Literature, UCP News

Thinking Literature: A new series

The University of Chicago Press announces a new series devoted to books in literary criticism. Entitled Thinking Literature and co-edited by Nan Z. Da (University of Notre Dame) and Anahid Nersessian (University of California, Los Angeles), the series will be devoted to “the refinement of literary criticism as a way of thinking unavailable by other means.”

“This series is a contrarian move,” says Alan Thomas, the Press’s editorial director and acquisitions editor for the series. “At a time when interdisciplinary projects carry the greatest prestige in the humanities, it’s time for literary criticism to make a stronger case for its disciplinary integrity and a bolder claim for what it offers as a practice.”

“Thinking Literature will be a gift to our discipline,” says Deidre Shauna Lynch (Harvard University), author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History. “I admire the editors’ commitment to scholarship centered on the big questions, ones that can’t be posed often enough and which need, now more than ever, to be posed anew: what defines literature’s distinctiveness, why does it matter, and what modes of criticism can best honor that significance?”

Jeff Dolven (Princeton University), author of Senses of Style: Poetry before Interpretation, adds, “Thinking Literature promises to make a home for a literary criticism ambitious not to escape itself, but to exercise its powers; to give new form and urgency to the old project of writing about writing. We can expect the list to be a summa of what the study of works of imagination can afford our moment.”

In their prospectus for the series, Da and Nersessian ask,

Does literature have a mind of its own? What about literary criticism? Do novels and poems have facts? What manner of skill is close reading? How does powerful interpretation translate into truth, and what is the nature of that truth? These are big questions about the epistemological status of aesthetic objects, and the kinds of thought produced in response to them. The Thinking Literature book series is devoted to the expansive and intensive exploration of how literature thinks, and to the refinement of literary criticism as a way of thinking unavailable by other means. We invite proposals for books that deal with specifically literary phenomena and that proceed—whatever their varied assumptions, interests, and aims—from the conviction that literary criticism is a distinct class of inquiry with vital explanatory power, itself mysteriously tied to the ingenuity of the critic.

The series will publish work by authors who develop a picture of literature and of literary criticism that is autonomous without being insular—that engages other disciplines but is not beholden to them, that draws on interdisciplinary protocols while being aware of their limits. Ideal submissions will open a set of texts as both aesthetic and epistemological resources and bring them to life through deft, imaginative readings. Ultimately, Thinking Literature wants to take art seriously as a way of knowing the world, and to champion literary criticism as a discrete form of insight.

The series is open equally to first books and books by senior scholars, and to conventional as well as experimental modes of argument. Da, Nersessian, and the Press’s editors will be available at the upcoming Modern Language Association meeting to discuss the series with potential authors.