literary criticism

Don Birnam
Literary lunatic
Don Birnam
Literary lunatic
Joined: October 14th, 2007, 7:05 pm

February 5th, 2009, 10:15 pm #1

I recently read The Death of the Critic by Ronan McDonald which, honestly, wasn't very good. He seems to lament the death of the public critic, yet he either ignores or mentions only in passing James Wood, Zadie Smith, Harold Bloom, Michael Dirda, Michiko Kakutani, John Baville, Anthony Lane, Alex Ross, John Updike etc. To mention the self-contradiction when it comes to discussions about newspaper/magazine criticism vs blogs and internet criticism. Criticism, it seems to me, is far from 'dead.'

I personally am an avid reader of James Wood, who is somewhat demonized in the blogosphere. Say what you will about him, but he's a serious, intelligent critic and a brilliant close reader. I miss Sontag and already miss Updike; I look forward to Zadie Smith's Fail Better and I wish John Banville would publish some of his criticism in book form. I enjoy Bloom, though he seems to have exhausted himself by now, no? Outside the literary fields I am grateful for the existence of Anthony Lane and Alex Ross.
La vie moderne...
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johnnywalkitoff
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Joined: January 18th, 2007, 4:56 am

February 6th, 2009, 9:16 pm #2

Welcome back, Don. And, as I see it, the public critic has become the writer of some stature, the Updikes, Banvilles, Zadie Smith ( a writer, even one I don't love, goes further with me in discounting or praising a book, then someone who has never tried or can't do what they critique)...we will see the death of literary criticism when we see the death of literature and we will see that (even though people are clamouring that literature is already dead) when humanity kills itself.
The clock is a ceiling fan with no breeze.

Why do you, in becoming a crowd, look as plain and anonymous as a smear of dull and dying flowers?
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nnyhav
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nnyhav
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Joined: October 6th, 2008, 12:26 pm

January 20th, 2014, 5:45 am #3

just can't seem to get any traction hereabouts (prior threads derailed here and here)

but I don't want to start yet another, so here goes
Auerbach in Istanbul by Kaya Genç
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Heteronym
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Heteronym
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Joined: October 9th, 2008, 12:42 pm

January 20th, 2014, 11:15 pm #4

I think there's a big difference between professional book reviewers and literary critics, even if their purpose and methods intersect on some points. But for me James Woods, when he's reviewing the next recent novel, and chastising it for not being real or truthful enough, is doing very little of what literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin did in The Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics.
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JeffrytheCat
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JeffrytheCat
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Joined: July 15th, 2011, 5:01 pm

February 4th, 2014, 2:02 am #5

Been reading Paul de Man of late, specifically Blindess and Insight. It seems I can't help being torn between his apparent charity as a critic and reader—always carefully and thoroughly explicating the texts he engages—and his tendency to subtly disengage himself from the position I thought he was occupying. In "Criticism and Crisis," for example, I'm under the impression that de Man is laying the grounds for a discussion of the crisis to which Continental criticism began to reply in the 1960s. Then, in a crucial turn, he writes:
wrote:These texts can be called romantic . . . . But one hesitates to use terms such as nostalgia or desire to designate this kind of consciousness, for all nostalgia or desire is desire of something or for someone; here, the consciousness does not result from the absence of something, but consists of the presence of a nothingness. Poetic language names this void with ever-renewed understanding and, like Rousseau's longing, it never tires of naming it again. This persistent naming is what we call literature.
What?! "Criticism and Crisis" isn't about criticism or crisis? No, de Man says, it is instead about the void that is literature, the nothingness that is the well-spring of poetry and that Continental, as well as American, criticism cannot face.

Over and over, de Man does this; pulling the rug out from under my proverbial feet.
"a sudden movement of the head like a bird who understands nothing of what we hear, who hears what we do not understand" (Roland Barthes)
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nnyhav
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nnyhav
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Joined: October 6th, 2008, 12:26 pm

February 4th, 2014, 3:04 am #6

^ I've only read his Shelley bit in Decon & Crit but he's slippery (unreliable isn't just for narrators)
came up lately in a couple of Chron bits:
http://chronicle.com/article/Beauty-Bon ... at/144201/ adding another such to
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Many-B ... de/142505/

me I gotta get to Edward Said's Orientalism
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John Gargo
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John Gargo
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Joined: May 21st, 2008, 3:34 am

February 5th, 2014, 9:14 pm #7

I love reading criticism (that and includes the "book reviewer" critic who, at his or her best, can be just as nuanced as the academic ones) but it's important to read any and all of them with a careful eye and always keeping in mind where any given work/opinion stands within their entire critical oeuvre... this is an obvious tactic that should go without saying for readers of literary critics (and who else is going to be reading Bakhtin if not specialists who are trained in careful close-reading) but I think it tends to be overlooked when it comes to so-called "reviewers." One goes (or should go) into a James Wood review with a clear knowledge of what prejudices that he's going to bring to any review... I see this as being no different as going into a work of dense Marxist criticism knowing what assumptions and biases the lit-critic is going to bring to his or her analysis.
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JeffrytheCat
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JeffrytheCat
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Joined: July 15th, 2011, 5:01 pm

February 5th, 2014, 9:35 pm #8

nnyhav wrote:^ I've only read his Shelley bit in Decon & Crit but he's slippery (unreliable isn't just for narrators)
came up lately in a couple of Chron bits:
http://chronicle.com/article/Beauty-Bon ... at/144201/ adding another such to
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Many-B ... de/142505/
That Edmundson article is wearying. Not only does he wallow in cheap nostalgia, he also lets slip a couple hints that he's been uncreatively misreading Foucault, Derrida, and de Man. In any case, not at all worth grumbling over.

And I happen to be very excited for Barish's The Double Life of Paul de Man. The excitement stems largely no doubt from my affection for biography in general, but I am certainly interested, too, in seeing how someone focused on de Man's life will interpret his writings. Based on the few remarks I've heard from Barish about her work, I am expecting charmingly little in terms of careful analysis. But that ought to be a delight in itself: to watch how de Man as a critic and theorist eludes the exposition of de Man as a bio-historical personage.

Needless to say, I suppose, I am still in the midst of Blindness and Insight and it is proving an intense, compelling experience.
nnyhav wrote:me I gotta get to Edward Said's Orientalism
I still haven't tackled that text either. Sometimes, though, I'll dip into Reflections on Exile and Other Essays and I find him always rewarding.
"a sudden movement of the head like a bird who understands nothing of what we hear, who hears what we do not understand" (Roland Barthes)
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oneofmurphysbiscuits
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Joined: April 15th, 2007, 9:12 pm

February 5th, 2014, 9:47 pm #9

Yes do, last mentioned here in the Olivia Manning thread.

I only think, if that is the name for this vertiginous panic as of hornets smoked out of their nests, once a certain degree of terror has been exceeded
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nnyhav
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nnyhav
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Joined: October 6th, 2008, 12:26 pm

March 19th, 2014, 12:59 pm #10

JeffrytheCat wrote:And I happen to be very excited for Barish's The Double Life of Paul de Man. The excitement stems largely no doubt from my affection for biography in general, but I am certainly interested, too, in seeing how someone focused on de Man's life will interpret his writings. Based on the few remarks I've heard from Barish about her work, I am expecting charmingly little in terms of careful analysis. But that ought to be a delight in itself: to watch how de Man as a critic and theorist eludes the exposition of de Man as a bio-historical personage.

Needless to say, I suppose, I am still in the midst of Blindness and Insight and it is proving an intense, compelling experience.
it would seem, um, problematic:
Peter Brooks: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archive ... ul-de-man/
Scott McLemee: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/201 ... aul-de-man
add (tho of less consequence)
Louis Menand: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/a ... ntPage=all
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