Bruce Robbins, "Criticism and Politics: A Polemical Introduction" (Stanford UP, 2022)


What is criticism for? Over the past few decades, violent disagreements over that question in the academy have burst into the news media. These conflicts have renewed the Culture Wars over the legacy of the 1960s, becoming entangled in national politics and leading to a new set of questions. Does a concern with race, gender, and sexuality, with unacknowledged power and privilege, with identity, give present critics the right to criticize the great works of the past? If we have learned to see those works in terms of historical differences rather than universal truths, how is it that they speak to us at all? In the study of the world's cultures, there is more than one way to avoid being Eurocentric; which way should we choose? 

Re-examining key thinkers since 1970, including Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Edward Said, Hortense Spillers, Fredric Jameson, and Stuart Hall, Bruce Robbins'  book Criticism and Politics: A Polemical Introduction (Stanford UP, 2022) offers both a non-specialist introduction to recent cultural theory and a strong new interpretation of how this theory applies to the everyday issue of what cultural critics do and how they should feel about what they do.

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Brittney Edmonds

Brittney Edmonds is an Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. I specialize in 20th and 21st century African American Literature and Culture with a special interest in Black Humor Studies. Read more about my work at

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