Friday, January 09, 2004


"Sensible" Literary Criticism

After yesterday's blog, and a couple of rather successful lectures in class trying to demonstrate to undergraduates the value of literature in and of itself, I've started thinking about trying to develop a comprehensive list of works of literary criticism--even theory--that are "sensible."

Now, if you're reading this blog, you have had one of two reactions to the word "sensible." Either you know instinctively what I'm talking about, and can think of several works that you, too, consider "sensible," or you are going to respond on your own blog by "problematizing" or "interrogating" my use of the word "sensible." I'm interested in the responses of the first group. I could care less what the second group has to say, and could probably write your responses for you, if I were so inclined.

When I say sensible literary criticism, I don't mean works that examine a particular author or work, but broader theories of reading--methodologies, if we want to avoid the term theory--that can help a reader to formulate an ethical practice of reading and also to become a better, closer reader.

I'll start the list with a few suggestions of my own. My email address is to the right--please email me with further suggestions. If those of you with blogs of your own--particularly blogs that get read more than my own--will publicize my call for titles, I will start a file and eventually publish it here on the blog. At some point in the future (read, after the dissertation), when I move this blog to its own host, I'll give the bibliography its own web page.

This is important work, I think. We need not only to acknowledge the exemplary works of literary criticism and theory from the past, but push for the inclusion of contemporary works of criticism in the so-called canon of theory (the one canon that seems never to get questioned). There are works out there that argue for approaches to literature that have been largely ignored. The works advocating an evolutionary/cognitive psychological approach to literature and the arts that I've posted links to on the sidebar are examples of such works.

More contemporary works such as these, as well as a comprehensive list of works that question the foundations of the dominant paradigm, are desperately needed as a counter-balance in courses that purport to teach literary theory and methodology. If we can create a resource for students and teachers to learn about these works, we will have performed an important function.

A few examples:

Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism
I.A. Richards's Practical Criticism
Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending
Steven Kepnes's The Text as Thou
Frederick Turner's Natural Classicism
William Empson's 7 Types of Ambiguity
Mikhail Bakhtin's The Dialogic Imagination
Valentine Cunningham's Reading After Theory
Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence

and of course the works of literary criticism in the sidebar. Much of what is included in Hazard Adams's Critical Theory Since Plato (at least the older edition I have) would also go on this list. But I'm particularly interested in post-1960s criticism, which the Adams is short on.

I await your input.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?