Popular Culture / Literature / Literary Criticism


Does Literary Studies Have a Future?
Eugene Goodheart


"I'm usually not given to hyperbolic enthusiasm, but I've read Eugene Goodheart's book with mounting pleasure and admiration. It is cogently argued, theoretically well-informed, clearly and beautifully written, enviably concise, and extraordinarily balanced and fair to friend and foe alike."—Morris Dickstein, City University of New York

"A statement of broad significance, a beacon, in fact, lighting up the confusions of cultural controversy today and bringing into view the path ahead for literary criticism."
—Millicent Bell, Boston University

The battle for the fate of literary scholarship has taken on near apocalyptic overtones, with more than a few predictions of the imminent end of literary studies as we know it. Taking aim at culture warriors on the left and the right, Goodheart provides a succinct and timely assessment of the current state and future of literary studies in the United States. In Goodheart's view, the opposition between tradition (the cause of the right) and innovation (the cause of the left) is essentially false: tradition is an interactive history between the given and the innovative, not an inert set of values or a stable canon of approved texts.

Does Literary Studies Have a Future? challenges the view that literary classics must be relevant to our immediate concerns: rather than providing easy recognition of what we already know, the classic startles the unfamiliar in us. Goodheart pays particular attention to David Denby's recent "experiment" with the Great Books. He also addresses the question of objectivity in humanistic study—the vexed relations between æsthetics and ideology. Finally, he dissects the academy's current love affair with popular culture. None of the other writings on the culture wars has so successfully reconciled the traditions of æsthetic and moral criticism and the new ideological and sociological ways of reading criticism.

Eugene Goodheart was, when this book was published, the Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities at Brandeis University. He is the author of many books on modern literary criticism including The Reign of Ideology, Desire and Its Discontents, and Culture and the Radical Conscience.


December 1999
152 pp.   6 x 9
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-16650-2   
Cloth $27.95 s
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-16654-0   
Paper $14.95 s


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