Graff Revisited :: Professing Literature in 2008
The twentieth anniversary reissue of one of my graduate class texts has brought a surge of new discussion on an issue that never really quite found a quiet place for itself. Recently reviewed in The Nation (March 11, 2008), William Deresiewicz writes:
“Graff’s new preface reaffirms his belief that the answer to the mutual isolation of competing critical schools is to ‘teach the conflicts,’ but it doesn’t tell us what’s happened in the past twenty years (which happen to be the twenty years since I decided to go to graduate school). Broadly speaking, the past two decades have seen a move back toward historicism from the purely rhetorical realms of deconstruction: postcolonialism, New Historicism, cultural studies, history of the book. But the uniqueness of Graff’s study was its attempt to offer, in the words of its subtitle, an ‘institutional history,’ not merely a chronology of intellectual trends. What’s been going on there, at the more fundamental level of institutional structure and practice?”
Two points he mentions which make the commentary worth a look: “the profession’s intellectual agenda is being set by teenagers” and “the real story of academic literary criticism today is that the profession is, however slowly, dying.”
Graff, Round Two – Ding! Ding!