Reviews

The Rebirth of American Literary Theory and Criticism

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The interviews at the heart of this book amount to a group portrait of an exceptional generation of literary theorists who collectively challenged and enriched how we read and teach. In the tradition of his groundbreaking work on the New Historicism and on Edward Said, H. Aram Veeser, a deft interviewer, takes us behind the scenes, illuminating the personalities and myriad forces that led these gifted critics to challenge the status quo. An invaluable contribution to scholarship as well as a fascinating series of brief intellectual biographies, it’s also a book that captures a vital moment in our culture.

— James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America

H. Aram Veeser has long been telling a compelling and essential story of academic charisma and the drama of ideas. In this landmark work, he goes further, talking to the theorists and letting us listen. It is a familiar question to ask, what is, or was, theory? This book goes further and asks, who created it, and where will they take it? No history of literary criticism will be complete without it.

— David Yaffe, Syracuse University, author of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

Reviews

Edward Said - The Charisma of Criticism

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"Part biography, part memoir, part analysis and even part critique, Veeser's book is a fitting medium for addressing the life and work of a man whose achievements and aspirations far exceeded what could be contained in any one category or even series of categories. No one who knew Said will doubt the attribution of charisma—and those who didn't will get a good sense of it from this book. "

— David Simpson, University of California, Davis

"The late Edward Said is often pictured as a passionate fighter for radical causes. But in this provocative and eminently readable book, H. Aram Veeser reveals a Said who was far more divided than anyone thought."

— Gerald Graff, author of Clueless in Academe

"This is a brave book, written with gusto—a student from Edward Said’s early days at Columbia cuts through the myth and puts together the ‘real maestro,’ with respect, sympathy and meticulous attention to detail."

— Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

"Veeser has written an absolutely splendid hybrid of a book: part intellectual biography, part personal reminiscence, part homage, and part scholarly critique. As insouciant in its observations as Edward Said was in his person, Veeser’s book treats Said’s Princetonian polish as a central element of his thought and not simply as elegant haberdashery. Said’s outsized scholarly ambition and rhetorical cleverness are more than matched in Veeser’s pithy account by his unpredictability and penchant for self-contradiction, all of them hallmarks of the charismatic hero who refuses to play by the rules that govern common mortals. We desperately need just this sort of informed, critical, and yet balanced approach to our intellectual stars, rather than the hagiography so often demanded and supplied. Said, oppositional critic to the bitter end, deserves no less."

— Vincent P. Pecora, University of Utah