Skimming the surface: critiquing anti-critique

Noys, Benjamin (2017) Skimming the surface: critiquing anti-critique. Journal for Cultural Research, 21 (4). pp. 295-308. ISSN 1479-7585

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Contemporary forms of anti-critique take issue with critical distance as the root of critique’s “Olympian” and hierarchical stance. Instead, they constantly call us to get closer: to immerse, network, touch, or skim. Against claims to hidden or encrypted meaning to be revealed, they stress we stay as close to the surface of things as possible. These forms of “surface reading” characterise a common orientation of literary and critical studies at the present moment – from invocations of materialities, networks, and objects, to statistical and cognitive methodologies. Taking issue with these orientations, I explore how such claims falsely characterize critique – notably psychoanalysis and Marxism – as based on distance and exteriority. In fact, these modes of critique constantly insist on our immersion and embeddeness in forms of relation: whether socio-economic or psychic. The forms of anti-critique dispute this form of immersion in the name of an affirmative form of taking a distance, escaping what they see as the problematic space of negativity that binds critique to its objects. So, while claiming to get us close, anti-critique inscribes an affirmative distance. I return to negativity as the inscription of a messy proximity that carves out an internal dissension and distance within the experience of immersion.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Issue 4: Critical distance
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Divisions: Departments > English and Creative Writing
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Benjamin Noys
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2016 11:30
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2021 16:15

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