It is perhaps a safe bet that at present liberalism and liberal are more often than not taken as pejoratives in academic discourse, particularly in theory cultures. As Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University, Amanda Anderson is sharply aware that the affiliation liberal in literary studies and the humanities can today be as risky a critical investment as humanist: not least because of the perceived difficulty of conceiving a liberalism outside of neoliberalism, liberalism is often presumed to be a retrograde, theoretically naive, even “bankrupt mode of critical political thought” (bl, 45), thoroughly debunked by the last half century of deconstructive, poststructuralist, and radical critique. Bleak Liberalism turns the tables on such critical divestments from liberalism. For Anderson, the present bankruptcy of the concept of liberalism in academic discourse—as well as in intellectual and...

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