Criticism and Politics: A Polemical Introduction
by Bruce Robbins
An accessible introduction to cultural theory and an original polemic about the purpose of criticism.
What is criticism for? Over the past few decades, impassioned disagreements over that question in the academy have burst into the news media. These conflicts have renewed the culture wars over the legacy of the 1960s, becoming entangled in national politics and leading to a new set of questions about critics and the power they do or don't wield.
Re-examining theorists from Matthew Arnold to Walter Benjamin, to Fredric Jameson, Stuart Hall, and Hortense Spillers, Criticism and Politics explores the animating contradictions that have long propelled literary studies: between pronouncing judgment and engaging in philosophical critique, between democracy and expertise, between political commitment and aesthetic autonomy. Both a leftist critic and a critic of the left, Robbins unflinchingly defends criticism from those who might wish to de-politicize it, arguing that working for change is not optional for critics, but rather a core part of their job description.
This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and live-streamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link.
Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.
About the Author
Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at at Columbia University. He is the author of Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (1993), Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (2012), and, most recently, The Beneficiary (2017). His works are mainly in the areas of nineteenth and twentieth-century fiction, literary and cultural theory, and postcolonial studies.
About the Speakers
Amanda Anderson is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English and Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University. She is the author, most recently, of Character: Three Inquiries in Literary Study (University of Chicago Press, 2019; with Rita Felski and Toril Moi), Psyche and Ethos: Moral Life after Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2018), and Bleak Liberalism (University of Chicago, 2016).
Denise Cruz is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where she writes and teaches about gender and sexuality in national and transnational cultures. She uses spatial and geographic frameworks (from the transpacific, to the regional, to the Global South) to examine previously unstudied archives (from the first works of English literature by Filipina and Filipino authors, to private papers that document connections between the Midwest and U. S. empire, to fashion shows in Manila).
Aubrey Gabel is an Assistant Professor of French at Columbia University. She is a specialist in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature, culture, and film. Her fields of research include formal experimentation, literary groups and avant-gardes, sociologies of literature, gender and sexuality studies, translation studies, and visual culture (especially comics and graphic novels).
Jack Halberstam is a Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of seven books including: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke University Press, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke University Press, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke University Press, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012) and, a short book titled Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance (University of California Press).