The Task of the Critic: Poetics, Philosophy, Religion

The Task of the Critic: Poetics, Philosophy, Religion

Henry Sussman
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Task of the Critic: Poetics, Philosophy, Religion
    Book Description:

    Today's critic must be something of a philosopher as well as a poet. Yet her workremains above all that of the close reader, and the emergence of the valuesembodied by the close reader to stand alongside those of the philosopher andthe poet may be one of the most significant intellectual developments to emergein the post-World War II years.This book analyzes the language poets, Deleuze and Guattari, and above allBenjamin and Derrida, to trace the various dimensions of the task of the critic.It concludes with a major chapter on the significance of Derrida's recent workfor the conceptualization of religion, and with an Afterword examining therole of the Romantic discourse of the fragment in the archeology of all thesediscursive strands.The task of the critic, now invited to pass through the discourses ofphilosophy, poetry, and religion beyond that of close reading, has neverbeen harder-nor have we ever been more in need of it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4850-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ONE The Task of the Critic: A Game of Registers
    (pp. 1-36)

    The task of the critic has never been harder. Since the New Criticism concentrated critical activity within the linguistic and formal parameters of the artifact, drawing on the Wittgensteinian strand of twentieth-century linguistic rigor renewing the focus of the critical calling, there has been a prodigious, perhaps impossible growth in the discourses, activities, and registers of oversight associated with literary and cultural criticism. Even as such writers as I. A. Richards¹ and William Empson² sought, with a precision owing to logical analysis, to delimit the field of critical work, Walter Benjamin, for one, invoked anything and anybody in the grand...

  5. TWO Prolegomena to Any Present and Future Language Poetry
    (pp. 37-55)

    Nothing could be more paradoxical than a poetry of language, or language poetry. Poetry is, after all, made of the stuff. Starting off from its name, language poetry is a redundancy, the sort of thing we take off for on students’ compositions. And nothing could be riskier than discussing a radical and variegated poetic movement in terms of the contributions furnished by a single one of its practitioners, Charles Bernstein, as I will do here. Anything that his poetry and theorizing can say about other splendid poets, including Susan Howe, Ron Silliman, Bruce Andrews, and Steve McCaffery, may be limited,...

  6. THREE Walter, the Critic
    (pp. 56-100)

    Culture is a sociological arena for entities that are by their nature, in their constitution, and at all times—textual. It remains a profoundly troubled and always contested question as to whether there are any manifestations of culture independent of textuality. Indeed, one paradox upon which this entire study is founded is the allure to the critic of an outside of language, often a quintessential, necessary condition for a particular intervention in writing. This outside may be posited and gauged historically, sociologically, ethnographically, geographically, technologically, even geologically, but upon close reading, it morphs into the very linguistic medium that was...

  7. FOUR Between the Registers: The Arcades Project, the Talmud, and Glas
    (pp. 101-128)

    If anything in the world of literature, of text, may be rightly characterized as athing, it is surely Walter Benjamin’sArcades Project. Not a history; not a treatise; not even strictly a sourcebook, for it also delivers Benjamin’s comments; not a work of criticism, in its utter disjointedness; not even, properly, a work.The Arcades Projectmay well be described as a thing that confronts us in its arbitrariness, itsGeworfenheit, its thrownness,¹ its irreducible and irrefutable materiality. Its aggressive repudiation of any prior known or recognized genre qualifies it to be the literary counterpart of an exile. Its...

  8. FIVE Deterritorializing the Text: Flow-Theory and Deconstruction
    (pp. 129-151)

    Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in a chapter ofA Thousand Plateausentitled “10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals,” indicate an architecture of stratification and doubling germane to the enterprise of establishing a flow theory embracing both textual and extratextual phenomena:

    God is a Lobster, or a double pincer, a double bind. Not only do strata come at least in pairs, but in a different way each stratum is double (it itself has several layers). Each stratum exhibits phenomena constitutive ofdouble articulation. Articulate twice, B—A, BA. . . . Double articulation is so extremely variable that we cannot...

  9. SIX Derrida as Critic: A Joycean Odyssey
    (pp. 152-175)

    At the outset of his essay “Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce” (1987), which breaks new ground—it may well contain Derrida’s most exuberant literary criticism—Derrida points out the anomalies to which straying into the vernacular gave rise in Descartes. Yet the commentary on Joyce there is advanced enough to stage the wider enquiry, one is tempted to write “allegory,” into the ongoing implications, effects, suggestions, and heritage of deconstruction that characterizes much of the work since the late 1980s, especially deconstruction’s extensions into religion, politics, and psychoanalysis:

    When at the end of theDiscours de la méthode,...

  10. SEVEN The Fourth Abrahamic Religion?
    (pp. 176-241)

    The itinerary I plan to follow in this chapter is problematical, to say the least, verging on incredulity for any serious student of culture, its underlying conceptual software, and its interventive options. Jacques Derrida’s grouping of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as the three “Abrahamic religions” has been a suggestive and illuminating tack in its own right, attributing a certain degree of common infrastructural programming and shared responsibility to the three religio-political cultures whose mutual hostility, undermining, bigotry, repression, exclusion—and sharing—has been of nothing less than epic, possibly mythical proportions. In this line of commentary, I propose to posit...

  11. AFTERWORD: Fragmentary Script as the Enabling Legislation for Modern Criticism
    (pp. 242-260)

    After the lengthy exercise that we have just completed, I can hardly claim that a philosophico-rhetorical survey of the confluences and stress lines between poetics, philosophical discourse, religion, close exegesis, and criticism has never been undertaken before. Prior to terminating our inquiry, however, perhaps one more footnote is due, an extended one at that, one acknowledging our ongoing debt to early Romanticism as the scene of cultural production in which “full-service” criticism first became viable and attained its modern parameters.

    Indeed, one of the preeminent features endowing the term “Romanticism” with a personality, enabling it to intimate substantially more than...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 261-286)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 287-292)