Can the criticism of literature and culture ever be completely professionalized? Does criticism retain an amateur impulse even after it evolves into a highly specialized discipline enshrined in the university?
The Critic as Amateur brings leading and emerging scholars together to explore the role of amateurism in literary studies. While untrained reading has always been central to arenas beyond the academy book clubs, libraries, used bookstores its role in the making of professional criticism is often disavowed or dismissed. This volume, the first on the critic as amateur, restores the links between expertise, autodidactic learning and hobbyist pleasure by weaving literary criticism in and out of the university.
Our contributors take criticism to the airwaves, through the culture of early cinema, the small press, the undergraduate classroom and extracurricular writing groups. Canonical critics are considered alongside feminist publishers and queer intellectuals. The Critic as Amateur is a vital book for readers invested in the disciplinary history of literary studies and the public role of the humanities. It is also a crucial resource for anyone interested in how literary criticism becomes a richly diverse yet shared discourse in the 20th and 21st centuries.
This is an engaging and often enthralling collection of essays that goes to the heart of current debates about the purpose of literary studies. Neither a simple defense of amateurism nor a disparagement of it, it offers substantial and thought-provoking insights on the many entanglements of professional and amateur reading. * Rita Felski, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English, University of Virginia, USA, and Niels Bohr Professor, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark *
Nothing amateurish about this kaleidoscopic array of essays on a question central to literary criticism and to the humanities more generally: How do love and work shape esthetic experience and the project of analyzing that experience? From a cast of characters populated by fans as well as writers, journalists as well as monograph-writers, students as well as teachers, emerges the insight that even--or especially--professionals engage in amateur criticism, and that the resulting genres challenge received understandings of populism, institutions, and indeed reading itself. A thought-provoking set of arguments accessible to professionals and amateurs alike. * Leah Price, Professor of English, Harvard University, USA *
In an age marked simultaneously by sterile professionalism, revolts against experts, and information overload, The Critic as Amateur bracingly highlights both new and neglected ways of understanding literature, the self, and the world. Anyone concerned about the future of reading and writing should read it." * Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger: A History of the Present (2017) and From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (2012) *