16 April 2008

Narrow and constraining

Dan Green rolls up his sleeves:
In a recent profile in The Chronicle of Higher Education of M.H. Abrams, Jeffrey Williams comments in passing that "Today the New Criticism, the dominant approach to close reading from the 1940s until the 1960s, seems narrow and constraining." New Criticism was constraining only to the extent that to use it meant to attend entirely to the literary qualities of literature, to withhold biography, history, and politics as subjects tangential to the focused analysis of literary writing. Presumably those more interested in history or politics than in literature would indeed find New Critical close reading "narrow and constraining," although one could ask why such scholars chose literature as their course of study as opposed to, say, history or politics.

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