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The Task of the Critic

Poetics, Philosophy, Religion

Henry Sussman

Publication Year: 2005

Today's critic must be something of a philosopher as well as a poet. Yet her workremains above all that of the close reader, and the emergence of the valuesembodied by the close reader to stand alongside those of the philosopher andthe poet may be one of the most significant intellectual developments to emergein the post-World War II years.This book analyzes the language poets, Deleuze and Guattari, and above allBenjamin and Derrida, to trace the various dimensions of the task of the critic.It concludes with a major chapter on the significance of Derrida's recent workfor the conceptualization of religion, and with an Afterword examining therole of the Romantic discourse of the fragment in the archeology of all thesediscursive strands.The task of the critic, now invited to pass through the discourses ofphilosophy, poetry, and religion beyond that of close reading, has neverbeen harder-nor have we ever been more in need of it.

Published by: Fordham University Press

The Task of the Critic

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

However my running critical commentary ultimately fares in the exchange house of academic opinion, it has already achieved distinction and notoriety in at least this one respect: in the select corps of humanities editors who have served as my knowing and consensual coconspirators. These include...

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Chapter 1: The Task of the Critic: A Game of Registers

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pp. 1-36

The task of the critic has never been harder. Since the New Criticism concentrated critical activity within the linguistic and formal parameters of the artifact, drawing on the Wittgensteinian strand of twentieth-century linguistic rigor renewing the focus of the critical calling, there has been...

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Chapter 2: Prolegomena to Any Present and Future Language Poetry

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pp. 37-55

Nothing could be more paradoxical than a poetry of language, or language poetry. Poetry is, after all, made of the stuff. Starting off from its name, language poetry is a redundancy, the sort of thing we take off for on students...

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Chapter 3: Walter, the Critic

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pp. 56-100

Culture is a sociological arena for entities that are by their nature, in their constitution, and at all times—textual. It remains a profoundly troubled and always contested question as to whether there are any manifestations of culture independent of textuality. Indeed, one paradox upon which this entire...

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Chapter 4: Between the Registers: The Arcades Project, the Talmud, and Glas

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pp. 101-128

If anything in the world of literature, of text, may be rightly characterized as a thing, it is surely Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Not a history; not a treatise; not even strictly a sourcebook, for it also delivers Benjamin’s comments; not a work of criticism, in its utter disjointedness; not even,...

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Chapter 5: Deterritorializing the Text: Flow-Theory and Deconstruction

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pp. 129-151

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, in a chapter of A Thousand Plateaus entitled ‘‘10,000 b.c.: The Geology of Morals,’’ indicate an architecture of stratification and doubling germane to the enterprise of establishing a flow theory embracing both textual and extratextual phenomena:...

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Chapter 6: Derrida as Critic: A Joycean Odyssey

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pp. 152-175

At the outset of his essay ‘‘Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce’’ (1987), which breaks new ground—it may well contain Derrida’s most exuberant literary criticism—Derrida points out the anomalies to which straying into the vernacular gave rise in Descartes. Yet the commentary on Joyce...

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Chapter 7: The Fourth Abrahamic Religion?

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pp. 176-241

The itinerary I plan to follow in this chapter is problematical, to say the least, verging on incredulity for any serious student of culture, its underlying conceptual software, and its interventive options. Jacques Derrida’s grouping of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as the three ‘‘Abrahamic religions....

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Afterword. Fragmentary Script as the Enabling Legislation for Modern Criticism

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pp. 242-260

After the lengthy exercise that we have just completed, I can hardly claim that a philosophico-rhetorical survey of the confluences and stress lines between poetics, philosophical discourse, religion, close exegesis, and criticism has never been undertaken before. Prior to terminating our inquiry, however...


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pp. 261-286


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pp. 287-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248506
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823224654
Print-ISBN-10: 0823224651

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2005

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Subject Headings

  • Criticism -- History -- 20th century.
  • Criticism.
  • Criticism (Philosophy).
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