The Politics of Interpretation: Ideology, Professionalism, and the Study of Literature

The Politics of Interpretation: Ideology, Professionalism, and the Study of Literature

The Politics of Interpretation: Ideology, Professionalism, and the Study of Literature

Synopsis

This interpretive study analyzes the complex politics of literature, criticism, and professionalism. While affirming the profound importance of political analysis--from the ideological critique of literary texts to the social and economic critique of academic institutions--Hogan reassesses the poststructuralist doctrines that underlie much recent work in this area. He presents extended expositions and criticisms of the views of several influential poststructuralist writers, including Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray. In keeping with recent "post-poststructuralist" trends in France and elsewhere, Hogan argues for the political necessity of rational inference, and empirical enquiry, guided by ethical, and more specifically Kantian, considerations. In the process, he convincingly formulates a general theory of ideology that recognizes the crucial link between literary politics and the concrete political issues that affect the lives of real men and women in the real world of social and material life. His study concludes with an economic analysis of the institutions of literary study, outlining some anarchist implications for their restructuring.

Excerpt

This book, and the concerns which animate it, grew out of three sets of related experiences. the first was my own involvement-- however limited--in Central America solidarity work. I had developed since high school a serious, if ambivalent, intellectual interest in radical political theory, principally in the Marxist tradition. But politics became something real and practical for me, something more than an intellectual curiosity, only through the work of a handful of non-Marxist or even anti-Marxist writers--such as Noam Chomsky and Bertrand Russell--who, through ordinary methods of rational enquiry, unencumbered by dialectical causality or dubious economics, sought to discover the facts of U.S. foreign and domestic policy and to evaluate these by reference to universal moral principles.

At roughly the same time that I began reading authors such as Chomsky and engaging in some practical political activity, I also began reading politically oriented literary criticism and theory-- Marxist, post-structural, and so on. I found myself shocked by what I frequently perceived to be a lack of intellectual rigor and a cavalier attitude to real political issues. I was even more shocked by the elitism of faculty and graduate students who adopted fashionable political approaches to criticism and viewed all who did not as retrogressive and naive.

The third, and most personal experience which underlies and motivates this book derives from my first academic job. After passing through a fairly open and congenial graduate program, I was unprepared to enter a department which was rigidly hierarchical and which operated to a great extent through fear and general distrust, a department where one had to be very careful about what one said, with whom one was seen, what causes one championed, and how one championed them.

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