As the paradigmatic trend in literary study at present, “postcritique” implies that a great epoch of critique has come to a close. Taking the charge to look back over fifty years of Marxist theory of the novel, this polemic argues that critique cannot come to a close because it has not yet properly begun. The fundamentally dialectical project of critique—what Marx called the “ruthless criticism of everything existing” and what he practiced as its correlative utopian striving for what does not exist—has not yet taken foot in literary method. To explore what that project might look like, I outline a theory of the critique immanent to the literary form of the novel itself, and I conclude with a brief reading of a recent novel as critique, Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.
We Have Never Been Critical: Toward the Novel as Critique
anna kornbluh is associate professor and associate head of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Realizing Capital (2014) and is currently completing a manuscript titled “The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space.” She helped to found two scholarly cooperatives, InterCcECT (the Inter Chicago Circle for Experimental Critical Theory) and the V21 Collective (Victorian studies for the twenty-first century).