The Death of the Critic

The Death of the Critic

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The critic has long been a reviled figure, at best the mere handmaiden of the 'creative' arts, at worst a parasite upon them. For Brendan Behan, critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They know how it is done. They have seen it done every day. But they are unable to do it themselves. In an age of book clubs, celebrity endorsements and internet bloggers, what role is there now for the professional critic as an arbiter of artistic value? Are literature and the arts only a question of personal taste? Is one opinion 'as good as another'?Ronan McDonald's "The Death of the Critic" seeks to defend the role of the public critic. McDonald argues against recent claims that all artistic value is simply relative and subjective. This forceful, accessible and eloquent book considers why high-profile, public critics, such as William Empson, F.R.Leavis or Lionel Trilling, become much rarer in the later twentieth century. A key reason for the 'death of the critic', he believes, is the turn away from value judgements and the very notion of artistic quality amongst academics and scholars.
Alert to the cultural and academic climate of both the USA and the UK, this controversial and timely intervention will engage scholars, students, critics and anyone concerned with the role of literary and artistic culture in the public sphere.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 19.81mm | 312.98g
  • Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0826492797
  • 9780826492791
  • 859,673

Table of contents

Introduction: The Role of the Critic; The Public Critic in the 20th Century; Anglo American Literary Criticism since 1968; The Value of Criticism and the Criticism of Value.
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Review quote

Mentioned on, Title mentioned in Times Higher Education Supplement, March 2008 "McDonald's argument is witty and persuasive"English Drama Media Journal, October 2008 "The Death of the Criticis a concise and persuasive argument for the necessity of an engaged, evaluative criticism of literature, one in which critics addressreaders instead of each other." -Post No Ills Magazine Reviewed in German by Thomas Vaessens, Boeken, 8th February 2008. Author review of another book, menion of this book at end credits, The Observer. 4 January 2009. "[A] satisfyingly chewy new book"--Prospect Magazine Mentioned on "[A] satisfyingly chewy new book"--, The virtue of this book is that, while it is a strong protest against what has been a prevailing climate in English departments, it is neither blimpish nor complacent. ...his regrets have been expressed with irresistible clarity. Times Literary Supplement "The Death of the Critic is a concise and persuasive argument for the necessity of an engaged, evaluative criticism of literature, one in which critics address readers instead of each other." -Post No Ills Magazine "McDonald's argument is witty and persuasive" English Drama Media Journal, October 2008 Mentioned on Lakoff "[A] satisfyingly chewy new book"--Sanford Lakoff "A lively, rigorous argument for the future of criticism." Brian Dillon, Irish Times--Sanford Lakoff "The Irish Times " "The thorniest reasons for this cutback, the ones that deal with internal fractures within criticism itself, are just now beginning to be addressed. In his provocative, enormously informative new book, "The Death of the Critic," Ronan McDonald dives into this territory with both sleeves rolled up. He traces the current suspicion of the critic's role to debates that have raged since Plato. Forget about bloggers, cut-rate publishers, and (the usual suspects); the critic's killer, McDonald argues, is criticism itself. ...The critic isn't dead. In fact, the defibrillators that can bring him or her back are all around us, and you can find many of them in this smart, useful little book." John Freeman, Boston Globe --Sanford Lakoff "The Boston Globe " "Whenever you think of this 21st-century world, McDonald's assessment poses serious question that beg for specific application...When McDonald argues that criticism needs to be more evaluative, he isn't talking thumbs up or down. He means criticism that takes seriously the role of engaging with the issues and aesthetics of the work at hand...So that eye-catching but perhaps overstated title is a bit of a misnomer. The critic isn't dead. In fact, the defibrillators that can bring him or her back are all around us, and you can find many of them in this smart, useful little book." John Freeman, The Boston Globe, March 5, 2008--Sanford Lakoff "McDonald has penned a passionate four-chapter eulogy for a practice that he believes can be a pair of core chapters- about critical value, and science and sensibility- McDonald's phrasing and historical erudition are as sharp as the bloody knife on the cover." -San Francisco Bay Guardian "in the best tradition of the incisive criticism, McDonald offers an extreme polemic in order to provoke the discipline to interrogate the consequences of its practice" Edinburgh Review, Dec 2008--Sanford Lakoff "[A] deft polemic, ... the virtue of this book is that it is neither blimpish nor complacent ... [and it is ] expressed with irresistible clarity."
John Mullan, The Times [Web], Thursday 13th March 2008
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About Ronan McDonald

Ronan McDonald is lecturer in the School of English and American Studies at the University of Reading. His interests include the history of twentieth-century literary criticism, especially its intersections with ideas of 'value'. His recent publications include Tragedy and Irish Literature: Synge, O'Casey, Beckett (2002), The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett (2006), and a special issue of the Yearbook of English Studies (2005) on 'Irish Writing since 1950'.
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Rating details

85 ratings
3.4 out of 5 stars
5 13% (11)
4 31% (26)
3 41% (35)
2 14% (12)
1 1% (1)
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