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This article is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

Hegemony by Other Means Nicolas Tredell

Re-Reading English,edited by Peter Widdowson (Methuen New Accents) £3.95

CULTURE abhors a vacuum. Is this why English culture, for so long notable, or notorious, for its insularity, has in recent years so uneasily resisted, has indeed sometimes avidly welcomed, the dazzling iconoclasms and dramatic inversions of structuralism and, more especially, of post-structuralism? Did it sense its own hollowness and try to fill it with imported commodities? In any case, the result is clear: Empedocles has thrown all things about, and we dwell now in fruitful chaos. This holds great risks and opportunities; Re-Reading English epitomizes some of the risks.

From the viewpoint of a socialist commitment and a materialist criticism, this collection of essays prescribes, with varying emphases, drastic remedies for today's 'crisis' in English studies in higher education: remedies which could have far-reaching effects, especially since the academy has, at present, an excessive influence on literary culture. Peter Widdowson outlines these remedies in his Introduction. It is necessary to examine the history and current practices of English studies and literary criticism; challenge concepts of literature, the text, and literary value; study, along with literary' texts, and without necessarily making qualitative distinctions, 'non-literary' texts and other media such as film and television; and draw on the methodologies, concepts, and findings of fields of study like history and sociology.

Part I of the book, 'History, theory, institutions', is, apart from Brian Doyle's essay, the more restrained. Tony Davies offers some witty insights into how ...


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