Saturday, 1 January 2011

Literary criticism doesn't matter any more -- Where did it all go wrong?

In his article "So you 'like' Hamlet? Sorry, that's not good enough" in today's Times (see here), John Sutherland mentions that in the last years of Frank Kermode's life, one of the questions that vexed him was 'Why doesn't literary criticism matter any more?' Sutherland points out that in the 1960s literary criticism could spark national debate similar to 'that surrounding Richard Dawkins on Darwinism', but it's no longer the case now.

'Where did literary criticism all go wrong?' Sutherland asks and answers:

One can put a precise date on it. On October 21, 1966 Jacques Derrida gave his lecture La Structure, le Singe et le Jeu dans les Discours des Sciences Humaines at the International Colloquium on Critical Languages and the Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Derrida had travelled from France with Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan, two of the other foundational figures in the rise to dominance of what would thereafter be misleadingly called "theory". Initially derided as higher Froggy nonsense, the new approach took off like wildfire among the younger American faculty. And here. ("The Review", Times, p. 9)

Updated on 1 January 2011, 21:11pm: Reid told me about six pieces on literary criticism published in New York Times:



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