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We, Reading, Now
In posing these questions, the Colloquy enters into a web of ongoing debates about reading and the scholarly activities carried out under labels like critique, criticism, the humanities, the liberal arts, hermeneutics, interpretation, and literary and cultural study. The Colloquy’s sustained interest in temporality derives from the fact that the authors of its core essays were all graduate students or junior faculty members at the time of writing. As scholars who trained after the heyday of theory, the burn of the culture wars, and the torque of the linguistic turn, these participants have felt called upon to reconstruct the field’s recent past to make sense of the current disciplinary surround. The importance of collectivity for "We, Reading, Now" emerged from similar grounds: despite a wide range of ideas, we shared a sense of generational recognition. What kind of "we,"what kind of new and contingent collective—this Colloquy seeks to ask—can be gathered together in the place marked out by the pronoun?
"We, Reading, Now" grows out of a New Literary History workshop on "Post-Critical Interpretation" held at the University of Virginia in the fall of 2014. Prompted by a shared desire to continue conversations begun in the workshop, its participants have convened this Colloquy. We hope to inspire and collect new accounts of reading practices, accounts that reflect the links between the history of literary study and the ways in which we understand, teach, and talk about literature in the present. As the initial contributions attest, efforts to take stock of critique and to imagine what might succeed it result in divergent narratives, various articulations of relevance, and contrasting intellectual histories. What connects them is the shared historical moment of their conception (now), their interest in whom reading gathers together (we), and their common engagement with how literature is studied (read) during the "turn away from the linguistic turn," the "crisis in the humanities," the moment of "post-critical interpretation," or the perceived exhaustion of the "hermeneutics of suspicion."