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Critical Conditions

Critical Conditions: Regarding the Historical Moment

Edited and with a Foreword by Michael Hays
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Critical Conditions
    Book Description:

    A significant, masterfully executed contribution to the debate surrounding the “New Historicism.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8413-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD The Scene and the Unseen of the Critic’s Discourse
    (pp. vii-xxviii)
    Michael Hays

    In a recent article in theNew York Timesculture section, Richard Bernstein seeks to comfort his readers about the somehow disquieting state of academic criticism by announcing that “in the rough and tumble lit-crit sweepstakes,. . . one school, the New Historicism, has been gaining considerable notice, perhaps even pre-eminence,” primarily through the work of its “undisputed leader,” Steven Greenblatt. The supposed losers in this struggle seem to be theory—as represented by deconstruction—and all criticism that would take a political position as part of its effort to “link the analysis of literature to history.”¹ The article goes...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Notes Toward a Politics of “American” Criticism
    (pp. 1-19)
    Paul A. Bové

    One should never write in the abstract about the nature of “oppositional criticism.” Criticism of any sort must always be concrete and specific no matter how theoretically informed. “Oppositional criticism,” particularly, cannot be defined or theorized so much as it must be enacted. Only because academic criticism is carried out so often in a professionally and institutionally social space could one even imagine a “general theoretical discussion” of “oppositional criticism.” Whenever oppositional critical work is done, it is always specifically placed (conjunctural) and so cannot be treated as a matter of “theory” rather than as the concrete form of practice...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Theory, Criticism, Dissent: Toward a Sociology of Literary Knowledge
    (pp. 20-38)
    Donald Pease

    When I was initially asked for a title for this essay, I chose one sufficiently broad to permit me to pick from among a variety of topics and so general that it needed the explanation that only a specific topic could provide. The title arose from my concern with academic disciplines and the larger social or political movements to which they are related. My concern can be stated as a series of questions: How is the process of discipline formation (its theoretical and self-rationalizing process) related to the formation of political movements? Can an academic discipline find itself developed in...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Critical Change and the Collective Archive
    (pp. 39-55)
    Daniel T. O’Hara

    For a complex set of reasons, some of which I will explore in this essay, critics today have little good to say about their work or, at times, even about themselves. Listen to what one of America's leading literary critics recently has said on the subject:

    All of the current critical schools in the United States and Britain and France and Germany, I guess, almost without exception . . . could be linked together. Whether you call it deconstruction, Marxism or neo-Marxism, feminism, black and hispanic, New Historicism, it is exactly what Nietzsche called Resentment with a capital R. They...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Irreconcilable Differences: Kant, Hegel, and the “Idea” of Critical History
    (pp. 56-81)
    Suzanne Gearhart

    After a period marked by concern for the problems of language, structure, and the self-reflexive, autonomous nature of linguistic and literary objects, few would disagree that within the field of theory a general “return to history” is now well under way. At such a time it is especially important to raise anew the question of the critical function of history. For surely an important part of the impetus for at least some of the work now being done in the name of such a return is a desire to escape from what is seen as the abstract, speculative nature of...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character
    (pp. 82-96)
    Jonathan Arac

    The most urgent agenda for contemporary literary theory involves all that it will take to forge a “new literary history.” From Fredric Jameson's slogan, “always historicize,” to Michel Foucault’s “genealogies,” to the critiques of traditional (ideological, periodizing, objectifying) historiography by Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Hayden White, to British “historical materialism” and American New Historicism, this is the message.¹ The conjunction of Shakespeare and Dickens is propitious for taking another step into this project, for Shakespeare has been the object of intense recent attention by contemporary theorists concerned with history.² In the United States, the Berkeley journalRepresentations,widely...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Hobbesian Fear: Richardson, de Man, Rousseau, and Burke
    (pp. 97-114)
    Carol Kay

    The first part of this essay was presented in slightly different form in 1984, after the death of Paul de Man but before the discovery of his wartime journalism.¹ In that paper I sought to join recent deconstructive readings of Richardson'sClarissato my reading of Hobbes, and by this means to demonstrate the place of skeptical arguments about language and interpretation in modern political theory. My hope then was to deflect the naive charge of “naive empiricism” leveled against British philosophy by critics in the theory movement. By showing that de Man’s reading of Rousseau inadvertently reinvented Hobbes, I...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Us and Them: On the Philosophical Bases of Political Criticism
    (pp. 115-146)
    Satya P. Mohanty

    In a context in which the relationships between our knowledge of and participation in the external world and such criteria as truth, objectivity, and rationality are being reexamined, the claims of a specifically political criticism come to occupy the center of the intellectual stage. Whether inspired by social and intellectual movements such as feminism, Marxism, and anti-imperialist nationalisms or by interdisciplinary academic developments such as deconstruction and more generally post-structuralism, political criticism can be identified by at least a common desire to expose the social interests at work in the reading and writing of literature. It may not always be...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 147-148)
  12. Index
    (pp. 149-152)