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The New Hegemony in Literary Studies: Contradictions in Theory
by Tony Hilfer
Northwestern University Press, 2003
Paper: 978-0-8101-1953-6 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-1952-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-2121-8
Library of Congress Classification PN94.H55 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 801.950904

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
In a trenchant critique of the full range of theoretical discourses that have come into favor in literary studies since the 1960s, Tony Hilfer demonstrates that none of the practitioners of these forms of criticism subject their own claims to the kind of suspicious scrutiny that they devote to their own objects of study. Assimilating the critiques that have been made of almost all of the major recent modes of criticism-Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, New Historicism, Foucaultian-Hilfer brings them acutely to bear on his central argument: that these methods systematically fail to live up to their own methodological scruples.

The problem Hilfer identifies is one of logical consistency, but also of moral and psychological implications, and it can be found operating across the whole spectrum of literary Theory. It is, however, as this book makes blindingly clear, not immune from scrutiny. With quiet erudition and consistent incisiveness, Hilfer shows how the various methods, while ostensibly at odds, actually fit together, all sharing the same peculiar structure and logic, and all wearing an identical set of ideological blinders. He offers examples of theorists-and assumptions-hard at work on particular texts, and again and again (often letting these theorists refute themselves) pinpoints the blindspots that have become endemic in the practice of Theory.

Written with great care and a deep commitment to the value and integrity of literary criticism and theory, this tonic work stands as a corrective to the misuse of theory, and a bracing reminder of how a critical approach works when it is well and judiciously applied.

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