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· Follow ‘the critical arbiters of the moment’ and George Meredith won’t be a problem.

By LAURA KIPNIS [Wilson Quarterly] – If anyone is qualified to rescue literature from the threat of irrelevancy, it’s [Marjorie] Garber, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English at Harvard, and author of some 15 books on cultural and literary matters, including six on Shakespeare alone. She simply knows everything there is to know about the history and practice of literature and criticism. Yet despite having written a sizable chunk of her previous books on our most venerated writer, Garber is not a proponent of the Great Books approach—she’s no fetishizer of the canon or timeless notions of quality.

For her, “literature” is a shifting cultural status ascribed to books by critical arbiters of the moment, not an intrinsic quality. Rather, there are literary ways of reading, and literary ways of writing—a book becomes literature when we ask literary questions of it. Equally, books lose the status of literature when they fall from these considerations, the fate of many—perhaps the majority of—works by once-revered authors.

For Garber, literary ways of reading pose open-ended questions—the most interesting of which are those without definitive answers.

Continued at the Wilson Quarterly | More Chronicle & Notices.

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