Publisher description for Double agent : the critic and society / Morris Dickstein.


Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog


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In recent decades, an enormous gulf has opened up between academic critics addressing their professional colleagues, often in abstract and technical terms, and the kind of public critic who writes about books, films, plays, music, and art for a wider audience. How did this breach develop
between specialists and generalists, between theorists and practical critics, between humanists and anti-humanists? What, if anything, can be done to repair it? Can criticism once again become part of a common culture, meaningful to scholars and general readers alike?
Morris Dickstein's new book, Double Agent, makes an impassioned plea for criticism to move beyond the limits of poststructuralist theory, eccentric scholarship, blinkered formalism, opaque jargon, and politically motivated cultural studies. Emphasizing the relation of critics to the larger world
of history and society, Dickstein takes a fresh look at the long tradition of cultural criticism associated with the "man of letters," and traces the development of new techniques of close reading in the aftermath of modernism. He examines the work of critics who reached out to a larger public in
essays and books that were themselves contributions to literature, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, H.L. Mencken, I.A. Richards, Van Wyck Brooks, Constance Rourke, Lewis Mumford, R.P. Blackmur, Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, F.W. Dupee, Alfred Kazin, and George Orwell. This, he
argues, is a major intellectual tradition that strikes a delicate balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. Though marginalized or ignored by academic histories of criticism, it remains highly relevant to current debates about literature, culture, and the
university. Dickstein concludes the book with a lively and contentious dialogue on the state of criticism today.
In Double Agent, one of our leading critics offers both a perceptive look at the great public critics of the last hundred years as well as a deeply felt critique of criticism today. Anyone with an interest in literature, criticism, or culture will want to read this thoughtful volume.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Criticism -- Social aspects -- English-speaking countries.
Criticism -- English-speaking countries -- History -- 20th century.
American literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
English literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
Arnold, Matthew, -- 1822-1888 -- Knowledge -- Literature.
Literature and society -- English-speaking countries.
Historicism.