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Work in Progress: Kevin Brazil, 'Critical Solicitations' Seminar

Work in Progress
6 December 2017
65/1163 Avenue Campus SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Professor Stephen Bygrave at .

Event details

Part of the English Work in Progress Seminars 2017-18

Abstract image of a black, grey and white of mouths appearing in the reflection of a pair of reading glasses
Abstract image for 'Critical Solicitations'

Kevin Brazil, 'Critical Solicitations'

When interpreting literature, should critics do as they are told? This paper reflections on the assumptions about criticism trigged by a recent wave of contemporary novels engaged in what I call ‘critical solicitations’. These are novels which solicit the application of a particular interpretative method from their readers, prescribing how they must be read - an act that raises curious questions for understandings of the critic’s role agency. Does acquiescence compromise agency, and does discomfort about this reveal something about how we imagine a critic’s role – as opposed to that of a unsophisticated reader? Why would a critic agree to have their interpretative method determined by a novel – or alternatively, why not? Attempting to answer these questions shows that intentionally or not, critical solicitations dredge up questions about very different aspects of critical practice. What is the disposition of a critic towards their objects: obedient, loyal, faithful, distrustful, or combative? Can critics also have similar dispositions towards their methods, and what might this kind of attachment reveal about the role of agency in the criticism? In raising these questions, critical solicitations enable us to see that claims for a necessary relationship between method and object, and the fidelity of a critic’s disposition, are part of the justification claims of influential and disparate critical approaches: symptomatic Marxism, deconstruction, and the Frankfurt School. But they also show that the appeal to immanent criticism upon which these methods base their authority is not an abnegation of criticism but a means for securing its necessity. At a moment which literary studies is animated by debates about ‘method wars’ and post-critical reading, critical solicitations show that there is much more to criticism than method, that criticism’s methods are far more determined by questions of disposition that many might admit, and that nothing is more tempting when faced with justifying one’s critical practice than saying you are only doing what literature is telling you to do.

This seminar will discuss a paper to be circulated beforehand. If you would like to have the paper circulated to you, please contact Dr Kevin Brazil (

Speaker information

Dr Kevin Brazil,Lecturer in Late-Twentieth and Twenty-First Century British Literature

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