After Critique

ELN 51.2 (Fall/Winter 2013): “After Critique”

What is the state of critique?  Is the nature of critique changing?  Has critique become untenable in an era when ideological critique, cultural studies, etc. seem to have reached an impasse?  What alternatives to critique are emerging?  Why?  What are the implications of such developments for the discipline of literary study and for its relation to other disciplines?

This issue of ELN assesses the current status of critique as a practice central to literary scholarship and to gauge challenges to its hegemony as the dominant mode of conducting inquiry and justifying what we do.  It responds to a wide range of developments in the intellectual landscape that signal an interest in moving beyond, reorganizing, resituating literary scholarship vis-à-vis critique, revising critique’s largely enlightenment epistemology, or pluralizing options for undertaking work in the discipline.  To name only a few of the research agendas that implicitly or explicitly reject or rethink critique, we include: modes of reparative reading (Sedgwick); speculative realism and object oriented ontologies (Latour, Serres, Meillassoux, Harman); vitalist materialism (Bennet); reflexive sociologies of justification and critique (Thévenot and Boltanski); a rethought phenomenology and affect studies (Ahmed, Stewart, among many others); as well as the emergence of new objects of inquiry, such as digital humanities, or the revitalization of older types of scholarship, such as book history, that do not necessarily or inherently organize their work around critique.  In light of these varied developments, this issue of ELN asks if in fact critique has run out of steam (as Bruno Latour has famously claimed) by way of attempting to gauge changes in how literary scholars understand, formulate, conduct and legitimize scholarly activity.

This issue includes contributions from scholars working across a wide range of literary studies to weigh in on the contemporary status of critique.  They variously describe the models of critique informing their own work, address how their research is guided by principles that redefine or strive to move beyond critique as traditionally conceived, perform a reimagined critique, or advance some kind of alternative to critique.