The Public Interest

Critical abuse

Paul A. Cantor

Fall 1994

IT IS DIFFICULT for the general reader today to grasp what has happened to academic literary criticism. Picking up at random the kind of book typically published by university presses these days, the non-specialist is likely to be put off by both its style and its content. The prose may seem dense and strained, the arguments crudely ideological and politicized, and the subject matter remote from anything that has traditionally been regarded as the domain of literary analysis. Faced with such evidence, the general reader will not be encouraged to delve further into contemporary criticism. Anyone outside the academy will have a hard time believing how dominant and pervasive this kind of criticism has actually become in our universities and colleges. Who, after all, has the time to read the fifteenth Marxist analysis of the sins of the whaling industry in Moby Dick if not absolutely forced to by professional responsibilities? 

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