Table of Contents

What is humanistic criticism? / M.H. Abrams.
The End of the poststructuralist era / Frederick Crews.
The Current polarization of literary studies / Richard Levin.
Time and the intelligentsia: a patchwork in nine parts, with loopholes / Gary Saul Morson.
The Agony of feminism: why feminist theory is necessary after all / Nina Baym.
Confessions of a reluctant critic; or, the resistance to literature / Ihab Hassan.
Deconstruction after the fall / David Lehman.
The Poetic fallacy / Paisley Livingston.
Literary theory and its discontents / John R. Searle. The essays in this volume represent a collective questioning of the poststructuralist ascendancy, and of the assumptions involved therein, by a group of prominent scholars and critics: M.H. Abrams, Nina Baym, Frederick Crews, Ihab Hassan, David Lehman, Richard Levin, Paisley Livingston, Saul Morson, and John Searle. Assembled at The University of Alabama for the 1992 symposium from which this book takes its title, these scholars were charged with the task of examining the truth-value, methodology, practice, and humanistic status of poststructuralist theories and with speculating on what their conclusions portend for the future of theory. Some of the deficiencies "uncovered" in the emperor's apparel include the failure of poststructuralist theory to answer to the complexities of literary experience, its tendency to be self-ratifying, its betrayal of the feminist achievement, its conflation of style and logic, its attempt to impose apocalyptic finalities on history's open-endedness, and its ignorance of much in current language philosophy. The writings of Jacques Derrida, in particular, come in for skeptical scrutiny by Abrams, Livingston, and Searle. The book concludes with a lively panel discussion in which the audience joins the fray.