Brian Boyd, author of Stalking Nabokov, was recently featured on the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s popular feature My Daily Read. In the piece, Boyd discusses the newspapers, magazines, and books he has been reading lately.
In discussing what books he’s been reading for teaching, Boyd addresses recent changes in literary criticism:
I have also, for teaching Anna Karenina and Ulysses, read Gary Saul Morson’s Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely (2007) and Declan Kiberd’s Ulysses and Us (2009). Both, like William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter (2011), suggest that these novels are guides for life. Now that’s a refreshing change from the recent dominance of Theory or Cultural Critique in academic literary studies. As its name suggests, Cultural Critique has tended to point out that “so-called ‘great’ authors” do little more than reflect the cultural limitations of their time. Morson, Kiberd, and Deresiewicz, by contrast, insist in these books on the present and enduring relevance of unique insights in the literature of the past. I may not agree with their every claim, but this attitude if it spreads would help restore the appeal of literary studies for new generations—that, and joining the arts not only to the humanities but to the social and natural sciences, to psychology and biology.