The Critical Pulse: Thirty-Six Credos by Contemporary Critics


This unprecedented anthology asks thirty-six leading literary and cultural critics to elaborate on the nature of their profession. With the humanities feeling the pinch of financial and political pressures, and its disciplines resting on increasingly uncertain conceptual ground, there couldn't be a better time for critics to reassert their widespread relevance and purpose. These credos boldly defend the function of criticism in contemporary society and showcase its vitality in ...

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The Critical Pulse: Thirty-six Credos by Contemporary Critics

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This unprecedented anthology asks thirty-six leading literary and cultural critics to elaborate on the nature of their profession. With the humanities feeling the pinch of financial and political pressures, and its disciplines resting on increasingly uncertain conceptual ground, there couldn't be a better time for critics to reassert their widespread relevance and purpose. These credos boldly defend the function of criticism in contemporary society and showcase its vitality in the era after theory.

Essays address literature and politics, with some focusing on the sorry state of higher education and others concentrating on teaching and the fate of the humanities. All reflect the critics' personal, particular experiences. Deeply personal and engaging, these stories move, amuse, and inspire, ultimately encouraging the reader to develop his or her own critical credo with which to approach the world. Reflecting on the past, looking forward to the future, and committed to the power of productive critical thought, this volume proves the value of criticism for today's skeptical audiences.

Contributors: Andrew Ross, Amitava Kumar, Lisa Lowe, Vincent B. Leitch, Craig Womack, Jeffrey J. Williams, Marc Bousquet, Katie Hogan, Michelle A. Massé, John Conley, Heather Steffen, Paul Lauter, Cary Nelson, David B. Downing, Barbara Foley, Michael Bérubé, Victor Cohen, Gerald Graff, William Germano, Ann Pellegrini, Bruce Robbins, Kenneth Warren, Diana Fuss, Lauren Berlant, Toril Moi, Morris Dickstein, Rita Felski, David R. Shumway, Mark Bauerlein, Devoney Looser, Stephen Burt, Mark Greif, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Mark McGurl, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Judith Jack Halberstam

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This piquant and welcome volume presents the “credos” of 36 scholars—reflections on why criticism matters, why and how they do the work they do, and what they hope to accomplish. Contributors range from the well established (Michael Bérubé and Andrew Ross) to the just starting out (including co-editor Steffen) and represent a variety of specialties including women’s studies and performance studies. The book is broken into six sections, and editors Williams and Steffen urge the reader to “dip into” the book and skip around. The first section, “A Critic’s Progress” sets the tone, with intensely personal essays that explore each scholar’s intellectual transformation. A number of essays focus on politics, finding connections between criticism and political activism and discourse, but also advocating for the ability to think and evaluate ideas regardless of ideology. Looking at “Academic Labor,” the contributors dissect the problems facing the academic workplace and offer concrete suggestions for achieving change. The final group of essays gives voice to the “rising generation of critics” and new developments, with Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s essay about academic discourse and blogging a particularly timely standout. Though knowledge of literary criticism, its major practitioners, and dominant schools of thought will undoubtedly help, there’s still much for general readers interested in the state of higher education. (Sept.)
Martin Puchner

Both autobiography and declaration of principle, these credos are dispatches from the trenches of literary criticism. They will inspire future scholars even as they register the uncertainties of an increasingly precarious profession.

Brian Lennon

Williams and Steffen's engaging, diverting, and thought-provoking analysis spells out the predicament facing literary criticism today. These essays represent thinking, argument, knowledge, and life experience that should be preserved and kept available for its own sake.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231161152
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey J. Williams is professor of English and literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the English Tradition; PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy; The Institution of Literature; and Critics at Work: Interviews. He is also a former editor of the minnesota review and coedits the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Heather Steffen is a Ph.D. candidate in literary and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. She is working on a dissertation about academic labor and criticism of the university in the Progressive Era.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Criticism in a Difficult TimeA Critic's Progress1. The Case for Scholarly Reporting, by Andrew Ross2. Declarations of Independence, by Amitava Kumar3. On Critique and Inheritance, by Lisa Lowe4. What I Believe and Why, by Vincent B. Leitch5. Hearing Losses and Gains, by Craig Womack6. Long Island Intellectual, by Jeffrey J. WilliamsAcademic Labor7. We Work, by Marc Bousquet8. What Is Criticism on Academic Labor For?, by Katie Hogan9. "All Things Visible and Invisible": Believing in Higher Education, by Michelle A. Massé10. Against Heroism, by John Conley11. Pack Consciousness, by Heather SteffenDeclarations of Politics12. Activism and Curriculum, by Paul Lauter13. Revolutionary Consciousness, by Cary Nelson14. Geopolitical Translators, by David B. Downing15. Critical Credo, by Barbara Foley16. This I Believed, by Michael Bérubé17. "Hope Dies Last": Cultural Studies and Studs Terkel, by Victor CohenPedagogical Moments18. Credo of a Teacher, by Gerald Graff19. Of Credos and Credibility, by William Germano20. Teaching Friction, by Ann Pellegrini21. Coerced Confessions, by Bruce Robbins22. On Race and Literature, by Kenneth Warren23. Teaching Theory, by Diana Fuss24. Affect Is the New Trauma, by Lauren BerlantThe Defense of Literature25. Access to the Universal: Language, Literature, and the Humanities, by Toril Moi26. Wrestling with the Angel: A Modest Critical Credo, by Morris Dickstein27. Everyday Aesthetics, by Rita Felski28. Criticism Is Vital, by David R. Shumway29. Critical Credo, by Mark Bauerlein30. Why I'm Still Writing Women's Literary History, by Devoney LooserNew Turns31. Without Evidence, by Stephen Burt32. All There Is to Use, by Mark Greif33. Open, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick34. Timing, by Mark McGurl35. The Politics of Small Problems, by Frances Negrón-Muntaner36. The Power of Unknowing, by Judith Jack HalberstamList of Contributors

Columbia University Press

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