After the death of literature - download pdf or read online

By Richard B. Schwartz

ISBN-10: 080932136X

ISBN-13: 9780809321360

Calling Samuel Johnson the best literary critic because Aristotle, Richard B. Schwartz assumes the point of view of that crucial eighteenth-century guy of letters to check the severe and theoretical literary advancements that received momentum within the Seventies and encouraged the tradition wars of the Nineteen Eighties and 1990s.Schwartz speculates that Johnson—who respected difficult proof, a large cultural base, and customary sense—would have exhibited scant endurance with the seriously educational ways at the moment preferred within the learn of literature. He considers it possible that the opponents within the early struggles of the tradition wars are wasting power and that, within the wake of Alvin Kernan’s statement of the loss of life of literature, new battlegrounds are constructing. mockingly admiring the orchestration and staging of battles outdated and new—"superb" he calls them—he characterizes the total cultural battle as a "battle among straw males, rigorously developed by way of the warring parties to maintain a trend of polarization that may be exploited to supply carrying on with expert advancement."In seven different essays, Schwartz demands either the large cultural imaginative and prescient and the sanity of a Samuel Johnson from those that make pronouncements approximately literature. operating via and unifying those essays is the conviction that the cultural elite is obviously indifferent from lifestyles: "Academics, fleeing in horror from something smacking of the bourgeois, provide us anything some distance worse: bland sameness awarded in elitist phrases within the identify of the poor." one other subject matter is that the either/or absolutism of the various warring parties is "absurd on its face [and] belies the complexities of artwork, tradition, and humanity."Like Johnson, Schwartz might terminate the divorce among literature and existence, make allies of literature and feedback, and take away poetry from the province of the collage and go back it to the area of readers. Texts might hold that means, embrace values, and feature a major effect on lifestyles.

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His posture was a familiar one: Literary canons are made by those with access to the institutions that produce and reproduce literary taste, such as textbook publishers, journals, schools and universities. . Their tendency has been to choose from amongst their own: northeastern white protestant males from more or less privileged backgrounds. ("Rethinking the Canon," p. 5) Why continue to lash the corpse of this horse, I thought. There is a kernel of truth to it, but no more than that. The more I considered it, however, the more I realized that the statement was not simply a stereotypical one of the sort we have all come to expect, but a grossly inaccurate one that would not have been taken seriously a generation ago.

The alternative practices to which I attempt to point involve, I believe, both a return to the eighteenth century and the practice of its pivotal figure as well as an appropriate posture for the cultural situation in which we presently find ourselves. Johnson is closer to us than we often recognize. One of my intentions is to make that proximity more apparent. To bridge the gap between the twentieth century and the eighteenth is, at first sight, a significant challenge, though I will later argue that the step is a shorter and easier one than we might at first recognize.

I recently received a university newsletter designed to apprise me of the many good things occurring these days at one of my alma maters. The newsletter included a proud account of the thought and activity of one bright young professor of American literature who was interested in challenging the traditional construction of the literary canon. His posture was a familiar one: Literary canons are made by those with access to the institutions that produce and reproduce literary taste, such as textbook publishers, journals, schools and universities.

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After the death of literature by Richard B. Schwartz


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