14 May 2006

Privileging theory/reading for pleasure

Remember the days of source studies, new criticism, psychoanalytical readings, marxism, formalism and the theory tsunami that swept them all aside and the fatigue that followed? Derrida & co. are as firmly entrenched in the critical canon as the authorities they had once tried to overcome. Is theory as hegemonic over the literary text as all that or has it become differentiated and subtler? Jennifer Howard has some interesting observations on how it is applied as a teaching tool these days. But where does one fit in the experience of pleasure in reading in the midst of all this grand theorizing? Yes, there was Barthes but Lindsay Waters, executive editor for the humanities at Harvard University Press, takes up a conflicting call for a new literary aesthetics.

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