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Post-Humanism

Alex Zwerdling, 15 October 1987

The Failure of Theory: Essays on Criticism and Contemporary Theory 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Harvester, 225 pp., £28.50, April 1987, 0 7108 1129 2
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... When the history of late 20th-century literary culture comes to be written, the extraordinary vogue of metatheoretical works will surely require explanation. What can account for the obsessive concern with theory in cultural commentary over the last twenty years? Why has methodological self-consciousness become a more pressing issue for literary critics than the traditional labour of elucidating literary works? Why are names like Barthes, Derrida, Benjamin, Foucault, Lukacs, Kristeva, Althusser, Lacan, Habermas, Bloom, Jameson, invested with the kind of glamour that literary intellectuals used to accord only to the great imaginative writers of their own time? Why have these masters produced so many eager disciples? Why has Literary Theory (thus capitalised) become an independent field rather than a serviceable set of working assumptions that enables critical commentary? In Patrick Parrinder’s account of this major change in contemporary culture, the theorist is seen as a presumptuous upstart who has forgotten his place ...

What about the aeroplanes?

Gillian Beer, 23 April 1987

The Essays of Virginia Woolf: Vol. 1 1904-1912 
edited by Andrew McNeillie.
Hogarth, 411 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 7012 0666 7
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The Interrupted Moment: A View of Virginia Woolf’s Novels 
by Lucio Ruotolo.
Stanford, 262 pp., $29.50, November 1986, 0 8047 1342 1
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Virginia Woolf and the Real World 
by Alex Zwerdling.
California, 370 pp., £24.95, October 1986, 0 520 05684 1
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... the aeroplanes?’ queries a character in Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts. Both Alex Zwerdling in Virginia Woolf and the Real World and Lucio Ruotolo in The Interrupted Moment engage with the implications of this question – though neither has much to say about aeroplanes. Zwerdling concentrates on ...

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