Though criticism of the Gothic has recently been charged with reproducing its object of study, the tendency to Gothicize the Gothic can be traced at least as far back as the late eighteenth century. One remarkable example of this trend is the critical fortune of Matthew Gregory Lewis. Through the figure of ‘Monk’ Lewis, he was identified not only as creator of his novel but with his villain, Monk Ambrosio. This conflation in turn yields insight into the other well-known fact of his reception, the vociferous, if not entirely universal, condemnation of The Monk. Lewis‘s novel more than simply provided reviewers with a source of outrage; it appears to have subjected them to their worst fear for Gothic readers, textual influence, dictating the narrative of their own responses. Moreover, by reproducing the novels characters and plot, contemporary reviews map out ways in which The Monk supplied a Gothic tale that would prove ultimately inescapable in two centuries of Lewis‘s reception history.
Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall have argued rather convincingly that ‘Gothic
Criticism’ is in need of an overhaul. I revisit their controversial article
through an analysis of Oscar Wilde’s parody of the Gothic and of scholarship,
‘The Portrait of Mr W. H.’ In this tale of creative criticism, Wilde’s hero,
Cyril Graham, invents the character of Willie Hughes to prove a theory about
Shakespeare’s sonnets. Contrary to Baldick and Mighall, I argue that Gothic
criticism might do well to take its cue from its object of study. Plunging deep
into the abyss, abandoning pretentions of knowing fact from fiction, natural
from supernatural, I whole-heartedly - momentarily - consider the ‘Willie Hughes
theory’ and ‘I will take up the theory where Cyril Graham left it and I will
prove to the world that he was right’.
Impractical criticism: close reading and
the contingencies of history
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice
Since the middle of the twentieth century, the discipline of English literature has been marked by a largely counterproductive tension between
aesthetics and history. For many politically oriented critics, aesthetics was
either uninteresting or implicated in the elite practices they deliberately
opposed. And for those who focused on aesthetics, history frequently
seemed like a
This review article charts the general direction of scholarship in James Baldwin
studies between the years 2015 and 2016, reflecting on important scholarly
events and publications of the period and identifying notable trends in
criticism. While these years witnessed a continuing interest in the relationship
of Baldwin’s work to other authors and art forms as well as his
transnational literary imagination, noted in previous scholarly reviews, three
newly emergent trends are notable: an increased attention to Baldwin in journals
primarily devoted to the study of literatures in English, a new wave of
multidisciplinary studies of Baldwin, and a burgeoning archival turn in Baldwin
James Baldwin criticism from 2001 through 2010 is marked by an increased appreciation for
Baldwin’s entire oeuvre including his writing after the mid 1960s. The question of his
artistic decline remains debated, but more scholars find a greater consistency and power
in Baldwin’s later work than previous scholars had found. A group of dedicated Baldwin
scholars emerged during this period and have continued to host regular international
conferences. The application of new and diverse critical lenses—including cultural
studies, political theory, religious studies, and black queer theory—contributed to more
complex readings of Baldwin’s texts. Historical and legal approaches re-assessed Baldwin’s
relationship to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and new material emerged on
Baldwin’s decade in Turkey. Some historical perspective gave many critics a more nuanced
approach to the old “art” vs. “politics” debate as it surfaced in Baldwin’s initial
reception, many now finding Baldwin’s “angry” work to be more “relevant” than “out of
touch” as it was thought of during his lifetime. In the first decade of the new
millennium, three books of new primary source material, a new biography, four books of
literary criticism, three edited collections of critical essays, two special issues of
journals and numerous book chapters and articles were published, marking a significant
increase not only in the quantity, but the quality of Baldwin criticism.
The acceleration of interest in Baldwin’s work and impact since 2010 shows no signs of
diminishing. This resurgence has much to do with Baldwin—the richness and passionate
intensity of his vision—and also something to do with the dedicated scholars who have
pursued a variety of publication platforms to generate further interest in his work. The
reach of Baldwin studies has grown outside the academy as well: Black Lives Matter
demonstrations routinely feature quotations from Baldwin; Twitter includes a “Son of
Baldwin” site; and Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, has received
considerable critical and popular interest. The years 2010–13 were a key period in moving
past the tired old formula—that praised his early career and denigrated the works he wrote
after 1963—into the new formula—positing Baldwin as a misunderstood visionary, a
wide-reaching artist, and a social critic whose value we are only now beginning to
appreciate. I would highlight four additional prominent trends that emerged between 2010
and 2013: a consideration of Baldwin in the contexts of film, drama, and music;
understandings of Baldwin globally; Baldwin’s criticism of American institutions; and
analyses of Baldwin’s work in conversation with other authors.
irresolvable disorientation between the object and the activity of
criticism, such that cultural analysis continually and undecidably
affirms/negates its ‘other’, endlessly doing itself
violence, endlessly antagonising itself.
The chapter comprises four sections. The first raises the
question of the interdisciplinary nature of cultural analysis
/Rohmer 1 expounded a theory of the cinema’s
classicism at mid-century, praised the technical achievements of Hollywood
in the age of sound and colour, and elaborated, in contrast to
Truffaut’s sharp polemics and ad hominem attacks, a theory of film
authorship based on literary criticism and art-historical connoisseurship.
This is not the place to retell Cahiers’ conflicted internal
history, in which Rohmer played a key role as
James Baldwin might be imagined as reaching his greatest level of popularity within this current decade. With the growth of social media activist movements like Black Lives Matter, which captures and catalyzes off a Baldwinian rage, and the publishing of works directly evoking Baldwin, his voice appears more pronounced between the years of 2013 and 2015. Scholars in Baldwin studies, along with strangers who were turned into witnesses of his literary oeuvre, have contributed to this renewed interest in Baldwin, or at least have been able to sharpen the significance of the phenomenon. Publications and performances highlight Baldwin’s work and how it prefigured developments in critical race and queer theories, while also demonstrating Baldwin’s critique as both prophetic and “disturbingly” contemporary. Emerging largely from Baldwin’s timelessness in social and political discourse, and from the need to conjure a figure to demystify the absurd American landscape, these interventions in Baldwin studies follow distinct trends. This essay examines the 2013–15 trends from four vantages: an examination of a return, with revision, to popular work by Baldwin; identifying Baldwin’s work as a contributor to theoretical and critical methodology; Baldwin and intertextuality or intervocality; and a new frontier in Baldwin studies.
What is aesthetic criticism?
What is aesthetic criticism?
The etymology of the word ‘criticism’ points towards an evaluative practice.
The word is derived from the Ancient Greek word krínō, ‘to judge’, and krités,
‘a judge’ or ‘juryman’ (Wellek 1981: 298). The word ‘critic’ – kritikos – is
then derived from krités (Pearsall 1998). Over time, however, ‘criticism’
has become capacious referring to all manner of commentary and study
of texts, and as a consequence what constitutes criticism is contested1.
One outcome of the expansion