In the twentieth century, criticism flourished in the academy in the English language from the 1930s to the 1960s, but gradually a hyperprofessionalized discourse purporting to be criticism took its place. The problem was exacerbated because people misunderstand literary theory thinking it superior to criticism. Big mistake. Theory proper begins its life as criticism, criticism that has staying power. Central to criticism as Kant argued is judgment. Judgment is based on feeling provoked by the artwork in our encounters with artworks. This essay talks about the author’s encounter with Mary Gaitskill’s novel Veronica. The critical judgment puts the artwork into a milieu. This essay argues the case for the holism of critical judgments versus what the author calls Bitsiness as Usual, the fragmentation of our understanding of our encounters with artworks. The author subjects both Paul de Man and the New Historicists to severe attacks.
To Become What One Is: Why I Seek the Revival of Criticism
Lindsay Waters was executive editor at Harvard University Press from 1984 to 2021. His main writings are “Paul de Man: Life and Works,” his introduction to de Man’s Critical Writings 1953–1978, “The Age of Incommensurability,” and Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship (2004), which has been translated into French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Polish.
Lindsay Waters; To Become What One Is: Why I Seek the Revival of Criticism. boundary 2 1 February 2021; 48 (1): 251–263. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8821510
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