Beauty and the critic: aesthetics in an age of cultural studies
This call to restore a sense of beauty to our culture will serve as a bellwether of the future of literary studies.
Beauty and the Critic brings together well-known members of the literary academy to reassert the importance of "aesthetic criticism" and the treatment of literature as art.
The contributors are responding to what the editor calls "the banality of partisanship of literary criticism in this country". The common focus is a shared suspicion of critics who are only interested in reducing authors and their works to ideological elements, thereby mostly ignoring what makes their writings distinctive as works of art. This focus, however, by no means represents a curmudgeonly reaction or a united front. Indeed, the collection's strength is precisely its rich diversity even as the contributors struggle with familiar problems in contemporary criticism, including the problem of the increasing distance between the language of the professoriate and the language of the general reader.
This collection of essays by its very nature does not present a solution to the problem but demonstrates that critics still have many ways to approach literature that attend to its peculiar idiom and its distinctive achievement. The essays suggest that the profession of literature is undergoing a sea change, not necessarily for the better, and that popular models of interpretation have become rote, shopworn conventions -- techniques that replace thought rather than express it. James Soderholm and his colleagues invite us to restore a sense of beauty and a sense of dignity to the study of literature.
"Beauty and the Critic will stimulate and inform current reflection on issues central to the natureand raison d'etre of the literary disciplines and, more generally, the humanities". -- Paisley Livingston McGill University
"This is a timely collection of essays, presented just as the post-structuralist 'hermeneutics of suspicion' is itself coming under suspicion. The richly diverse approaches represented here all return us, with the benefit of modern critical hindsight, to the 'aesthetic question' that still lies at the heart of experiencing literature". -- Dwight Eddins The University of Alabama
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An Art or a Craft?
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