When the art historian Rosalind Krauss writes an essay she doesn’t just offer a few observations, she sets out to prove a point. Krauss is one of the founders of October, the magazine that brought Marxist and structuralist theory into the foreground of contemporary criticism, and she and the magazine have a genius for making the messy, inconclusive flux of history look like a series of battles where the lines are always clearly drawn. Krauss makes sure every fact that pokes its head into her field of vision is put in its proper place, and at the end of an essay she always comes out with a ringing conclusion. Maybe this is why her writing has such a devoted following. She promises to iron out all the problems, and her readers tolerate the often creaky mechanisms of theory because they know a big job is getting done.

Krauss, who in the past has written a good deal about Surrealist...


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