As we all know, criticism has undergone a crucial transformation since the advent of structuralism, semiotics, deconstruction, and post-structuralism. Oddly, although these methodologies might have been expected to reduce criticism to a purely impersonal, even scientific, exercise, they have had the opposite effect of turning a generation of critics into cult figures. The reason is not hard to find. If, as Harold Bloom proudly claims, literary criticism today “has the same status as lyric poetry or narrative writing,” then the critic has the same status as the poet or novelist—at least in the eyes of other critics. For the generation that has followed Bloom’s, such thinking has given rise to a new creature: the critic as hero.

The extent to which this view has taken hold is illustrated by Criticism in Society, a book of interviews with literary critics conducted by Imre...


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