History of Literary Criticism

Zachary Samalin

My research and teaching are anchored in the literature and culture of the Victorian period, with a particular focus on the unique blend of social criticism, high art and mass entertainment that characterizes the Victorian novel. I am also fascinated by the ways in which major theoretical innovations of the 19th century, such as Marxism and psychoanalysis, have outlived their own historical moment and continue to influence critical discourse in the present, providing the contours for ongoing debates in literary, aesthetic and cultural theory.

David Carroll Simon

David Simon

I teach and write about the literary and intellectual history of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, often in connection with continental (especially French) cultural phenomena. I am writing a book about the intimacy of literature and science in this period, which explores the shared interest of natural philosophers and poets in the epistemological and ethical consequences of carelessness and other forms of casual indifference. By describing experiences of minimal feeling that are neither repressive nor illusory, neither achievements of self-discipline nor self-serving fabrications, the protagonists of my project disclose an unfamiliar conception of scientific dispassion. For Boyle, Marvell, Milton, and others, “nonchalance” intensifies receptivity and draws out the world’s hidden properties.

 

Benjamin Morgan

Benjamin MorganMy research and teaching focus on literature, science, and aesthetics in the Victorian period and early twentieth century. My particular areas of interest include nineteenth-century sciences of mind and emotion; aestheticism and decadence in a global context; and speculative and non-realist fiction, including gothic, science fiction, utopia, and romance. My approach to the period is oriented by critical traditions in aesthetic and affect theory, science studies, and the environmental humanities.

James Chandler

James ChandlerMy research and teaching interests include the Romantic movement; the study of lyric poetry; the history of the novel; relations between politics and literature, history and criticism; the Scottish Enlightenment; modern Irish literature and culture; the sentimental mode; cinema studies; and the history of humanities disciplines.

Kenneth Warren

Kenneth WarrenMy scholarship and teaching focuses on American and African American literature from the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in the way that debates about literary form and genre articulate with discussions of political and social change. My two books, Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (Chicago, 1993) and So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago, 2003), explore how various understandings of black/white racial difference have affected, and continue to affect, the way that American authors write about and pass critical judgment on American literature.

Joshua Scodel

Joshua Scodel

My major field of research is sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literary history in relation to intellectual, cultural, and political history. Special interests include early modern English literature's engagements with classical and Renaissance continental literature and philosophy; Renaissance genre theory and practice; and literary criticism's relation to literary practice, ancient to early modern.

 

Richard Strier (emeritus, teaching 2015-16)

Richard StrierMy passion is to bring together two modes of literary study that have, traditionally but needlessly, been seen as antagonistic: formalism and historicism. I am deeply interested in the intellectual history of the early modern period, especially theological and political ideas. I am interested in the ideas themselves but even more in the ways in which they find their way into English and American literature in the period. My book on George Herbert attempts to demonstrate how deeply the central ideas of Reformation theology are at work in the intricate tonal and structural details of the lyrics.

Michael Murrin (emeritus)

Professor MurrinMy contribution to the medieval and Tudor-Stuart periods is comparative. Since English really did not develop a free-standing tradition before the late sixteenth century, authors normally had to consider other language traditions when they composed their works. The action of Beowulf takes place in Denmark and modern Sweden; Chaucer drew his models from France and Italy; Malory translated mostly French romances; and Spenser and Milton for the long poem looked to Italy.

W. J. T. Mitchell

W. T. J. MitchellI teach in both the English and the Art History departments and edit the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. I work particularly on the history and theories of media, visual art, and literature, from the eighteenth century to the present. My work explores the relations of visual and verbal representations in the culture and iconology (the study of images across the media).  In addition to publications resulting from my own research, under my editorship Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics.

Elizabeth Helsinger (emerita, teaching 2016-17)

Elizabeth HelsingerI have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century—and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

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