Practices of HopeLiterary Criticism in Disenchanted Times

Practices of HopeLiterary Criticism in Disenchanted Times

Christopher Castiglia

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9781479818273

Publisher: NYU Press


As the “hermeneutics of suspicion” as a critical disposition comes under fire, The Practice of Hope examines models of “critique” resistant to disenchantment. This book offers hope as an alternative disposition, combining idealism and imagination to create and sustain the visionary values that, however closeted, animate genuine social critique. Hope’s “useable past,” the book contends, comprises mid-twentieth-century critics (Granville Hicks, Constance Rourke, F. O. Matthiessen, Richard Chase, Newton Arvin, R. W. B. Lewis, Lewis Mumford, C. L. R. James, Charles Feidelson, Marius Bewley, Richard Poirier), who wrote during a period worthy of disenchantment but who refused to replicate Cold War state epistemologies—hunting for nefarious and abstract agents hidden beneath seemingly innocent surfaces—melancholically retained by much criticism today. Instead, they transformed the socialist politics of the 1930s into critiques centered on dissent, collectivism, and wonder, making criticism more than a tale of disenchantment. . Organized around “empty signifiers” typically anathema to critics today—nationalism, liberalism, humanism, symbolism—The Practice of Hope shows how, following the creative uses of those terms by midcentury critics, we might reinvigorate critique, turning imaginative idealism into a new critical disposition. Criticism, the book argues, might again be a practice of hope.