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  • Proceedings of the ALSC (1995 Convention)
  • Patrick Henry

Given the oppressively politicized character of academic literary studies today, it took courage and conviction to found a new literary society in 1994. The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics is dedicated to the study of literature as a source of pleasure and insight. This would be banal were it not for the way in which culture wars, identity politics, and race and gender issues have come to dominate university literature departments. More than merely a handful of scholars wish to reverse this trend: in less than two years, the ALSC has grown to 1800 members and its first conference, held in Minneapolis, September 22–24, 1995, was a notable success.

Because we favor a true pluralism, and like many others are tired of the predictable posturing that permeates so much literary scholarship today, we invited the ALSC to publish its first conference proceedings in our pages. The meeting offered much variety, with classicists and modernists, poets, fiction writers, and critics trading ideas on literature and aesthetics. Despite worries by its detractors that the ALSC represents reaction or blind traditionalism, there was a refreshing openness to the proceedings, with lucid examples of critical reading and topics from metaphor in Dickens and Auden’s Alcaic stanza in “In memory of Sigmund Freud,” to the Islamic influence on Dante’s Commedia—a connection that belies the charge that the Western canon is inevitably Eurocentric. If the ALSC can revive a sense of wonder before the greatest works of literary art and provide an alternative to the complacency and pretentiousness of contemporary theory, it deserves support from us all.

For twenty years it has said on our inside back cover that Philosophy and Literature “owes allegiance to no particular school or style of criticism or philosophy.” Our only loyalty is to literature and philosophy; they constitute our field of interest. It has never been our aim to adopt the correct ideology. We remain skeptical of ideological commitments and will continue to publish exciting jargon-free articles representative of the entire spectrum of approaches to literature and philosophy.


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