Robert Grant
Imagining the Real: Essays on Politics,
Ideology and Literature.
Palgrave Macmillan, 248 pages, $90

The retreat of academic literary criticism from the public realm is one of the sadder phenomena of recent cultural history. In university bookshops the Eng. Lit. shelves are groaning with volumes catchily entitled “The Transgressive Body … ,” “Engendering Discourse … ,” and so on; but who buys them? The practitioners of the genre, certainly; some students (the ones with starry eyes and deep pockets), perhaps; but the general public—which used to rush out to purchase the latest book by Leavis or Empson—hardly at all. Literary biography, now the only form of serious writing about literature to be bought by general readers, is the exception that proves the rule.

If you think that this matters, then you probably also assume that a culture is...


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