After the death of literature by Richard B. Schwartz

By Richard B. Schwartz

Calling Samuel Johnson the best literary critic given that Aristotle, Richard B. Schwartz assumes the point of view of that critical eighteenth-century guy of letters to check the severe and theoretical literary advancements that won momentum within the Nineteen Seventies and encouraged the tradition wars of the Eighties and 1990s.Schwartz speculates that Johnson—who respected tough proof, a large cultural base, and customary sense—would have exhibited scant endurance with the seriously educational methods at the moment favourite within the examine 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 dying of literature, new battlegrounds are constructing. paradoxically admiring the orchestration and staging of battles previous and new—"superb" he calls them—he characterizes the full cultural battle as a "battle among straw males, conscientiously developed via the warring parties to maintain a development of polarization which may be exploited to supply carrying on with expert advancement."In seven assorted essays, Schwartz demands either the wide 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 whatever smacking of the bourgeois, supply us whatever a ways worse: bland sameness awarded in elitist phrases within the identify of the poor." one other subject matter is that the either/or absolutism of a few of the warring parties is "absurd on its face [and] belies the complexities of artwork, tradition, and humanity."Like Johnson, Schwartz may 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 could hold that means, embrace values, and feature a major impression on existence.

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It was not always so, and Johnson's approach to literary criticism and scholarship should be seen against the backdrop of a society that integrated thought, art, and action to a far greater degree than our own. Similarly, the eighteenth century was able to produce individuals who were fully capable of writing serious history, economics, or political commentary along with literary criticism and literary theory. Johnson's own practice is built upon a very small theoretical superstructure, most of which William R.

For many of us the problem is less with the outlines of current theoretical practices than with the needlessly complex language in which the practices are embodied and the exaggerated claims of originality that attend them. The claims of originality (required, it would seem, by the economy of the profession) are hardly crucial to the intellectual success of the practices. In the recently published Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, for example, Hunter Cadzow writes of New Historicism, pointing to the concerns of Greenblatt and others with regard to two orientations that the advocates of New Historicism have been anxious to move beyond: first, the consigning of texts to an autonomous aesthetic realm à la the New Criticism and, second, the notion that texts (Renaissance texts in this case) mirrored a "unified and coherent world-view that was held by a whole population, or at least by an entire literate class" (Groden and Kreiswirth, p.

Like Johnson and other estimable minds with whom one will often disagree (C. S. Lewis, for example), the greatness is often in little things: passages, terms, heuristic devices, techniques. Large theories come and go; few (Aristotle's, for example) remain. What does remain are hints, principles, phrases, and formulations, guideposts that teach us how to read. Here Johnson is supreme, in great part because of the nature of the experienceboth personal and literarythat he is capable of bringing to bear.

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