PREFACE
Tpast
h i s a n t h o l og y i s i n t e n d e d to represent and undercut what we
take to be the major clash in the practice of literary criticism in the
century: that between so-called formalist and so-called nonformal-
ist (especially ‘‘political’’) modes of reading. The headings of the two major sec-
tions are meant to suggest that formalist critics are always interested in the vast
world which lies outside literature and that the nonformalists who have domi-
nated literary criticism and theory over the last decades of the twentieth cen-
tury do their most persuasive work by attending closely to the artistic character
of the text before them. The common ground, then, is a commitment to close
attention to literary texture and what is embodied there.We emphasize the con-
tinuity, not the clash of critical schools—this is the implicit polemical point of
the book—though we believe it important to remain on high alert to the major
differences. We like to imagine an ideal literary critic as one who commands
and seamlessly integrates both styles of reading.
It is our hope for students who might use this book, but have no desire to
become literary critics—that is to say, most students—that they will emerge
better equipped as close readers to deal critically with the messages, linguisti-
cally and visually encoded, that flood and threaten to drown us daily. By dealing
‘‘critically’’ we mean ‘‘independently’’: persons who wish to preserve and sus-
tain their independence are good close readers.
Thanks to Grant Farred who made an important suggestion regarding the
selections, and to Jason Puskar and Helen Vendler for their generous critical
readings of a draft of the introduction. Caleb Smith compiled the index, and
Charles Del Dotto acquired the permissions; finally, thanks to Ken Wissoker
for his long-standing support of the project.
The introduction is the work of Andrew DuBois, for which his older col-
laborator is grateful.
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