Trying Cultural Criticism

Alan Liu

in Local Transcendence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780226486956
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226486970 | DOI:
Trying Cultural Criticism

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This chapter offers two concurrent investigations, the first of which is a reexplanation, by means of the subversion/containment analytic, of William Wordsworth's turn from radicalism in the aftermath of the 1789 Revolution. The second is an examination of the revolution manqué expressed in the subversion/containment analytic itself, specifically as spoken by cultural criticism in its American New Historicist or Representations inflection. In an age when absolute knowledge and/or dialectical materialism has become the “interpretation of cultures,” with its exclusive attention to symbol, display, and representation, the dynamics of lordship/bondage is itself bound. It is “décor, gadget culturel” contained within a room of larger interpretive possibilities. The chapter's thesis is this: if there is a cultural fallacy, pace the New Critical biographical fallacy, it lies in the constrictive interpretation of social representations empowered by the notion of the subject.

Keywords: subversion; William Wordsworth; radicalism; 1789 Revolution; revolution manqué; cultural criticism; Representations; dialectical materialism; cultural fallacy

Chapter.  15574 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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