A BRIEF GLOSSARY OF COMMON TERMS IN ACADEMIC LITERARY CRITICISM.

SINCE WE HAVE been speaking of academic literary criticism lately, it may be useful to include this brief glossary for the sake of those who do not spend their days behind the gates of the university English department.

Bourgeois. Having to do with what the critic assumes are the thoughts and beliefs of people who are ignorant of or reject current fashions in literary criticism. It should be noted by linguistic conservationists that academic literary criticism is the very last refuge of this term in the English-speaking world.

Criticism. The art of separating the bourgeois from the transgressive.

Gendered. Making a conventional distinction between male and female. A novel or other text that overturns bourgeois assumptions about gender is transgressive and therefore good. One way of challenging the gendered nature of bourgeois society is to write a female character with thoughts of her own, since academic literary critics believe that no one but academic literary critics has discovered that women have thoughts.

Masculinity. A collective term for all the stupid stuff guys do.

Simplistic. Failing to find what is transgressive in a text. If one critic finds a text to be simply bourgeois, another may reject that criticism as simplistic. This generally leads to blows.

Text. Anything with words in it: a novel, poem, grocery list, bar tab, patent-medicine broadside, etc. For the purpose of literary criticism, all texts are more or less equal, and the duty of the critic is to determine whether the text is bourgeois or transgressive.

Transgressive. Not bourgeois. That which is transgressive defies, in some subtle way, what the critic perceives as the ordinary mores or assumptions of the era in which it was written. To say that a text is transgressive is the highest compliment a critic can pay to it. Most texts, with sufficient critical labor, can be found to be transgressive, since no one with enough brains to form letters with a pen actually harbors the thoughts that academic literary critics assign to the bourgeois.

Published in: on August 5, 2012 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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