Chapter

The Next Big Thing in Literary Study: Pleasure

Geoffrey Galt Harpham

in The Humanities and the Dream of America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780226316970
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226317014 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226317014.003.0005
The Next Big Thing in Literary Study: Pleasure

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Literary study is different. There is no smooth natural progression from an undergraduate encounter with literature up to the professorial level. Students are encouraged to develop the ability to say things about literary texts that are meaningful to them in a way that others might find persuasive, in the conviction that argumentation as such is a valuable skill. Critical humanism prepared the way for a wave of European antihumanism in the forms of structuralism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction. The humanistic disciplines of literary criticism and literary history seemed woefully undisciplined, and seemed to shrink under its stern gaze. The assumption appears to be that the pleasure of literature is based on self-communion and self-confirmation. Literary pleasure is a subject worthy of inquiry. It may be a gift to be simple, but literary or aesthetic pleasure is not simple at all.

Keywords: literary; pleasure; humanistic disciplines; humanism; self-communion

Chapter.  8193 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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