James Elkins: Limits of the Criticism of Writing in the Humanities

Free Public Lecture

James Elkins: Limits of the Criticism of Writing in the Humanities

Forum Theatre, North Wing Level 1
Arts West


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Ever since new criticism, literary study has been developing ideas of close reading. Since the inception of poststructuralism there has been wide acknowledgment of the constructed nature of the text. In the last 15 years there have been even more models for understanding texts, including 'distance reading' and 'surface reading'.

Given that amazing richness of interpretive possibilities, it is strange that the humanities continue to teach writing on a rudimentary level, stressing clarity, concision, and organisation – basic pedagogy that was already out of date 100 years ago.

This talk is an informal survey of the absence of the tools of literary theory and rhetoric in fields such as sociology, anthropology and art history, with special reference to examples such as Rosalind Krauss, Alex Nemerov, T.J. Clark, Stephen Greenblatt, Steven Pinker and Saul Kripke.

James Elkins’ lecture is coordinated in partnership with the Power Institute, University of Sydney, as part of the Keir Lectures on Art series, supported by the Keir Foundation.

Image: Argenteuil, Edouard Manet, 1874


  • Professor James Elkins
    Professor James Elkins, Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies