Feeling critical : literary practices of postwar critique

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Feeling Critical advances an account of critique via the practices of contextualization, demystification, and problematization. Over against postcritical objections to critique's chronic dysphoria, its political overreach, and its overreliance on diagnostic modes of knowing, the story I tell about the turn away from critique has less to do with its affective, political, or epistemological inadequacies, than with our intractable and often disavowed attachments to its practice. Attending to the affective force of the desires and aspirations that critique magnetizes, I aim to illuminate why critique proved so compelling for so many literary scholars in the latter half of the 20th century. To this end, I offer a new staging of critique as an array of practice rather than a body of knowledge, developing a phenomenological idiom capable of registering the affective texture of its motives, its temporality, and its performativity. In these lights, each of the three practices I examine in this dissertation will be seen to reorganize our interpretive encounters with literary texts into scenes whose forms remediate critique's political ambitions as aesthetic feeling. I contend that the appeal of contextualizing, demystifying, and problematizing practices owes to the manner in which they enable readers to inhabit a felt sense of literature's social relevance, to experience ambient political frustration as the anticipation of an incipient utopian future, and to negotiate normative conflict by seeking out intersubjective attunements of intimate feeling. In tracing the allure of these critical practices to their virtual, affective realization of epistemological and political ambitions whose actual materialization has remained frustratingly out of reach, I am guided both by the wish to deshame literary criticism's erstwhile attachments to critique, and to explain why they feel so difficult to give up.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2017
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Chew, Dalglish
Associated with Stanford University, English Department.
Primary advisor Ngai, Sianne
Primary advisor Saldívar, Ramón, 1949-
Thesis advisor Ngai, Sianne
Thesis advisor Saldívar, Ramón, 1949-
Thesis advisor McGurl, Mark, 1966-
Advisor McGurl, Mark, 1966-


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Dalglish Chew.
Note Submitted to the Department of English.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2017 by Dalglish Xuan Rui Chew
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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