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Programs in applied/ classical literary criticism


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Hey all, 

This is probably a bit of a strange question, but for those of you already in a PhD program, in the process of applying, have you come across any schools that focus heavily on literary criticism in a less... well... academic sense? Think Harold Bloom, except except the clear misogyny and apathy towards inclusivity/ irreverent love for Shakespeare. 

In essence, something that focuses more on lit-crit in the classical sense and less on specific pre-defined schools of literary criticism (like, for example, school A's program is known to be a hub of environmental lit-crit, school B is where all the post-colonialists go to study if they're lucky enough to get in, etc etc.)... 

I'm not bashing any of methods of approaching literature at all, but the longer I've spent out of my master's program in Comp Lit, the more I've started to value unacademic criticism. 

Thanks! :)

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I'm not entirely sure I understand your question, you're looking for recommendations for schools (academies) that are unacademic? Harold Bloom was a Ivy League professor. Are you asking as you are scoping out schools to which to apply for the PhD?

If you mean criticism that is not so heavily influenced by the literary theory schools that emerged in the mid-20th century, structuralism, marxism, pschoanalysis etc., that we refer in shorthand to as 'theory' literary criticism was still theoretically informed before the theory wars, if not so patently 'pre-defined', to borrow your own term, into subgroups. (In my opinion, it is more that the assumptions on which literary criticism was based were less rigorously examined and systematically applied, but that is another conversation.) If it is less theory-orientated in this sense that you are getting at in your request, the British Isles is much less theoretical than either continental Europe or the US, 'Anglo-American' is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. The approach in the UK/Ireland is in many way old historicism by default.

I did have a professor who was wasn't so much anti-theory as perplexed by it and told us he basically ignored it hoping it would go away for 40 years (he's just retired). He was trained at Cambridge and wrote criticism much like that of Harold Bloom, focused on meaning as derived from a reading of themes and characters. Its just my two cents, but I reckon you'd be hard pressed to find many professors like him these days, let alone entire schools. Its difficult to simply ignore theory as it has transformed the discipline so much.

That said, Harvard make a point of having no theoretical leaning on their department website, but I can't speak to the reality of such a claim.

 

Edited by Caien
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The academy is, almost by definition, not the place to look for "unacademic criticism." I will say the there's far more diversity within programs than you might expect -- while certain schools do have certain flavors, there's usually a wide range of methodological approaches taken by both faculty and students at any given place. But graduate programs in literary study are (for better or worse, given the job market) designed to produce scholars of literature that engage with literary studies as an academic discipline.

Edited by unræd
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On 1/10/2017 at 9:56 PM, Caien said:

I'm not entirely sure I understand your question, you're looking for recommendations for schools (academies) that are unacademic? Harold Bloom was a Ivy League professor. Are you asking as you are scoping out schools to which to apply for the PhD?

If you mean criticism that is not so heavily influenced by the literary theory schools that emerged in the mid-20th century, structuralism, marxism, pschoanalysis etc., that we refer in shorthand to as 'theory' literary criticism was still theoretically informed before the theory wars, if not so patently 'pre-defined', to borrow your own term, into subgroups. (In my opinion, it is more that the assumptions on which literary criticism was based were less rigorously examined and systematically applied, but that is another conversation.) If it is less theory-orientated in this sense that you are getting at in your request, the British Isles is much less theoretical than either continental Europe or the US, 'Anglo-American' is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. The approach in the UK/Ireland is in many way old historicism by default.

I did have a professor who was wasn't so much anti-theory as perplexed by it and told us he basically ignored it hoping it would go away for 40 years (he's just retired). He was trained at Cambridge and wrote criticism much like that of Harold Bloom, focused on meaning as derived from a reading of themes and characters. Its just my two cents, but I reckon you'd be hard pressed to find many professors like him these days, let alone entire schools. Its difficult to simply ignore theory as it has transformed the discipline so much.

That said, Harvard make a point of having no theoretical leaning on their department website, but I can't speak to the reality of such a claim.



This is massively helpful, thank you. I did my master's in the UK and noticed what you mention, I was curious if there were any places stateside that adopted the same approach. 

I've played around w/ the idea of going back I loved the atmosphere of my master's and most of the work that it entailed, but after having spent some time in the non-academic literary world, I can't help but feel like any further research I'd do within academia would be pointless / removed from the real, tangible world of literature. That being said, I still don't feel completely divorced from the academy. 

I dunno, maybe in a few years I'll have a quarter life crisis and try to find a teaching job. 

 

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