INTRODUCTION
Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski
It would have been hard to imagine, only a few years ago, that the idea of
postcritique would be gaining significant traction in literary and cultural stud-
ies. We are currently in the midst of a recalibration of thought and practice
whose consequences are difficult to predict. There is little doubt that debates
about the merits of critique are very much in the air and that the intellectual
or po litical payof of interrogating, demystifying, and defamiliarizing is no
longer quite so self- evident. Even those who insist on the continuing salience
and timeliness of critique are now often expected to defend and justify what
was previously taken for granted. Meanwhile, we are seeing the flourishing of
alternatives to a suspicious hermeneutics. In this re spect, the “post-” of post-
critique denotes a complex temporality: an attempt to explore fresh ways of
interpreting literary and cultural texts that acknowledges, nonetheless, its in-
evitable de pendency on the very practices it is questioning.
This volume, then, ofers perspectives by well- known scholars on the past,
pres ent, and future of critique in literary studies and beyond. Located in Amer-
ican studies, queer theory, postcolonial studies, feminist criticism, and related
fields, our contributors draw on these intellectual and po litical commitments,
while sharing an interest in rethinking established methods. One aim of the
volume is descriptive: What does critique look like as a style of academic ar-
gument? What kind of rhetorical moves and philosophical assumptions does
the activity of critique deploy? Does critique entail a distinctive disposition,
tone, attitude, or sensibility? And, if so, does postcritique require a dif er ent
ethos or afect? In literary and cultural studies, critique is widely invoked but
less frequently examined as a specific set of interpretive conventions, expec-
tations, and orientations; by looking closely at critique and recasting it, our
authors shed fresh light on what have become ubiquitous ways of reading.
While some contributions to this volume focus on critique as a con temporary
genre and mood, other essays take a more historical approach, tracing the
eighteenth- century origins of critique or explaining its recent evolution in
terms of the lingering influence and mentality of the Cold War. And nally,
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