I just posted the following as a tweet stream on Twitter:
Signs of the lit crit apocalypse/implosion, #1) 2011: Andrew Goldstone asks: "Just what is that infamous thing, a close reading?" He is not impressed. http://arcade.stanford.edu/blogs/close-reading-genre 1/5 #mla18
Lit crit apocalypse #2) 2015: What Was “Close Reading”?: A Century of Method in Literary Studies, a talk by Barbara Herrnstein Smith to young digital humanists. 1 + 2 = Close reading no longer assumed = close reading is conceptually dead. 2/5 #mla18
Lit crit apocalypse #3) 2015: Attridge and Staton, The Craft of Poetry: Dialogues on Minimal Interpretation, revive close reading because the craft is being lost and propose "dialogical poetics" with no intention or obvious institutional means of actual dialog. 3/5 #mla18
Lit crit apocalypse #4) 2015: Caroline Levine's Forms wins Lowell Prize. Intro asserts that literature is made of language & that language has it's own force; but DOESN'T examine language. Only a literary critic! 4/5 #mla18 http://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2018/01/criticism-in-age-of-delirium-levines.html
Lit crit apocalypse #5) 2016: Representations special issue on description. Marcus, Love, and Best talk about "Building a Better Description". No evidence that anyone is actually interested in DOING better descriptions. It's just talk. Theory. 5/5 #mla18
So-called "close reading" is generally regarded as the intellectual core and foundation of interpretive literary criticism. Now it is a thing held up for examination, a conceptual object. Smith, of course, thinks highly of it; no matter. What's important is that she has turned it into an object, as Goldstone has done, albeit in a different way. Of course, the profession doesn't quite realize that one of its core skills is toast, and will certainly try to stave off that realization as long as possible.
How long will the new descriptivists be able to talk of description without actually doing it?