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    • September 2012
    • 9780231161152
  • 288 Pages

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The Critical Pulse

Thirty-Six Credos by Contemporary Critics

Edited by Jeffrey J. Williams and Heather Steffen

This unprecedented anthology asks thirty-six leading literary and cultural critics to elaborate on the nature of their profession. With the humanities feeling the pinch of financial and political pressures, and its disciplines resting on increasingly uncertain conceptual ground, there couldn't be a better time for critics to reassert their widespread relevance and purpose. These credos boldly defend the function of criticism in contemporary society and showcase its vitality in the era after theory.

Essays address literature and politics, with some focusing on the sorry state of higher education and others concentrating on teaching and the fate of the humanities. All reflect the critics' personal, particular experiences. Deeply personal and engaging, these stories move, amuse, and inspire, ultimately encouraging the reader to develop his or her own critical credo with which to approach the world. Reflecting on the past, looking forward to the future, and committed to the power of productive critical thought, this volume proves the value of criticism for today's skeptical audiences.

Contributors: Andrew Ross, Amitava Kumar, Lisa Lowe, Vincent B. Leitch, Craig Womack, Jeffrey J. Williams, Marc Bousquet, Katie Hogan, Michelle A. Massé, John Conley, Heather Steffen, Paul Lauter, Cary Nelson, David B. Downing, Barbara Foley, Michael Bérubé, Victor Cohen, Gerald Graff, William Germano, Ann Pellegrini, Bruce Robbins, Kenneth Warren, Diana Fuss, Lauren Berlant, Toril Moi, Morris Dickstein, Rita Felski, David R. Shumway, Mark Bauerlein, Devoney Looser, Stephen Burt, Mark Greif, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Mark McGurl, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Judith Jack Halberstam

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

Both autobiography and declaration of principle, these credos are dispatches from the trenches of literary criticism. They will inspire future scholars even as they register the uncertainties of an increasingly precarious profession.

Martin Puchner, Harvard University, author of The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

Williams and Steffen's engaging, diverting, and thought-provoking analysis spells out the predicament facing literary criticism today. These essays represent thinking, argument, knowledge, and life experience that should be preserved and kept available for its own sake.

Brian Lennon, Pennsylvania State University, author of In Babel's Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States

This piquant and welcome volume presents the 'credos' of 36 scholars--reflections on why criticism matters, why and how they do the work they do, and what they hope to accomplish.

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Criticism in a Difficult Time
A Critic's Progress
1. The Case for Scholarly Reporting, by Andrew Ross
2. Declarations of Independence, by Amitava Kumar
3. On Critique and Inheritance, by Lisa Lowe
4. What I Believe and Why, by Vincent B. Leitch
5. Hearing Losses and Gains, by Craig Womack
6. Long Island Intellectual, by Jeffrey J. Williams
Academic Labor
7. We Work, by Marc Bousquet
8. What Is Criticism on Academic Labor For?, by Katie Hogan
9. "All Things Visible and Invisible": Believing in Higher Education, by Michelle A. Massé
10. Against Heroism, by John Conley
11. Pack Consciousness, by Heather Steffen
Declarations of Politics
12. Activism and Curriculum, by Paul Lauter
13. Revolutionary Consciousness, by Cary Nelson
14. Geopolitical Translators, by David B. Downing
15. Critical Credo, by Barbara Foley
16. This I Believed, by Michael Bérubé
17. "Hope Dies Last": Cultural Studies and Studs Terkel, by Victor Cohen
Pedagogical Moments
18. Credo of a Teacher, by Gerald Graff
19. Of Credos and Credibility, by William Germano
20. Teaching Friction, by Ann Pellegrini
21. Coerced Confessions, by Bruce Robbins
22. On Race and Literature, by Kenneth Warren
23. Teaching Theory, by Diana Fuss
24. Affect Is the New Trauma, by Lauren Berlant
The Defense of Literature
25. Access to the Universal: Language, Literature, and the Humanities, by Toril Moi
26. Wrestling with the Angel: A Modest Critical Credo, by Morris Dickstein
27. Everyday Aesthetics, by Rita Felski
28. Criticism Is Vital, by David R. Shumway
29. Critical Credo, by Mark Bauerlein
30. Why I'm Still Writing Women's Literary History, by Devoney Looser
New Turns
31. Without Evidence, by Stephen Burt
32. All There Is to Use, by Mark Greif
33. Open, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick
34. Timing, by Mark McGurl
35. The Politics of Small Problems, by Frances Negrón-Muntaner
36. The Power of Unknowing, by Judith Jack Halberstam
List of Contributors

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

Read the introduction to The Critical Pulse, "Criticism in a Difficult Time" (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.