We, Reading, Now


"We, Reading, Now" invites participants to rethink the status of critique in literary studies. We seek to explore three key areas of concern—collectivity, method, and temporality—raised by the contentious phrase "post-critical interpretation" and summarized in our title "We, Reading, Now." Who constitutes the "we" invoked in contemporary accounts of the ways we read? What do such practices of reading entail? How do we define, periodize, and consider the historicity of this "now" in which we read?

Reading for the Moment
By Invitation
Eric Eisner
What if our accounts of the way we read “now,” as well as our narratives of the discipline’s history, were to set out not from a catalog of eras or turns, but instead from more particularized, more fluid temporalities?
I'm Just Normal
Jean-Thomas Tremblay
In Noah Baumbach’s 2015 national-millennial fable, Mistress America, “I’m just normal” bespeaks dissatisfaction. It’s an identity that Tracy claims in an effort to project her way out of it.
From Suspicion to Solidarity?
Stephen Squibb
What comes after suspicion? My answer is solidarity—or allied reading. I prefer this to ‘surface reading,’ ‘generous reading,’ or the ‘hermeneutics of trust’ which Ricoeur originally intended to discipline with suspicion, chiefly because solidarity is strategic, rather than simply charitable, virtuous, or advisable (though it may be these as well).
Critique, Neo-Kantianism, and Literary Study
By Invitation
Ross Knecht
I contend that critique is not solely and perhaps not even primarily negative in character: it also has an important synthetic function, uniting historical and interpretive modes of inquiry in such a way as to invest its objects of study with cultural and historical significance.
Risking Complicity
Mitchum Huehls
Historical forces have replaced older modes of meaning-making that rely on representation and critique with new modes of meaning-making that rely on connection, adjacency, being, transmission, and presence. It’s not surprising, then, that today’s authors and readers have changing notions of what it means to mean.
Critical Immodesty and Other Grammars for Aesthetic Agency
Tyler Bradway
Post-critical methods of reading promise to apprehend the forces of aesthetic objects in their own terms. By granting that aesthetic surfaces speak in a different language than literary criticism, post-critical reading permits us to broaden the aesthetic forms that count as “critical” and the ways in which critique functions through aesthetic form. I call for new grammars of aesthetic agency, ones that more expansively account for the critical and creative forces that aesthetic objects harness to press back against the impasses of their contemporary moment.
We Have Never Been Critical
Dalglish Chew
Via a reading of two fictional dialogues by Bruno Latour, I suggest how generational structures of transmission inflect our attachments to critique, and thus also our understanding of its alternatives.
Critique: The History of a Premise
Patrick Fessenbecker
Recently, much has been made of the fact that “critique,” as practiced in literary criticism, is an attitude. But critique is also an argument, and I want to think about the nature of that argument. The real question I want to ask is this: if there are so many problems with the assumption that literary form represents an imaginative solution to real contradictions, then why do so many people find it so compelling? Why, in other words, do the problems seem both surmountable and worth surmounting?
Post-critical Reading and the New Hegelianism
Matthew Flaherty
One doesn’t need a metaphysics of history to sense when a form of life with its attendant rituals, pieties, and practices has grown old. Theory’s reign in literature departments has long been past the point when its claims arrived with salutary shock in the profession.
In this Dawn to be Alive: Versions of the “Postcritical,” 1999, 2015
Nathan K. Hensley
It seems to me that any genealogy of the postcritical undertaken in 2015 should map not just the personal experiences and dispositional idiosyncrasies that have led us to our current procedures as individual readers and thinkers. It should also plot those individual stories within a larger institutional narrative of critical activity in the American academy.
On Not (Yet) Getting It
Sarah Tindal Kareem
I don’t think that in the English language we possess a good vocabulary for talking about the pleasures of readerly discomfort and difficulty: the feeling that one part of ourselves leaps ahead while another part lags behind.
Who Cares?
Anahid Nersessian
My purpose is to think provisionally about what it would mean to look down the barrel of criticism’s bleakest destinies and say, “who cares?” In what follows, I group the comic indifference of “who cares?” with cognate terms and phrases from other critics, whose work might join Heti’s to build a vocabulary for confronting auguries of obsolescence on something other than their own terms.
Race, Thick and Thin
Kinohi Nishikawa
There has been a noticeable doubling down on critique in African American literary studies. But postcritique is thriving in less-recognized work in the field: namely, scholarship that is oriented around empirical analysis of textual objects and that is animated by theoretical and practical reflection on archival research.
Hermeneutic Construction
Julie Orlemanski
Why do we do what we do? Why do we labor to read, and teach students to read, slowly, attentively, philologically, and speculatively? What are literary studies’ practical epistemologies? My hypothesis is that answers to questions like these are sedimented in disciplinary activity.
Double Agency: Knowledge | Performativity
Rebekah Sheldon
“What does knowledge do?” exposes our impoverished vocabulary for discussing how what appears political inside of a particular interpretation generates political change in the broader world. Sedgwick’s question gives us license to ask: What if we took these expressions literally? What if discourse is a thing whose unfoldings we can modulate both through its meanings and through its materiality? Answering these questions requires a more strenuous examination of what we mean by the material, of how meaning matters. This is my post-critical turn.

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