Recent developments in literary studies that can be grouped under the umbrella term postcritique purport to restore, in our disciplinary practices, attention to affect, pleasure, and attachment, which postcritics believe the critical tradition has silenced and neglected. Postcritics depict critique as a violent hermeneutic practice of excavating a text’s hidden truths. This essay claims that postcritique’s understanding of critical theory is misguided and caricatural. By focusing on key thinkers of the critical tradition, particularly French philosophers, it argues that hermeneutic openness and nonmastery is a constant in many critical writings—and so is the question of pleasure. It suggests that many of postcritique’s propositions, which postcritics affirm are innovative and claim critique has disavowed, have always been a recurring topic in the work of critical theorists.

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