Robert Chodat

 

 “Bumps on the Head, Touchstones of Intimacy, and the Vulnerability of Criticism.”

 

This paper considers the importance of the first-person singular in criticism, arguing that both “critique” and some prominent recent reactions against it (e.g., evolutionary criticism) seek to obscure the first-person voice in favor of loftier or more scientific perspectives. It contrasts this pronoun-practice with the work of two philosophers, Richard Rorty and Stanley Cavell, who each make first-person claims central to their accounts of literature and criticism, and who in turn highlight the kinds of risks one takes in making critical and interpretive judgments. Rorty and Cavell differ, however, over whether such judgments amount to a form of “knowledge,” and thus give us two different ways of understanding how criticism fits into our larger intellectual culture and institutions.