The Emperor Redressed: Critiquing Critical Theory

By Dwight Eddins | Go to book overview

CONFESSIONS OF A RELUCTANT CRITIC or, The Resistance to Literature

IHAB HASSAN

HOW GRASP THE moment, examine our professed literary lives? How know where ripeness lies? Perhaps after two score years of teaching, willed confession may provide a start.

I begin at the end. I had resolved one day--braced by what obscure disaffections?--to terminate my membership in the Modern Language Association. But then a letter from 10 Astor Place arrived, with this closing paragraph: "Life membership is offered to you in appreciation for your long-standing commitment to the association and the profession. I hope you will enjoy the benefits of life membership for many years to come."

Let the irony of timing pass; in our postmodern clime, we all take irony in our stride. But here was something else, something real: an allusion to mortality. Bataille saw death as the ultimate transgression. I know it only as a compulsive scourer, leaving no rust or dust of falsehood around. I know it also as the Muses' muse, inspiring all their fictions, arts.

In this mortal condition my theme lies, there where artifice and duplicity meet, there, also, where literature meets all its others--theory, ideology, criticism, scholarship--however deeply its others may within it hide.

I did not think of death when I first came to literature nor of criticism. I thought of Beauty and Truth and came upon them, as others have, in wayward places--attic boxes, books forgotten on a park bench, street stalls piled high with yellowing tomes. To what "interpretive community" did I then belong? Literature was my secret; it became addiction; I began to travel the "realms of gold." Is literature the wider form of our self-love?

No doubt, I read then, as we do in youth, naively. But what does "naive" mean? That I read, ignorant of other readings, in the hot glow of my own needs? True enough. Yet those same needs first brought me to literature and still speak in primal sympathy with the best I read. This is not to deny the discipline of the years. Call it the discipline of disappointment, call it Emersonian

-118-

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The Emperor Redressed: Critiquing Critical Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • What is a Humanistic Criticism? 13
  • Notes 38
  • The End Of The Poststructuralist Era 45
  • The Current Polarization Of Literary Studies 62
  • Notes 77
  • Time and the Intelligentsia - A Patchwork in Nine Parts, with Loopholes 81
  • Notes 99
  • The Agony of Feminism - Why Feminist Theory is Necessary After All 101
  • Works Cited 116
  • Confessions of a Reluctant Critic Or, the Resistance to Literature 118
  • Deconstruction After the Fall 132
  • Notes 147
  • The Poetic Fallacy 150
  • Works Cited 165
  • Literary Theory And Its Discontents 166
  • Notes 198
  • Panel Discussion 199
  • Contributors 221
  • Index 223
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