I began working on The Ethics of Criticism during my last months as a Fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows, and it is with a special sense of completion that I find myself finishing the book at the University of Michigan after a three-year stay at Columbia University. Both institutions have played a major role in forming this book. The Michigan Society of Fellows provided early support for the project, and the Columbia Council for Research in the Humanities generously aided my efforts during the summer of 1985.
The trip from Ann Arbor to New York City and back measures a geographical circle that has also become a circle of students, colleagues, and friends. Much of this material received the scrutiny of my graduate students in Comparative Literature 5004 during the two years that I taught the course at Columbia University. The discussion and level of activity were intense, and I only hope that the members of the seminar profited from my remarks as much as I did from theirs. Among my colleagues and friends at Columbia, Karl Kroeber was a consistent and devoted reader of the manuscript, and I profited from his good sense and demands for clarity. Carolyn Heilbrun, Martin Meisel, Carl Woodring, Charlotte Bonica, and Susan Winnett also had their influence on particular chapters, besides providing an atmosphere of encouragement and good humor. At Michigan, Ross Chambers, Julie Ellison, and Margot Norris have been faithful commentators and correspondents. They have made their marks in these pages.
Those who have had the most influence and who have worked the hardest for me remain the people who have been within my circle of friends the longest. Eric Gans has read everything and anything that I have written, and the duration of our association has softened neither his willingness to exchange ideas nor the intensity of his criticisms. Michael Clark has played the often unpleasant role of editor and critic for this manuscript and remains a reliable and astute commentator. Finally, I owe personal and intellectual debts to Rene Girard, Paisley Livingston, and Gustavo Pellón. I thank them.
Life in a bustling household with my wife, Jill, and daughter, Claire, has sometimes given me less time to read, but it has made me realize again and again that literature does have to do with life. My life with them is the story that I most prefer to read and to write.
Early versions of chapters 4, 6, and 7 appeared respectively in Modern Language Notes (1985); Paul Dumouchel, ed., Violence et vérité (Paris: Grasset, 1985); and The Psychoanalytic Review (1986). They have been substantially revised.