Culture Magazine

Literary Studies in the Current Era (the Machinic and post-Apocalyptic Anthropocene)

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Back in August 2011 I published a short document called Preview: The Key to the Treasure IS the Treasure, A Program for Literary Studies in the Current Era.
In December 2013, after I’d been working on Latour and pluralism for awhile, I published a revised version in which I replaced Object Oriented Ontology from the first version with Ethical Criticism: The Key to the Treasure IS the Treasure.
No doubt there will be a third version, perhaps soon, or perhaps a little later. In any event I offer this diagram by way of making the obvious point that the divisions I imagine aren’t exclusive.
For those who haven’t read either of the earlier documents I note two things: 1) I give description separate billing because I believe that we MUST get better descriptive control over our materials. Description as I have come to understand it encompasses both somewhat revised approaches to “close” reading and “distant” reading. 2) Ethical criticism encompasses hermeneutics and critique while naturalist criticism can accommodate cognitive and evolutionary approaches.
I took more or less the first version of Key to the Treasure, added some philosophical reflection, and posted a working paper to SSRN in September 2012: Working Paper: Literary Criticism 21: Academic Literary Study in a Pluralist World. Here’s the abstract:
At the most abstract philosophical level the cosmos is best conceptualized as containing various Realms of Being interacting with one another. Each Realm contains a broad class of objects sharing the same general body of processes and laws. In such a conception the human world consists of many different Realms of Being, with more emerging as human cultures become more sophisticated and internally differentiated. Common Sense knowledge forms one Realm while Literary experience is another. Being immersed in a literary work is not at all the same as going about one's daily life. Formal Literary Criticism is yet another Realm, distinct from both Common Sense and Literary Experience. Literary Criticism is in the process of differentiating into two different Realms, that of Ethical Criticism, concerned with matters of value, and that of Naturalist Criticism, concerned with the objective study of psychological, social, and historical processes.

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