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  • © 2021

The Work of Reading

Literary Criticism in the 21st Century

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Includes contributions from established and emerging scholars

  • Presents a diagnosis of present problems in the field and characterizes the trending methodologies

  • Offers self-sustaining ways of reorienting the field of literary studies

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eBook USD 119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-71139-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

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Table of contents (14 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xix
  2. Criticism Today

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 21-21
    2. Is the Author Still Dead?

      • Henry Staten
      Pages 23-41
  3. Critical Styles

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 113-113
    2. What Kind of Person Should the Critic Be?

      • Simon Grimble
      Pages 173-191
  4. Afterword

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 277-277
  5. Back Matter

    Pages 297-303

About this book

The Work of Reading: Literary Criticism in the 21st Century is a sustained critical examination of the developments in the field of literary studies from the early 2000s onwards within the context of the systematic problems in the humanities. This volume analyzes the origins of the current methods—including New Historicism, empiricism, New Formalism, postcritique, and others—and posits alternatives to the present state of literary studies. At a time when many aspects of current methods show a desire to adopt values from other disciplines to solve internal crises, this volume advocates a renewed focus on questions of form by means of the praxis of aesthetic study, close reading, and other modes of engaging directly with literary texts.

Keywords

  • literary studies
  • crisis in the humanities
  • New Historicism
  • Empiricism
  • New Formalism
  • postcritique
  • close-reading

Reviews

“Taking off from a challenge to what one of the editors appositely calls the empirico-historicism of contemporary criticism, the writers here analyze the contemporary critical scene with a highly enjoyable wit and searching, iconoclastic energy. Close reading, the place of knowledge, the neoliberal university, historicism, are topics that come within the sights of a buoyantly refreshing scrutiny. A must read for anyone interested in our discipline and those seeking a new and enlivening understanding of it.” (Isobel Armstrong, Professor Emeritus of English, Birkbeck, University of London, UK)

“Why read? Why describe what we’ve read? What counts as a good description, and for whom and what can we do with a work we’ve described? Each generation of readers—and of academics in literary studies, as long as there is such a thing—must ask these questions over again: this thoughtful, trustworthy and well-assembled volume gives a generation’s answers. Poems display art, or artfulness; close reading has a history, and involves—rather than negating—history. Higher education isn’t neutral: it can sustain, or discourage, reading for form—and for justice. Reading means seeking surprise—and noticing motives. Critique may emerge as “radical defiance,” unbowed by premature declarations of its death. Critics can work by example, not just by manifesto; we may persuade (as William Empson did) by our own style. We ought to know (like Frank Kermode; unlike Polonius) what we don’t know.  And we can find ways forward not just in philosophy but in the literary works we purport to love—from Milton’s syntax to Lydia Millet’s ellipsis. This collection knows it’s not the first to raise these queries—indeed, its contributors ably and repeatedly respond to Rita Felski and to others who ask whether we can live by critique alone (N-O) or whether we’re done with it (also nope), whether we already know what we mean by form (we will keep trying). And that knowledge—alongside the ample skills of its many contributors, from multiple continents and generations—makes it perhaps the best high-level introduction to how and why we read now.” (Stephanie Burt, Professor of English, Harvard University, USA)

“Here is a spirited new defense of literature, close reading, and critique in the era of the neoliberal university. This stimulating new volley in the ‘method wars’ brings together a range of sharp thinkers, both renowned and fresh to the field, spanning generations.” (Caroline Levine, David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of Humanities, Cornell University, USA)

“In the wake of historicism, post-critique and surface reading, how should literary studies conceive itself?  In The Work of Reading, lively essays by British and American scholars, junior and senior, provide answers, including a spirited defense of critique itself, but primarily encouraging a broader vision of the possibilities of close reading as a fundamental humanist activity.” (Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University, USA, and author of Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition, 2011))

Editors and Affiliations

  • University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    Anirudh Sridhar

  • University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

    Mir Ali Hosseini

  • University of York, York, UK

    Derek Attridge

About the editors

Anirudh Sridhar received a DPhil in English, on the topic of mathematics and poetry, from the University of Oxford, UK. 

Mir Ali Hosseini is a PhD candidate in British and North American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and a scholar of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.

Derek Attridge is Emeritus Professor in the Department of English at the University of York, UK, and is the author of books on literary theory, poetry and poetics, and Irish and South African literature. He has taught in the UK, the USA, France, and Italy, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Leverhulme Research Professorship.

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

eBook USD 119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-71139-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)