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Double agent : the critic and society /
Morris Dickstein.
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.
description
xvi, 220 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0195073991 (acid-free paper) :
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.
isbn
0195073991 (acid-free paper) :
catalogue key
3154952
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-207) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1992-06-15:
In an attempt to discover what direction criticism will take after structuralism and deconstruction, Dickstein ( The Gates of Eden , LJ 4/15/77) has written a historical study of humanistic literary criticism, as derived from and best exemplified by the English critic Matthew Arnold. Humanistic critics, he argues, are engaged with the social and moral nature of writing. After identifying Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, and Edmund Wilson as especially important to this tradition, Dickstein discusses various other critics, academic criticism, the rise of literary theory, and the nature of journalistic criticism. A final, brilliant dialog on criticism and historicism reviews the book's main argument. An excellent survey of modern criticism. This is recommended for serious literary collections.-- Gene Shaw, Elmwood Park Lib., N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1993-05:
With perception and concern, this respected critic examines the dichotomy that presently characterizes criticism. In recent years, the genre has suffered from professionalism, eccentricity, and exclusiveness and has lost its excitement and vitality. Dickstein argues effectively for the larger role and public it once had, its personal association with the individual, and its examination of life. Dickstein begins with an examination of the criticism of Matthew Arnold who best examplifies the critic who reached out to a larger audience in his examination of literature, theology, and society in an effort "to find what was needful to a given age." He continues with Walter Pater, I.A. Richards, Lionel Trilling, and Alfred Kazin, to name a few, who had similar purposes. Each struck a balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. It is this approach to the genre and to life that Dickstein feels is meaningful for the modern age and must be encouraged. Dickstein concludes his work with a fictional dialogue between the proposed critic of his study and the modern critic. The dialogue serves well to delineate their separate roles. In clear, readable prose that would have pleased Matthew Arnold, Dickstein has produced a major work that is likely to add stimulus to criticism and change its present course. R. L. Brooks; Baylor University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1992-08-10:
Dickstein ( Gates of Eden ) here collects his essays, lectures and reviews in a look at ``socially oriented'' criticism and cultural studies ranging from the 19th century to today. However, the book's real focus is ``that heroic period'' of modern English and American criticism which, he says, lasted roughly from 1920 to 1960, when ``public'' critics and intellectuals practiced ``literary and journalistic traditions''xii viewed by the author as superior to today's ``blind alley'' of academic specialization.6 The book's first half sets the context for these writers in terms of Matthew Arnold's critical standards; the pathway opened by the New Criticism; and the ``almost forgotten'' journalism of a century ago, which serves for Dickstein as a model of future criticism. The second half consists of portraits of critics ``who could still imagine they had some nonprofessional readers'': Alfred Kazin, H. L. Mencken et al. While Dickstein fondly recalls ``a world where newspapermen could be more literate than most academics,'' he does not hesitate to enumerate the flaws of the writers (e.g., Mencken, Van Wyck Brooks) who inhabited this world. And his tendency to attack the ``reckless zeal'' of theoreticians is more than balanced by the most effective part of the work--a concluding ``dialogue'' that explores debates on current literary thought and more in a remarkably undidactic fashion. (Sept. ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, June 1992
Kirkus Reviews, August 1992
Publishers Weekly, August 1992
Choice, May 1993
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
In recent decades, an enormous gulf has opened up between academic critics addressing their professional colleagues, often in abstract and technical terms, and the kind of public critic who writes about books, films, plays, music, and art for a wider audience. How did this breach develop between specialists and generalists, between theorists and practical critics, between humanists and anti-humanists? What, if anything, can be done to repair it? Can criticism once again become part of a common culture, meaningful to scholars and general readers alike? Morris Dickstein's new book, Double Agent, makes an impassioned plea for criticism to move beyond the limits of poststructuralist theory, eccentric scholarship, blinkered formalism, opaque jargon, and politically motivated cultural studies. Emphasizing the relation of critics to the larger world of history and society, Dickstein takes a fresh look at the long tradition of cultural criticism associated with the "man of letters," and traces the development of new techniques of close reading in the aftermath of modernism. He examines the work of critics who reached out to a larger public in essays and books that were themselves contributions to literature, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, H.L. Mencken, I.A. Richards, Van Wyck Brooks, Constance Rourke, Lewis Mumford, R.P. Blackmur, Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, F.W. Dupee, Alfred Kazin, and George Orwell. This, he argues, is a major intellectual tradition that strikes a delicate balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. Though marginalized or ignored by academic histories of criticism, it remains highly relevant to current debates about literature, culture, and the university. Dickstein concludes the book with a lively and contentious dialogue on the state of criticism today. In Double Agent, one of our leading critics offers both a perceptive look at the great public critics of the last hundred years as well as a deeply felt critique of criticism today. Anyone with an interest in literature, criticism, or culture will want to read this thoughtful volume.
Main Description
In recent decades, an enormous gulf has opened up between academic critics addressing their professional colleagues, often in abstract and technical terms, and the kind of public critic who writes about books, films, plays, music, and art for a wider audience. How did this breach develop between specialists and generalists, between theorists and practical critics, between humanists and anti-humanists? What, if anything, can be done to repair it? Can criticism once again become part of a common culture, meaningful to scholars and general readers alike? Morris Dickstein's new book, Double Agent , makes an impassioned plea for criticism to move beyond the limits of poststructuralist theory, eccentric scholarship, blinkered formalism, opaque jargon, and politically motivated cultural studies. Emphasizing the relation of critics to the larger world of history and society, Dickstein takes a fresh look at the long tradition of cultural criticism associated with the "man of letters," and traces the development of new techniques of close reading in the aftermath of modernism. He examines the work of critics who reached out to a larger public in essays and books that were themselves contributions to literature, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, H.L. Mencken, I.A. Richards, Van Wyck Brooks, Constance Rourke, Lewis Mumford, R.P. Blackmur, Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, F.W. Dupee, Alfred Kazin, and George Orwell. This, he argues, is a major intellectual tradition that strikes a delicate balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. Though marginalized or ignored by academic histories of criticism, it remains highly relevant to current debates about literature, culture, and the university. Dickstein concludes the book with a lively and contentious dialogue on the state of criticism today. In Double Agent , one of our leading critics offers both a perceptive look at the great public critics of the last hundred years as well as a deeply felt critique of criticism today. Anyone with an interest in literature, criticism, or culture will want to read this thoughtful volume.
Main Description
In recent decades, an enormous gulf has opened up between academic critics addressing their professional colleagues, often in abstract and technical terms, and the kind of public critic who writes about books, films, plays, music, and art for a wider audience. How did this breach develop between specialists and generalists, between theorists and practical critics, between humanists and anti-humanists? What, if anything, can be done to repair it? Can criticism once again become part of a common culture, meaningful to scholars and general readers alike? Morris Dickstein's new book,Double Agent, makes an impassioned plea for criticism to move beyond the limits of poststructuralist theory, eccentric scholarship, blinkered formalism, opaque jargon, and politically motivated cultural studies. Emphasizing the relation of critics to the larger world of history and society, Dickstein takes a fresh look at the long tradition of cultural criticism associated with the "man of letters," and traces the development of new techniques of close reading in the aftermath of modernism. He examines the work of critics who reached out to a larger public in essays and books that were themselves contributions to literature, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, H.L. Mencken, I.A. Richards, Van Wyck Brooks, Constance Rourke, Lewis Mumford, R.P. Blackmur, Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, F.W. Dupee, Alfred Kazin, and George Orwell. This, he argues, is a major intellectual tradition that strikes a delicate balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. Though marginalized or ignored by academic histories of criticism, it remains highly relevant to current debates about literature, culture, and the university. Dickstein concludes the book with a lively and contentious dialogue on the state of criticism today. InDouble Agent, one of our leading critics offers both a perceptive look at the great public critics of the last hundred years as well as a deeply felt critique of criticism today. Anyone with an interest in literature, criticism, or culture will want to read this thoughtful volume.
Table of Contents
Introduction: What Happened to Criticismp. 3
Cultural Criticism: Matthew Arnold and Beyondp. 8
The Rise and Fall of "Practical" Criticism: From I. A. Richards to Barthes and Derridap. 35
Journalism as Criticismp. 55
Criticism Among the Intellectuals: Partial Portraitsp. 68
Lionel Trilling and The Liberal Imaginationp. 68
R. P. Blackmur: The Last Bookp. 81
The Critic as Sage: Northrop Fryep. 87
Up from Alienation: The New York Intellectualsp. 91
A Precious Anomaly: F. W. Dupeep. 101
Alfred Kazin's Americap. 106
The Critic and Society, 1900-1950: The Counter Traditionp. 110
Criticism: The Transformationp. 110
The Generation of 1910p. 112
The Attack on the Gilded Age: Van Wyck Brooks and H. L. Menckenp. 115
The Critic as Man of Letters: Edmund Wilson and Malcolm Cowleyp. 122
The Rise of American Studiesp. 136
Trilling as a Cultural Criticp. 143
Kazin, Rahv, and Partisan Reviewp. 151
Orwell: Politics, Criticism, and Popular Culturep. 160
Conclusion: England and Americap. 166
The Return to History? A Dialogue on Criticism Todayp. 169
Notesp. 193
Sources and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 197
Indexp. 209
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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