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Literary Studies after Postcritique: An Introduction

Tim Lanzendörfer, Mathias Nilges

Pages 491 - 513



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Proponents of postcritique persuasively show that any attempt to re-examine and restructure Literary Studies must begin by revisiting the discipline’s big concepts, ideas, and practices. And yet, we argue in this essay, the value of postcritique for the necessary project of recalibrating Literary Studies is less a matter of its ability to deliver a methodology that succeeds critique than of the insights into Literary Studies that the particular nature of postcritique’s vehement opposition to critique indirectly produces. The question is not whether or not postcritique in fact gets us to a literary criticism beyond critique. Instead, we ask how postcritique, both directly through its analyses and arguments and indirectly through the discussions about our discipline’s big categories and questions that it has created, contributes to the overall ongoing process of rethinking the fundamental methods and concepts of Literary Studies. If we examine some of its fundamental theoretical premises, we see that postcritique indeed asks vital questions. But we also find that it does so in a manner curiously detached from any actual practice of critique. What emerges when examining postcritique’s treatment of critique is a troubling kind of logic and rhetoric that might be described as academic populism. That is, although postcritique raises important, complex questions, it tends to propose answers that, as we show, are in both content and in rhetorical form less a matter of methodological urgency than of strategic crowd-pleasing.

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