The Chronicle: Does Literary Criticism Tell Truths About the World?

January 31, 2024

Jonathan Kramnick’s book Criticism and Truth is more modest than its title suggests. Essentially an apologia for the nuts-and-bolts work of literary studies, the word that best describes it isn’t “ambitious” — although it is that — but “dignified.” At the level of the sentence and the whole, Kramnick knows when to stop talking. As he notes in his preface, this brevity is strategic: “The urgency of the moment calls for something brief and sharp and portable.” And unlike Roland Barthes’s 1966 book by the same name (in French, Critique et Vérité), which defended writing about literature as an exercise in subjectivity, Kramnick wants to get clarity on the discipline’s common cause.

Read the full roundtable discussion here.

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