A Manifesto for Literary Studies
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"A Manifesto for Literary Studies," writes Marjorie Garber, "is an attempt to remind us of the specificity of what it means to ask literary questions, and the pleasure of thinking through and with literature. It is a manifesto in the sense that it invites strong declarations and big ideas, rather than impeccable small contributions to edifices long under construction." Known for her timely challenges to the preconceptions and often unquestioned boundaries that circumscribe our culture, Garber's beautifully crafted arguments situate "big public questions of intellectual importance" - such as human nature and historical correctness - within the practice of literary historians and critics. This manifesto revives the ancient craft whose ultimate focus is language in action. In this book, Garber passionately states that "the future importance of literary studies - and, if we care about such things, its intellectual and cultural prestige both among the other disciplines and in the world - will come from taking risks, and not from playing it safe."
- Published: 2004
- Subject Listing: Literary Theory
- Bibliographic information: 80 pp., 7 x 10 in.
- Distributed for: Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities, University of Washington
Marjorie Garber is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English at Harvard University, the director of the Humanities Center and the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard, and the president of the Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutions. She has been a prolific lecturer and writer since the 1960s. Recent books include Quotation Marks, Academic Instincts, and Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses.
"Garber's 'manifesto' is stylishly unfashionable both in its critique of 'historical correctness' in literary studies and in its summons to return the study of 'human nature' to the Humanities. Lucidly written, full of wit and wisdom, it manages to offer a critical purchase on literary scholarship from the point of view of academic journalism and, at least as important, on journalistic accounts of recent criticism from the point of view of a serious practitioner."
-James Chandler, Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor of English and Director of the Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago
"In this thoughtful polemic, Marjorie Garber boldly examines the current cultural status of literary studies. Have practitioners of literary studies forfeited the prestige of their discipline to historians? Have quintessentially literary questions about language and form been overwhelmed by an often nonliterary allegiance to the material world? How has it come about that discursive ownership of the concept of 'human nature' has passed from the humanities to the sciences? Exploring such issues in her contagiously readable, graceful style, Garber importantly reasserts the centrality of literary studies to discussions of meaning, value, and identity."
-Mary Beth Rose, Professor of English and Director of the Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
Introduction: Asking Literary Questions
Who Owns "Human Nature"?
Historical Correctness: The Use and Abuse of History for Literature