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Against Theory

Gerald Graff, 21 January 1982

Structuralism or Criticism? 
by Geoffrey Strickland.
Cambridge, 209 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23184 1
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... In the noisy polemical atmosphere of contemporary literary criticism, Geoffrey Strickland’s quiet ‘thoughts on how we read’ may not have got a fair hearing. His book is an answer to the philosophical critics who have lately been questioning the assumption that literary and other texts have determinate meanings, meanings more or less under the control of their authors ...

Culler and Deconstruction

Gerald Graff, 3 September 1981

The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction 
by Jonathan Culler.
Routledge, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 7100 0757 4
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... If you teach or study literature in a university, the chances are you’ve spent at least some of your time recently arguing with colleagues about the uses and abuses of literary theory. Not only do structuralism, deconstruction and their offshoots draw the biggest audiences at professional conferences, but the quarrel over them has aroused the curiosity of mass journals like Newsweek ...
Exploding English: Criticism, Theory, Culture 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 240 pp., £25, February 1990, 0 19 812852 5
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Professing Literature: An Institutional History 
by Gerald Graff.
Chicago, 315 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 226 30604 6
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... would be left with the Oxford Book of English Verse, gentleman scholars and no students. Gerald Graff’s Professing Literature is another Condition of English book, but one which comes out of a different system and reaches more pugnacious conclusions. How, Graff asks, did American literary studies get into ...

The centre fights back

Lynn Hunt, 22 July 1993

Politics by Other Means: Higher Education and Group Thinking 
by David Bromwich.
Yale, 296 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 300 05702 4
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Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts can Revitalise American Education 
by Gerald Graff.
Norton, 224 pp., £13.95, March 1993, 0 393 03424 0
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... professors have risen to dizzying new heights. Enter Professor Bromwich stage right and Professor Graff stage left. Confronted with the political morality play of John and Carol, Bromwich would hardly be surprised: he abhors everything that has to do with the ‘group thinking’ of his subtitle. He and Mamet seem to be on the same wavelength, except that ...
Criticism in the University 
edited by Gerald Graff and Reginald Gibbons.
Northwestern, 234 pp., £29.95, September 1985, 0 8101 0670 1
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... The state of chronic hypochondria in which literary education subsists shows no sign of abating. Indeed, in some quarters it is entering an acute phase. Regular and formerly healthful activities lose their zest, attacked by morbid depression of spirits. The milder forms of therapy effect little improvement, and a battery of fantastic remedies is brought to bear, which in spite of energetic promotion do not seem able to establish themselves ...
Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Murray, 320 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 7195 4910 8
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Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper 
by Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan.
Oxford, 218 pp., £30, August 1991, 9780198117858
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... and the failure of art, and is deeply and characteristically Conradian. Following to some extent Gerald Graff and the other modern critics, Dr Erdinast-Vulcan sees things rather differently: but her clear and thorough analysis of Conrad in relation to contemporary critical thought makes her study the most stimulating yet on this subject, particularly as ...

For good or bad

Christopher Ricks, 19 December 1985

Easy Pieces 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Columbia, 218 pp., $20, June 1985, 0 231 06018 1
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... similar quasi-evenhandedness when Hartman, who is happy to name opponents like Frederick Crews and Gerald Graff, comes to speak of those on his own side from whom he would slightly wish to dissociate himself. Yet those who have turned to Continental thought or the sciences humaines have also fallen into reductive habits. A new species of coterie writing ...

Yes and No

John Bayley, 24 July 1986

Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism 
by Mark Krupnick.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $25.95, April 1986, 0 8101 0712 0
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... about the personal self, and truth and reality, and the nature of the objective world. As Gerald Graff told us in his essays on ‘The Politics of Realism’ and ‘Textual Leftism’, bourgeois society controls its rank and file and its intellectuals alike, not by censorship or repression, but by the use of language, truth and logic. By this ...
... severe judgment of one page earlier: ‘at the theoretical level the Moderns are simply wrong.’ Gerald Graff complains that ‘recent literary theory has become a private enclave’ on one page, then laments the assimilation of theory as a ‘“traditional” practice’ in the literary curriculum two pages later. When an academic critic is ...

Old Literature and its Enemies

Claude Rawson, 25 April 1991

The Death of Literature 
by Alvin Kernan.
Yale, 230 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 300 04783 5
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Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy and Tradition 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Duckworth, 241 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7156 2337 0
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Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man 
by David Lehman.
Poseidon, 318 pp., $21.95, February 1991, 0 671 68239 3
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... are inseparable from any serious thinking about literature. The fact may have a bearing on Gerald Graff’s claim in Professing Literature that the present warfare over theory is a replay of all previous academic disputes about the teaching of literature since English studies were first introduced as a university subject. His book makes some ...

The Deconstruction Gang

S.L. Goldberg, 22 May 1980

Deconstruction and Criticism 
by Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman and J. Hillis Miller.
Routledge, 256 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 7100 0436 2
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... to them. This is why deconstruction is also open to the sort of objections recently levelled by Gerald Graff, in his vigorous polemical book. Literature Against ltself, against the whole post-Kantian separation of art, reality, and moral reason, which infected the old New Criticism in America and which the deconstructionists are only taking a stage ...
... American magazine Commentary, Michael Vannoy Adams, gives this account of some of the arguments in Gerald Graff’s anti-deconstructionist philippic, Literature Against Itself: The deconstructionists render literature invalid or ineffectual by default; they deprive literature of the relevance it ought, by all rights, to have, and they reduce criticism ...


Paul Driver, 23 January 1986

Dearest Bubushkin: Selected Letters and Diaries of Vera and Igor Stravinsky 
edited by Robert Craft.
Thames and Hudson, 239 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 500 01368 3
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Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence Vol. III 
edited by Robert Craft.
Faber, 543 pp., £35, October 1985, 0 571 13373 8
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... uncosmopolitan month for the Stravinskys): 11. Isherwood and Don come for dinner. 15. Dinner with Gerald [Heard]. 16. Lunch with Christopher Isherwood and Don at MGM Studios. 17. Bob [Craft] records Gesualdo 2 to 5. 19. Aaron Copland for dinner. 22. Bob records. 24. For dinner here: Isherwood and Don. 29. Lunch at Bel Air. The whole day with Robert ...

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