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From Eliot to Derrida: The Poverty of Interpretation

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Eliot to Derrida is a sardonic portrait of the cult of the specialist interpreter, from I. A. Richards and the Cambridge School to Jacques Derrida and his disciples. This lucid, iconoclastic study shows how, and why, so much of the academic response to a rich variety of literary experiment has been straitjacketed by the vast industries which have grown up around 'modernism' and 'postmodernism'. Tracing the reception of T. S. Eliot's poems - notably The Waste Land - from the earliest reviews to the post-war era of...
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Overview

Eliot to Derrida is a sardonic portrait of the cult of the specialist interpreter, from I. A. Richards and the Cambridge School to Jacques Derrida and his disciples. This lucid, iconoclastic study shows how, and why, so much of the academic response to a rich variety of literary experiment has been straitjacketed by the vast industries which have grown up around 'modernism' and 'postmodernism'. Tracing the reception of T. S. Eliot's poems - notably The Waste Land - from the earliest reviews to the post-war era of mass-produced interpretations, it shows how the insights of Eliot's first readers were lost in a fog of reverent explication. Just as 'Mr. Eliot' was co-opted by Richards, Leavis and the New Critics to serve as their patron saint, so Derrida - perhaps the last person Eliot would have chosen as his successor - became the principal guru of the new theoretical dispensation. And just as the quest for the One True Meaning collapsed under the weight of its inherent contradictions, so the quest for the One True Theory was destined to end in factional brawling between rival personality cults. For anyone disenchanted with the extravagant claims - and leaden prose - of literary theorists, this will be an exhilarating book.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A lucid and trenchant polemical history of interpretive criticism in the academy, built around a hierarchy of related topics: the interpretation of Eliot's poetry, and in particular The Waste Land; the problems caused by the reification of "modernism"; the conflicts between New Critical theory and interpretive practice; the emergence of poststructuralist "theory" as a network of personality cults; and the role of institutional and professional imperatives in determining some of the key trends in mainstream interpretive criticism since the 1930s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312125592
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 6/28/1995
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.47 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Prologue 1
1 The invention of Modernism 30
2 'These fragments you have shelved (shored)': Pound, Eliot and The Waste Land 61
3 Death by Exegesis 86
4 The Case of the Missing Subject 110
5 The Quest for the One True Meaning 140
6 'Regret Impossible Stop Writing': The Labyrinth of Theory 160
7 The Law and the Prophets 184
Notes 210
Index 239
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