Mikhail Epstein's essay “Inventive Thinking in the Humanities,” also published in the January 2017 issue of Common Knowledge, argues that the humanities are in crisis because humanist academics have “turned away from human beings and focused on texts.” Expanding on this point while concentrating on a single humanities field, literary studies, this response to Epstein makes the case that fear and awe of the sciences have resulted in the exclusion of subjectivity from literary criticism, even though regarding the critic as anything but a subjective human being responding to the creative work of other subjective human beings makes very limited sense. Avenues of resistance to impersonal criticism have emerged from time to time, and this essay explores several, including those of Susan Sontag, Stanley Fish, Jane Tompkins, Rivka Eifermann, Harold Bloom, and Stephen Greenblatt. None, however, is seen as having had a decisive impact on the academic mainstream. This essay concludes by examining the possibility that literary works are best responded to not in criticism but in other literary works.
Adir H. Petel; THE CRITIC AS HUMAN BEING: A Response to Mikhail Epstein. Common Knowledge 1 January 2017; 23 (1): 19–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-3692110
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