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The Critical Canon, 1985-2005

When I started graduate school in English back in the early-80s, certain essays of criticism written in the preceding 20 or so years were considered essential reading. I mean works that involved some degree of concrete analysis, not just theory and philosophy, and served as models for students hoping to enter the profession. Even if the essays covered works outside your field, you had to digest them. They charted the direction of interpretation, so to speak, and marked advances in critical thought. I’m sure every department in the country had its variations, but I bet that the following pieces were common to many of them:

E. D. Hirsch, “Objective Interpretation”

Paul de Man, “The Rhetoric of Temporality”

Stanley Fish, “Is There a Text in This Class?”

Shoshana Felman, “Turning the Screw of Interpretation”

Annette Kolodny, “Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of Feminist Literary Criticism”

Walter Benn Michaels and Steven Knapp, “Against Theory”

Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”

That runs up to 1984, and I wonder if commenters have thoughts about essays in criticism (not theory alone) written since then. What are the essays one has to study in order to count as a professional academic critic?

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