Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Politics of Literary Criticism

In an article I recently published with the Colson Center, I bemoan the way that Postmodernism has turned  literary criticism into merely one more instrument for advancing political agendas.

Through a twisted course that has involved the influence of German hermeneutics, French language theory, and the American social sciences, we have arrived at a place where the intention of the author counts for very little when we approach a written work.

Thus, throughout the 20th and 21st century we have witnessed Jungian interpretations of Homer’s Odyssey, Marxist interpretations of Plato’s Republic, poststructuralist interpretations of the New Testament, post-9/11 readings of Milton’s Samson Agonistes, socialist interpretations of the American constitution, etc., ad infinitum. 

Did Homer actually intend for the journey of Odysseus to be an allegory of Jungian archetypes? Did Saint Paul really intend that his words to the Corinthians would not be decoded until the 21st century? Were the framers of the American Constitution really proto-Marxists without realizing it?

After Postmodernism, the answer to these questions is that it doesn’t matter. Since postmodern literary criticism does not have to be anchored to the intent of the writer, there is no longer a court of appeal by which we may adjudicate between the vista of competing interpretations that now accompany any single text.

Unhinged from authorial intent, the science of literary criticism is collapsing into merely another instrument for furthering political agendas and ideologies.

To read more about this in my Colson Center article, click on the following link:

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