CONCLUSION:
FROM REPRESENTATION
TO CREATION

HAD I ADOPTED a more conventional approach in this book, I might have attempted to locate Lolita with respect to midcentury youth culture, to embed Keats in the early nineteenth-century effort to distinguish the aesthetic from the commercial, to understand Ashbery’s poetry as a reflection of twenty-firstcentury consumerism. Such an approach would be carefully attuned to literature as an index of actual social, political, cultural, and historical forces. My reasons for rejecting such an approach are not theoretical. I would hardly wish to deny that literature is produced by real people, struggling in real conditions, at particular moments in time. The problem with criticism that seeks to understand and excavate these conditions is purely practical, and derives from the actual conditions in which twenty-first-century criticism finds itself.

When literary critics describe actual states of affairs, our claims are necessarily parasitic on the methods and models of other disciplines, except in cases where we choose to make use of models long abandoned by those disciplines. Neither option has proved particularly successful at defending the value of humanistic scholarship at what is perhaps the lowest point of its postwar intellectual prestige.1 This concrete situation, and not abstract theoretical considerations, provides the impetus for a new approach. One response has been to sever our involvement with other disciplines as much as possible, focusing on narrowly literary topics or composing narrowly literary history. This retreat, however, risks sacrificing much of the interest of literature. But when we are attuned to the ways in which our objects of study achieve discontinuity

-139-

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Writing against Time
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction - Writing against Time 1
  • 1 - Imaginary Music 23
  • 2 - The Addictive Image 57
  • 3 - Big Brother Stops Time 87
  • 4 - The Cultured Image 115
  • Conclusion - From Representation to Creation 139
  • Reference Matter 149
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 171
  • Index 185
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