literary criticism

Present Tense

In my house live a literary critic and a historian. They do not always get along. Aside from differing views on paint colors, dinner choices, and departure times, a regular dispute erupts concerning verb tenses: present tense or past tense? When you write about a book, do you describe its action in the present tense (Hamlet whines) or in the past tense (Hamlet whined)?

The Social Role of the Critic

In spite of the recent discussion of the topic in the New York Times, I realize there is something antiquarian about my urge to think aloud about the nature of literary criticism. The decline of that role in society probably matters only to a fairly small caste of humanistically inclined readers. The implications of the decline, however, should matter to everyone.

Reported speech in the heroic couplet

While Beckett once advised another writer to stop "blazing away at the microcosmic moon," it's sometimes an irresisitible temptation to try to "flush the coverts of the microglot," as J.L. Austin put it (in "A Plea for Excuses"). And why resist it?

Literary Criticism? Really?

Since my last post I've been thinking about the validity of the idea and the practice of literary criticism in a culture that often looks elsewhere for interpretation—and even more, that values expression over interpretation.

Clueless in Lit Crit

Your sister texts you that her daughter’s theater class has been cancelled because of budgetary cutbacks. A colleague from King’s College London writes that his position in Italian Renaissance Literature will be “made redundant” due to low enrollments.

10 most influential books

I've been working on a list of books that have influenced me in literary criticism. This is not a list of all books that have influenced me generally, just the ones in the genre of literary criticism and theory.

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