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The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer: Object-Oriented Literary Criticism

From: New Literary History
Volume 43, Number 2, Spring 2012
pp. 183-203 | 10.1353/nlh.2012.0016



This article sketches the outlines of an object-oriented literary criticism, contrasting it with several familiar critical schools. We begin with a summary of two new philosophical trends: speculative realism and object-oriented philosophy. The latter approach offers new arguments for the autonomy of objects from their relations, and allows us to consider whether various approaches to literature do justice to this autonomy. The New Criticism insists on the independence of the text, but only at the price of destroying the independence of its internal elements, due to its excessively holistic vision of the textual interior. New Historicism famously embeds the text in its cultural and material surroundings, thereby over-relationizing it, which is found to be philosophically untenable. Deconstruction leads to similar difficulties through its misinterpretation of identity as a form of presence, thereby disallowing any independence of things. In closing, some suggestions are offered for new methods of criticism capable of living up to the unity and autonomy of both the text and its internal elements.

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