Graham Hough looks at a collection of American essays which allege a crisis in criticism, and ponders the long history of debate on literary education

  • Criticism in the University edited by Gerald Graff and Reginald Gibbons
    Northwestern, 234 pp, £29.95, September 1985, ISBN 0 8101 0670 1

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. Either the patient’s system rejects them, or they provoke hysterical symptoms more alarming than the original complaint.

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