This article identifies in contemporary literary theory a new optimism about the power of literary texts. The medium of this power is not language, ideology, or form but readers open to being changed. Drawing on phenomenology, the article discusses methods for making literary theory students open to and aware of such change, suggesting that hope is the grounding condition for any effective teaching act as well as an effective ground for reading in an era of globalization.
The only way I can make the slightest difference—perhaps, perhaps not, for perhaps the remotest future, and perhaps not—is through teaching. Therefore, the only thing that I have a right to be concerned about is knowing and reading.—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak”
For a dozen years I have taught a literary theory survey course that I imagine to be fairly typical: New Criticism to postcolonialism in fifteen weeks, Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, students in their third or fourth year of university, and me scribbling furiously at the blackboard. The class feels gratifying and important every time, and students finish every time with the air of individuals who have survived something and become stronger for it. Recently this annual ritual has changed to include texts that prompt students to think more directly about their assumptions as individual readers and as privileged participants in Euro-American higher education. We begin now by trying to delineate the critical horizons we operate within, in an exercise derived from Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method (2013) and end with an inquiry into which kinds of theory expand those horizons best, prompted by Rita Felski's (2011) critique of critique. Framed this way, the narrative of the survey course looks less like a triumphal transition from ivory tower formalism to global engagement and more like an ongoing struggle of limited human beings to understand how literature comes to have power in the world.
I have also reorganized the course thematically. Breaking away from the “schools approach” makes it easier to see the global range of authors students frequently encounter. If a week in the course focuses on “authorship” instead of “New Criticism,” then W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley end up next to Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. The theme of “language” links Hannah Arendt and Jacques Derrida. “History” joins Georg Lukács and Fredric Jameson. Terry Eagleton, Spivak, and Martha Nussbaum cover “the institution of literature.” With this arrangement, if courses cover one theme each week, students encounter scholars from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Germany, India, and Algeria in less than a month. The questions raised by these themes emerge as recurring issues within literary studies rather than a feature of one brand of theory. Suddenly, topics relevant for globalization such as immigration, statelessness, and the long-term effects of colonial power seem impossible to avoid rather than themes to be added.
Jeffrey Williams (2015) has identified a “new modesty in literary criticism,” centered in practices of “surface reading.” He finds it “refreshing” that critics no longer view themselves as “seers who uncov[er] the special significance of texts, or warriors who criti[que] society,” but nevertheless worries about our “shrunken expectations” (2015). Perhaps expectations have not shrunken as much as shifted. Increasingly, theorists seek to uncover significance or to critque society through, as Felski (2015: 147) puts it, “a politics of relation, rather than negation.” They ask what literature has to give rather than what it has to conceal. Importantly, more theorists are acknowledging the power of readers as ethical and political actors without claiming themselves to be the most powerful readers in terms of ethical or political influence. Although Williams focuses on surface reading, the new modesty that Williams identifies actually encompasses an enormous global diversity of worthwhile reading practices that have been obscured by criticism's repeated circulation of particular critical moves and moods.
In this article, I suggest that much recent theory conceals optimistic assumptions about the power of literature. It hints that literature can work on readers without the intervention of training in literary analysis or theory. It paints readers as responsible for what they read. This modest hopefulness underlies “postcritical” theory as well as examinations of readerly affect and empathy. Rather than make the theory course obsolete, new studies in phenomenology, ethics, and “the critique of critique” cast older theoretical practices in a new light. They show a persistent neglect of the reader as a locus of ethical action. Even as readers were acknowledged to be the site of a text's meaningful actuation (Barthes) or subject to the interpretive pressures of human community (Stanley Fish), theorists persisted in treating the reading self as separable from the self that tips a waitress, joins the army, gives to charity, or writes a lesson plan. The new challenges of globalization add urgency to old questions: Can literature inspire ethical action in everyday situations? In what ways are works of literature complicit with or resistant to political, economic, or ideological domination? But new understandings of these questions acknowledge, with welcome modesty, that writing literary theory is not the best means of effecting political progress. At its best, theory reinforces the power of literary texts themselves and shows the medium of their power to be not language, ideology, or form but readers open to being changed. Literary theory students occupy a pivotal position among these readers because of their self-conscious awareness of multiple ways of reading and because so many of them will pass reading practices on to future students of their own. Consequently, literary theory teachers also occupy a pivotal position. As Spivak (2010: 1020) notes in the article's epigraph, teaching is where the power of knowing and reading makes a difference.
Globalization was a “trendy subject” in 2001 according to New York Times columnist Emily Eakin (2001). Empire had just been published to much acclaim the year before, demonstrating that there was no “standpoint outside [the] effects of globalization” (Hardt and Negri 2000: 24). It was not long before the term was fully absorbed into literary theoretical discourse, and since theory is still an area in which ideas move quickly from publication to the classroom, globalization became visible in the discourse of theory teaching almost immediately. Although the term globalization did not appear in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism's (NATC) list of “Issues and Topics” in the first, 2001 edition, when the second edition came out in 2010, the topic was well represented with sixteen entries.1 Some of these entries, such as Spivak's “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1999) or the excerpt of Fanon's Wretched of the Earth (1963), had been present in the earlier editions, but in 2001 the inequalities of representation and the fallout of decolonization had seemed relevant for scholars and students interested in postcoloniality. By 2010 these same issues were recognized as important for scholars more generally in the globalized practices of literary theory. A quick look at the Modern Language Association database appears to confirm that, as far as literary theorists are concerned, globalization has evolved from a trendy subject into a widely recognized, inescapable state of being in less than twenty years.2
The spread of literary theory courses and the broad recognition of globalizing processes have grown side-by-side. The Oxford English Dictionary finds the word globalization originating in 1930, eighteen years before the publication of Rene Wellek and Austin Warren's (1949) Theory of Literature. Manfred B. Steger's Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (2013: 20) begins the story of globalization twelve thousand years ago with roving bands of hunter-gatherers. But as Steger points out, multiple trends driving globalization converged in the 1980s, effecting a “quantum leap” in processes already underway (36). The most significant decades for producing theory, the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, ran parallel to this period. The subsequent spread of dedicated theory courses coincided with discourses about globalization being taken up by literary scholarship (Bradford 2011). Unlike other survey courses, theory courses did not have long traditions that preceded the discourse of globalization. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that literary theory is one of the few subjects in the English curriculum of most universities that includes authors from multiple national contexts and migratory backgrounds without making these authors’ cultural difference the justification for the course. Rather, Algerians, Bengalis, Germans, Americans, Jamaicans and Martinicans appear side-by-side on syllabi because of the excellence of their ideas. Their global significance is understood and the reach of their influence extended as new generations of students encounter their work. In addition to having an internationally diverse curriculum, theory classrooms increasingly include an internationally diverse student body. UNESCO's (2021) data indicates that there has been a rise in student mobility. Students on exchange introduce approaches common in their home country's academic milieu to their new university environs.
How do theories appropriate for studying globalized English literature differ from those appropriate for studying English in the British-plus-American-plus-world configurations that still dominate so many university curricula? Globalization is not a new theme or school to add to the literary theory curriculum. It profoundly reconfigures the ground of English literary studies. Most significantly, the globalization of the literary marketplace has made it easier for English readers to stumble upon authors from Baghdad, Prague, Shillong, Oslo, Kyoto, or White Silver Springs, Montana, than ever before. (That last example only seems inappropriate if we forget that globalization has altered rural/urban relations as much as international relations.) There is no way to track books written in English by authors coming from outside the country in which the book was purchased, but there is some data about literature in translation. The Guardian reports that the “number of translated books bought in Britain increased by an astounding 96 percent between 2001 and 2015” (Erizanu 2016). This is a reader-motivated more than a publisher-motivated trend. “Translated fiction sells better, overall, than English literary fiction and made up 7 percent of all UK fiction sales in 2015.”3 Gadamer (2013: 294) writes that “the real fulfillment of the historical task is to determine anew the significance of what is examined.” What is the significance of English literary studies and its accompanying literary theory class in a globalized world?
Within this vast and growing landscape of English, it seems wise to be humble. In 2017 the Stanford Literary Lab estimated that over 18 million works of fiction are available in English, in printed form and on Google Books (Algee-Hewitt and Fredner 2017). That does not include poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction. It would be foolish to claim mastery over a field of such broad scope, particularly since individual works increasingly respond to multiple national literary traditions simultaneously. Williams (2015) describes a new “realism” about the material we can comprehend and the change we can effect, which “carries less hubris” than some dominant theories of the past. His overview of new, modest theoretical approaches included surface and distant reading, new sociological approaches, and theorizations of our postcritique possibilities. To this we might add cosmopolitan and phenomenologically oriented approaches that recognize the otherness of literary texts and their capacity to change readers. All of these approaches are humble in at least three ways: with regard to the possibility of mastering a vast and growing field, with regard to criticism's potential to effect improvement in people's daily lives through political means, and finally with regard to how the critic is expected to position herself in relation to a literary text. As Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus (2009: 10) put it in their “Introduction to Surface Reading,” recently championed practices of humble criticism involve “accepting texts, deferring to them instead of mastering or using them as objects.”
Williams feels ambivalent about the new modesty of literary theory. He worries that it represents “the decline of criticism as a special genre with an important role to investigate our culture” and “leaves behind the utopian impulse” of past practices (2015). For some of the approaches he names, this certainly seems true. Best and Marcus (2009: 17) eschew strong commitments that literature might be said to inspire. Alluding to Anne-Lise François (2008: xix), they hint that critics might relate to literature like “the disappointed lover who bears the dissapointer no ill will.” Peter Sloterdijk (1987: xxxvii) calls this “the Yes of the defeated.” It must be a difficult position from which to teach. If criticism is going to overcome its “disappointment” in literature, then returning to those forms of reading in suspicious or symptomatic ways will not help, but that is not because there is something wrong with the goals of unveiling a society's hidden desires or leveling the socio-cultural playing field. There is something wrong with the idea that literary critics are doing that when they write literary theory. To return to Williams's concern, it is worth asking where utopia might lie. It is true that newly modest approaches focus on recognizing and moving beyond criticism that claims to unmask ideological, psychoanalytic, or identarian manipulation lurking in texts. They may not aim for the broad revision of institutional or cultural norms that theorists like Judith Butler or Spivak not only aimed for but also helped achieve. That is true. But perhaps that is because they hope for utopian change elsewhere—a better local community, a better interpretive community, a better classroom community.
Teaching is a space where that hope becomes action. Contemplating whether literature can be “a blueprint for action,” Spivak (2013: 322) declares that it cannot: the lesson is always “the double bind of the literary being just that.” Much as literature can nudge a reader toward ethical reflection about living in a globalized world, it cannot make ethical assertions without foreclosing the reflective process that distinguishes literary reading. But as Spivak concludes, “Literary reading has to be learned,” and (and this is not quite the same thing) it can be taught (323). The theoretical survey class is a key site where literary reading is learned, but teaching the skills for the kind of reading Spivak encourages—nuanced, self-reflective, searching reading—requires more than the chronological presentation of a literary theoretical toolbox developed by scholars across the years. Every time we step before them, students perceive reader-text-world relationships being presented as circumscribed or a matter of choice. If we duplicate theories that construct readers outside the academy as “blind masses,” then we imply that our students should see themselves as following us professionals into the light, thereby devaluing the reading experiences that they had before university and that they know their non-English major friends have. Even if, in our lectures, we present theory as a series of ideas, they comprehend it as a series of orientations implying different levels of confidence about how much literature really matters. Furthermore, they perceive our orientations to literature from within a shared awareness of globalization. We do them a disservice, we do the future of literary theory a disservice, if the “yes” we give to literature is “the Yes of the defeated.”
Teaching Theory with Hope
As several scholars have pointed out, the decades during which theory held the most prestige were characterized by enormous energy, but much of that energy went to the debunking of epistemological certainty and the critique of art's embeddedness with oppressive economic or cultural forces. According to Felski's (2008: 56) summary of the situation, to see evidence of these trends, “we need only think of a history of feminist critiques of visual pleasure and the male gaze, Marxist analyses of aesthetic ideology and commodity fetishism, the poststructuralist idiom of suspicion and interrogation, New Historicist indictments of power and containment.”4 And yet, literary theory has never been entirely without hope. Marxism and psychoanalysis, those strands of theory most frequently labeled “suspicious,” conceal optimism about literature's utopian or curative potential. But it is certainly true that, for a time, hopeful literary criticism garnered less prestige than pronouncements about the pervasiveness of capitalistic structures or a text's concealment of socially induced identarian anxiety. And it is true that suspicious reading practices can undermine students’ confidence in literature's importance in their lives and the lives of other people.
Felski sought to reaffirm several more hopeful forms of reading in her 2008 book Uses of Literature. She identifies recognition, enchantment, knowledge, and shock as valuable for shaping a more “positive aesthetics” (22). Suzanne Keen (2007) focuses on empathy and readerly identification. Although she cautions that “empathetic reading experiences that confirm the empathy-altruism theory [the idea that empathic reading leads to later ethically positive actions] are exceptional, not routine,” she goes on to provide several examples of such exceptional experiences (65). The Phenomenology of Love and Reading (Falke 2016) suggests that literature can foster empathy, attention, and a willingness to be overwhelmed—even love. Hanna Meretoja (2017: 13) suggests that narrative's ethical potential lies in the possibility of “non-subsumptive understanding, in which singular experiences are not subsumed under what we already know, but shape and transform our understanding.” None of these theorists naively proposes that reading novels always makes a person better. None of them writes in a determinate way about what “better” would look like, but all of them affirm literature's power to change readers.
While these ideas are new in the details of how they are worked out, they extend an established creative tradition of literary theory. In his How to Do Things with Fiction, Joshua Landy (2012) takes a long view of literary theoretical practice and finds over a dozen theories that ascribe fiction the ability to create, during reading, an event that has positive potential. He lists twenty-five theorists articulating these ideas. Their presence in the history of literary theory does not invalidate Felski's worry about the dominance of what she calls critique, but it shows the limited time span of that dominance. Most of the theorists Landy names worked in the first half of the twentieth century or earlier. He lists Aristotle, Horace, and four Romantic authors. Of the twenty-five, only seven are writing after 1968 (Adorno  2004; Ricoeur  1978; Iser 1978; Carroll 1998; Nehamas 1999; Feagin 1996; and Roche 2004). Only the first three of these appear in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.5 Keen is not there, nor Felski, nor Meretoja. Missing, too, is Landy's own idea of select fictions as formative for individual readers. None of these theorists appears in Mary Klages's Literary Theory: The Complete Guide (2017), nor in Raman Selden, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker's Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (2017). Keen is in Literary Theory: An Anthology (Rivkin and Ryan 2017), but none of the others.6 In short, it would be easy for students in an introductory survey class to think that these positive, action-oriented theorists stopped writing fifty years ago or to never encounter them at all. If theory professors want to communicate to students the habit of deferring to a literary text rather than mastering or objectifying it, we have to be creative in incorporating these habits in our classrooms.
Getting students to see beyond negative critique can be as simple as highlighting the value of each theorist we choose to teach. When a student of mine analyzed Willa Cather's My Antonia in light of Jameson's Political Unconscious two years ago, she produced insights about the obstacles immigrant workers face when encountering value systems related to economic practices that are new to them. Her paper was neither suspicious nor negative. Writing it was not an academic exercise disconnected from the rest of her life; it got her thinking in new ways about the wave of refugees and immigrants who have recently arrived in Norway. Without reading a text that used the word globalization, she still wrote meaningfully about immigration, a major subject of globalization studies. Overcoming symptomatic or suspicious reading, overcoming parochial habits of thinking is not just a matter of method but one of style and mood.
Additionally, we can get students to contemplate globalizing forces by asking them to think about how their historical locatedness and hermeneutic assumptions affect their reading practices. I do not have to tell them what responsibilities are inherent in their position as privileged beneficiaries of a modern welfare state; I just have to ask the question. For me, phenomenology has provided a means of helping students realize that there is no place from which one can take a disinterested view. Particularly in Norway where I now teach, my students and I enjoy an enormous amount of security. Norway is a nonviolent society with a comprehensive welfare system, a low crime rate, and a low level of income inequality. The amusingly titled “World Happiness Report” ranks Norway as the second happiest country in the world (Helliwell, Layard, and Sachs 2018: 16). One might expect that such security would lull Norwegians into apathy, but my students consistently express interest in the texts that I teach in our “Globalization” unit and in topics of globalization that come up during other thematic units. One might expect a different reaction in the United States, where a recent report found that 71 percent of college students pronounced the United States superior to other countries, while only 38 percent had ever been anywhere else (Clarke 2004: 59, 57). However, my students at a Christian liberal arts college in the rural south also expressed interest in these topics. While global education is clearly written into the Norwegian national curriculum and is actively implemented in classrooms from the early years, my US students had not benefited from a concerted focus on globalization. Nevertheless, both in the United States and Norway, my students saw their present and future as inexorably connected to globalizing processes. All they needed from me was to see how literature and literary theory connected to these processes.
Diana Fuss (2009: 185) writes resolutely that “theory is practicing self-consciousness about how I think. And teaching theory is showing students how to be self-conscious about their own thinking.” The interest in global issues, in my experience, is there, so the question is how to get students to be more self-conscious about their own thinking with regard to globalization. Phenomenology provides a unique set of tools for thinking about thinking because it attends to kinds of attention, moods, relationality, teleology, and the horizons of what we do not know. It begins with the all-at-onceness through which these operate. There are three ways in which phenomenology can be incorporated into the literary theory classroom to make students more self-conscious about their assumptions regarding their place in the world (by world here I mean a shared and globally connected planet). The remainder of the article will address these three practical suggestions.
First, there is the tactic I mentioned in the introduction: incorporating excerpts of phenomenological or hermeneutic writing at the beginning and end of a theory survey. I will focus on the beginning-of-class exercise. This creates the expectation, right at the start of the semester, that one of the course goals is to become aware of the assumptions already operating in the ways students approach literature while also learning about different ways of reading and different kinds of attention one can give a text. Pool-side novel-reading escapism shapes attention in a different way than reading to learn a novel's structure or to contemplate the vicissitudes of “the human heart in conflict with itself,” even if the same reader can perform all these kinds of readings on the same text (Faulkner 1950). To think about these assumptions and forms of attention, students need tools. For the past few years, I have been introducing them to these tools through an excerpt from Gadamer's Truth and Method (2013: 278–318). Here he explains horizonality and prejudice as limiting, but not always negatively limiting, factors in our encounters with new ideas. The limit of what we know and where we are in history shapes our horizons, and “fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception” shape our prejudices. To illustrate Gadamer's ideas, I draw a stick figure of my mother and the time line of her life—1943–2002—and write “WWII,” “civil rights movement,” and “sexual revolution” in their chronologically appropriate spots. I mention that she had seven older siblings in rural Georgia and that her father died when she was five. She worked from her late teens until the year before she died and read for relaxation. She never lived outside the South, never had the internet, and never had a passport. I ask my students to compare their reading of Heart of Darkness, which most of them read in an introduction to literature class their freshman year, with what they imagine to be her reading. We typically end up discussing how one would find out about Belgian colonialism without Google, the changing length of sentences in English, and reading the novel's light and dark imagery before and after Chinua Achebe's 1977 critique of the novel. We talk about confronting evil and waiting for one's beloved and whether those things change as history moves on.
After working through some more Gadamer, integrating Wolfgang Iser's (1978) idea of blanks and N. Katherine Hayles's (2010) definitions of deep attention and hyper attention, the class proceeds by having students make their own time line and jot down ideas about how their reading practices have changed after coming to university. We end by reading a poem; this year it was Peter Meinke's “Advice to My Son” (1965). I have them draw imaginary reading situations out of a hat. “This poem is on your final exam. Analyze the punctuation.” Or “You are a father. You have not told your adult son about your recent cancer diagnosis.” Or “Meinke will attend the 10th grade class you teach. You will introduce this poem for discussion.” It is easy to make as many as I need to fit the size of the class. During this two-hour session, usually our second class meeting, students begin to see how a single event of reading evokes the past that has shaped them, cultural situatedness, unacknowledged assumptions, habits, and communities as well as thoughts and feelings, and all of this produces more interpretive possibilities than they could possibly account for. That all sounds a bit overwhelming, but in my experience what students are overwhelmed by is the possibility of such interpretive fecundity. Emily Dickinson famously said that she knew she had been reading poetry when she felt physically as if the top of her head had been taken off (Dickinson 1958: L342; qtd. in Deppmann 2008: 49). Literary theory is always a poetic class in that sense.
A second way of encouraging self-conscious reflection through phenomenology is to play with the context in which individual texts are presented, thinking about what students are thinking about before they read. Because of my students’ fairly limited awareness of cultures not often represented in popular media, this is particularly interesting to do with those texts designated as about globalization. Take Spivak's (1999; Leitch 2018: 1997–2012) “Can the Subaltern Speak?” If one group of students is assigned beforehand to research, as preparation for reading Spivak's work itself, education in Birbhum, India, and another to research Spivak and deconstruction, then they end up with very different impressions of that excerpt. A beginning of the class discussion about the importance of Spivak's work then reveals multiple ways in which expectations shape reading practice. Assigning short writing tasks alongside a reading also directs students’ attention in specific ways. I typically design ten short writing assignments for the course and ask students to pick five of those to write about. The formulation of the assignment prepares them for reading by predetermining their focus (to an extent), and the fact that they have to write about a text increases the attention they pay to it.
It is also possible to think about the whole temporality of reading a text—the information and emotion that prepares one for it, the actions performed during reading, and the way that acts of reading will be presented after the fact—for individual students. One student might understand Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (1976) best if she has been led to expect that it is the most difficult thing to be read all semester. The passage on doubling commentary is particularly important, and would she prepare to comment on that passage in class? Another might be taking theory as an elective; his major is political science. He could have the option of writing about Rob Nixon's (2011) “unimagined communities” in reference to the current movement of Syrian refugees as an example of slow violence instead of the more generic writing assignment about that text. Teaching always has something of gift giving about it; there are public gifts, like having a banquet, and there are private gifts meant for just one person. A good teacher is a good gift giver in both the public and the private senses.7
Finally, the act of teaching itself can be phenomenologically understood. This is the subject for a book, not the concluding section of an article. The elaboration here will be quick but, I hope, suggestive. For many phenomenologists, subjectivity arises in relation to other people. We are together with others and responsible to others before we are single selves. Although we choose to cultivate relationships with some people, many of the people we are intersubjectively connected with are just present, given. We do not choose them. Students are given. They arrive–wide-eyed or tired, in pajama pants or all tucked in—trailing their past and present invisibly with them. Emmanuel Levinas (1969: 38–39) says that there is something that always remains inaccessible in another person, and this is clearly the case with students, whose lives beyond the classroom door often remain obscure. And yet we are bound to them as fellow people even before we are bound to them by our profession. Levinas (1999: 98) writes that the “I . . . comes from the awakening by and for the other” and that this profound interconnectedness binds us in networks of responsibility for one another. Pushing Levinas's already-radical concept of responsibility to others a step further, contemporary phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion (2007) argues that we must do more than take responsibility for the other; we must love them. Each other person calls to me every time we meet and demands to be loved. I can accept or reject that demand but never prevent its occurrence. Furthermore, my response to the other's demand changes my future by becoming part of who I am. Those people who we interact with shape us most, but everyone we meet becomes a part of us in some way. This means we never stand before a class as neutral sources of ideas. We greet them every Thursday at 10:15 (in my case) with love or hate or some combination thereof, twelve varieties of love or hate in the case of this term's smallish class.
An essential feature of this love is hope—hope that they will learn the material, hope that they will acquire skills as readers, hope that literature will remain meaningful for them, and, in a globalized world, hope that they will exercise the reflective powers they have developed to live responsibly. Describing the function of ideality in hope for democracy, Derrida (1994) pinpoints the way that hope functions within any unachievable ideal. Such an ideal
will always keep within it, and it must do so, this absolutely undetermined messianic hope at its heart, this eschatological relation to the to-come of an event and of a singularity, of an alterity that cannot be anticipated. Awaiting without horizon of the wait, awaiting what one does not expect yet or any longer, hospitality without reserve, welcoming salutation accorded in advance to the absolute surprise of the arrivant from whom or from which one will not ask anything in return. (65)
For now, the trend in literary theory is toward hope. But in a field that has historically proven itself to be prone to swing in large, frequently unresolved dialectical processes, the fact that we are swinging away from resistance and toward hope may not mean much for the future. We have swung from detached processes of meaning making to the new materialism, from formalism to historicism and back again. Now we embrace affect and reject suspicion, paranoia, and resistance. Phenomenological theory, too, is gradually creating the taste by which it will be enjoyed. In twenty years, we may be writing reflective pieces about the splintering of literary studies into centers of interdisciplinary research and how we used to teach something naively called “theory.” The place where hope will stay when it is no longer fashionable to write about it is the classroom. Hope is the grounding condition for the teaching act. If you do not hope that your students will learn and be changed by the material you present, you do not teach. Lecture? Maybe. Publish? Sure. But not teach.
In the third edition from 2018, there are twenty-one entries.
A search for literary theory and globalization returns 478 results between 1994 and 2018, with these terms appearing together most in 2003, 2004, and 2006.
Statistics compiled for the Man Booker International Prize and reported by Paula Erizanu (2016).
Landy (2012) does discuss Nussbaum's work. He suggests that she does not adequately account for the connection between readers’ ethical realizations during reading and their lives after reading (33–34). An excerpt of Nussbaum's “Cultivating Humanity” does appear in both NATC and Literary Theory.
Literary Theory: An Anthology (Rivkin and Ryan 2017) also includes a section on phenomenological and ethical criticism, and the theorists represented there offer more hope for the power of literature.
The language of giftedness relates to Jean-Luc Marion's (2007) suggestion that the givenness of phenomena—situations, abilities, people, concepts, and the flesh, for a start—shapes who we are and how we encounter the world in previously unacknowledged ways. I do not mean to suggest that teaching exists outside systems of (sometimes exploitive) economic exchange. Teaching does, of course, exceed this exchange.