Introducing Criticism At The 21st Century
Any volume announcing itself as `introducing criticism at the twenty-first century’, whether directly or indirectly, immediately falls foul of its own, perhaps hubristic, project. After all, in the most basic sense the century in question can hardly be said in purely chronological terms to have got underway, let alone be near its conclusion (there might be philosophical arguments otherwise, but I cannot address those here, as interesting as these might be). The implications of a volume such as this would appear, therefore, to generate certain questions: Can the shape of criticism to come be predicted? Who would be so foolhardy? Does not the act of prediction suppose the eventual arrival of a particular form? Will there be criticism, either as such, or as we know it? Will there be universities and institutions of higher education in one hundred years’ time? If there are, will there still be Departments of English and Cultural Studies or, more generally, studies in what we call the humanities? As much as such questions might sound like idle sophistry, there are very real concerns behind them. Even a cursory knowledge of the history of the development of literary studies, studies having to do with vernacular rather than `classical’ literature, will indicate a life of just over one hundred years, with cultural studies being much younger.
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