American Literary Realism, Critical Theory, and Intellectual Prestige, 1880-1995


Focusing on key works of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literary realism, Phillip Barrish traces the emergence of new ways of gaining intellectual prestige - that is, new ways of gaining cultural recognition as unusually intelligent, sensitive or even wise. Through extended readings of works by Henry James, William Dean Howells, Abraham Cahan and Edith Wharton, Barrish emphasises the differences between literary realist modes of intellectual and cultural authority and those associated with the rise of the social sciences. In doing so, he greatly refines our understanding of the complex relationship between realist writing and masculinity. Barrish further argues that understanding the dynamics of intellectual status in realist literature provides new analytic purchase on intellectual prestige in recent critical theory. Here he focuses on such figures as Lionel Trilling, Paul de Man, John Guillory and Judith Butler.

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