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Palgrave Macmillan

Reconstruction in Literary Studies

An Informalist Approach

ISBN 9781137428820
Publication Date August 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Pointing the way toward a revitalized future for the study of literature, Reconstruction in Literary Studies draws on philosophical pragmatism to justify the academic study of literature. Bryan Vescio repositions the discipline by conceiving of it not as an intrinsic good that needs no justification nor as an insidious ruse designed to perpetuate social inequality but as an institution with a distinctive, positive social function. Joining an urgent debate, Vescio argues that the institution of literary study within the university creates an environment of interpretive and methodological pluralism where scholars and students can develop and discuss their idiosyncratic individuality, thereby helping to maintain the productive diversity required to sustain a democratic culture. Satisfied neither with the profession's restrictive past nor with its increasingly stagnant present, this book points the way toward a revitalized future for the study of literature.

Bryan Vescio is Associate Professor of English and Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, USA. He teaches and writes on American literature and the relationship between literature and philosophy.

Introduction: Formalism, Anti-Formalism, and Informalism
PART I: INFORMALISM VS. FORMALISM
1. Purposiveness with a Purpose: Post-Darwinian Aesthetics and Literary Studies
2. Experiences or Vocabularies?: Pragmatism, Textualism, and the Teaching of Literature
3. The Ministry of Disturbance: Literary Studies without Method
PART II: INFORMALISM VS. ANTI-FORMALISM
4. The Legacy of Deconstruction: Quasi-Transcendental Philosophy and Quasi-Private Literature
5. The Very Idea of Literature: A New Cultural Formalism
Conclusion: Literary Studies and the Culture of Justification

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"A clear, fair-minded, lively, and above all persuasive attempt to reinvent criticism. A splendid book." - Mark Edmundson, University Professor of English, University of Virginia, USA
'A concise and clear writer, Vescio explores an urgent topic for us in the humanities, especially in the literary humanities: it is the loss of confidence that we have experienced in recent years. Complex and multifarious as its theoretical concerns may be, this book could be read and understood by an intelligent undergraduate while retaining an importance for even the most senior of scholars.' - David Gorman, Associate Professor of English, Northern Illinois University, USA
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