This article explores the importance of psychoanalysis to John Guillory's literary sociology. The failure of scholars to recognize the canon wars as a symptom of the increasing institutional marginality of literary studies derives from their commitment to what Guillory calls an “ego‐ideal” of the profession. In particular, the psychic investments of literary critics account, on the one hand, for their inflated claims to political relevance and, on the other, for the ability of professors of literature to strike an anti‐institutional pose from within the privileged space of the university. The essay turns to recent developments in the field to consider how Guillory's analysis might respond to our present moment. If his sociological method neatly describes the failures of self‐understanding among scholars with respect to the canon wars and the politics of literary criticism, it nonetheless fails to capture the importance of recent work in a more affirmative key, where ideology critique is joined to the study of lived experience.

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