The Chicago Fight (Criticism LTD, Episodes #6-7)

Apple Podcasts


Resonate Recordings

The Chicago Fight & “Criticism Inc.”

A deep dive into the Chicago Critics who inspired John Crowe Ransom’s 1937 essay, “Criticism Inc.,” as well as their working conditions at the University of Chicago under Robert Maynard Hutchins. His implementation of “The Chicago Plan” and the resulting “Chicago Fight” [9:00], the afterlives of the Chicago Critics in contemporary literary studies [30:00], the import of the Walgreen Hearings [49:00], and the seeding of the Chicago School of Economics.

The Chicago Fight & Economics Imperialism

The Chicago Critics won the Chicago Fight of the 1930s, but they lost the Chicago Cold War. Chicago Economics got its start dismantling the Chicago Plan. This episode covers the brief victory of the Neo-Aristotelians, the long tail of Economics Imperialism [18:30], the rivalry between economics and literary criticism [39:00], the Chicago Economists’ parody of “Treasure Island” [55:00], the implicit alliance between Chicago Economics and the New Critics [60:00], and Robert Hutchins’s dream of “The University of Utopia” [72:00]

Starting this season, episode transcripts will be available to all who subscribe to The American Vandal newsletter.


John Guillory is the Julius Silver Professor of English Emeritus at New York University and the author of Professing Criticism (U. Chicago, 2022).

Anna Kornbluh is Professor of English at University of Illinois, Chicago and the author of The Order of Forms (U. Chicago, 2019) and Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism, forthcoming from Verso. She is also the author of “Academe’s Coronavirus Shock Doctrine.”

Christopher Newfield is Director of Research at the Independent Social Research Foundation in London. He was formerly Distinguished Professor of English at UC-Santa Barbara and President of the Modern Language Association. He’s the author (or co-author) of numerous books in Critical University Studies, most recently The Great Mistake (Johns Hopkins UP, 2018) and Metrics That Matter (Johns Hopkins UP, 2023).

Edward Nik-Khah is Professor of Economics at Roanoke College and the co-author (with Philip Mirowski) of The Knowledge We Have Lost In Information (Oxford UP, 2017).

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, and the author of Politics & Criticism (Stanford UP, 2022), The Beneficiary (Duke UP, 2017), Upward Mobility & The Common Good (Princeton UP, 2007), and Secular Vocations (Verso, 1993)

Anna-Dorothea Schneider is a freelance writer and the author of Humanities At The Crossroads (Nomos, 2019).

Matt Seybold is Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, resident scholar at the Center For Mark Twain Studies, and executive producer of The American Vandal PodcastHe’s also co-editor (with Michelle Chihara) of The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (2018).


The American Vandal Podcast is delighted that Joe Locke and Circle 9 Records have given us permission to use Locke’s new album, Makramas the soundtrack to the “Criticism LTD” series. Locke’s quartet features Lorin Cohen on bass, Jim Ridl on keys, and Samvel Sarkisyan on drums, as well as Locke on vibes.

Tracks featured in this episode include Locke’s original compositions “Tushkin,” “Makram,” “Raise Heaven (For Roy),” “Shifting Moon,” “Song for Vic Juris,”

And his arrangements of Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale.”

This episode also makes use of a Creative Commons instrumental arrangement of “Yo-Ho-Ho & A Bottle of Rum” created by diabolus o.

Episode Bibliography:

Young E. Allison, “On Board The Derelict” The Rubric (1901)

Cleanth Brooks & Robert Penn Warren, Understanding Fiction (1943)

Ronald S. Crane, “History versus Criticism in The Study of Literature” English Journal (1935)

Ronald S. Crane, The Idea of The Humanities (U. Chicago, 1967)

Ronald S. Crane (Ed.), Critics & Criticism: Ancient & Modern (U. Chicago, 1952)

Ronald S. Crane (Ed.), Critics & Criticism: Essays In Method (U. Chicago, 1957)

Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc. (Northwestern UP, 1988)

William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930)

Jed Esty, The Future of Decline: Anglo-American Culture & Its Limits(Stanford UP, 2022)

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics (1978-1979) [2010 Palgrave English Edition]

Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton UP, 1957)

Harry Gideonse, The Higher Learning in A Democracy: A Reply To President Hutchins’ Critique of The American University (Farrar & Rinehart, 1937)

Harry Gideonse, Jerome Kerwin, & T. V. Smith, “The New Liberalism” The University of Chicago Magazine (January 1938)

John Guillory, Professing Criticism: Essays On The Organization of Literary Study (U. Chicago, 2022)

John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (U. Chicago, 1993) [Enlarged Edition, 2023]

Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals & The Rise of The New Class (Seabury, 1979)

Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)

Friedrich Hayek, “Scientism & The Study of Society” Economica (1942-1944)

Eric Hayot, Humanist Reason: A History. An Argument. A Plan. (Columbia UP,

Andy Hines, Outside Literary Studies: Black Criticism & The University (U. Chicago, 2022)

Robert M. Hutcins, The University of Utopia (U. Chicago, 1953)

Robert M. Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America (Yale UP, 1936)

Robert M. Hutchins, “The Outlook For Education” California State University (January 21, 1969)

Robert M. Hutchins & Studs Terkel, Interview (WFMT, September 21, 1959)

Fredric Jameson, “Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre” New Literary History (Autumn 1975)

Fredric Jameson, An American Utopia: Dual Power & The Universal Army (Verso, 2016)

Clark Kerr, “The Multiversity” Harper’s (November 1963)

Harold Langer, “Interview with Dr. Robert M. Hutchins” Folkway Records (1958)

John Livingston Lowes, “The MLA & Humane Scholarship” PMLA (1933)

Deirdre McCloskey, The Rhetoric of Economics (U. Wisconsin, 1985)

Deirdre McCloskey, If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (U. Chicago, 1990)

Ed McCurdy, Blood, Booze ‘N Bones (Elektra, 1956)

Mark McGurl, Everything & Less: The Novel in The Age of Amazon (Verso, 2021)

Philip Mirowski, More Heat Than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics (Cambridge UP, 1989)

Philip Mirowski & Dieter Plehwe, The Road From Mont Pèlerin (Harvard UP, 2009) [2015 Updated Edition]

Edward Nik-Khah & Philip Mirowski, The Knowledge We Have Lost In Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics (Oxford UP, 2017)

Edward Nik-Khah & Robert Van Horn, “Inland Empire: Economics Imperialism As An Imperative of Chicago Neoliberalism” Journal of Economic Methodology (October, 2012)

Edward Nik-Khah & Robert Van Horn, “The Ascendence of Chicago Neoliberalim” in The Routledge Handbook of Neoliberalism (2016)

Edward Nik-Khah, “George Stigler, The Graduate School of Business, & The Pillars of The Chicago School” in Building Chicago Economics (Cambridge UP, 2011)

Edward Nik-Khah, “Neoliberal Pharmaceutical Science & The Chicago School of Economics” Social Studies of Science (August 2014)

Edward Nik-Khah, “George Stigler” in The Elgar Companion To The Chicago School of Economics (2010)

Edward Nik-Khah, “On Skinning a Cat” in Nine Lives of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2020)

Greta Olson, Current Trends in Narratology (de Gruyter, 2011)

John Crowe Ransom, “Criticism Inc.” The Virginia Quarterly Review 13.4 (Autumn 1937)

David Richter, “Chicago Formalism” in A Companion To Literary Theory (Wiley Blackwell, 2018)

Bruce Robbins, Upward Mobility & The Common Good: Toward A Literary History of The Welfare State (Princeton UP, 2007)

Bruce Robbins, The Beneficiary (Duke UP, 2017)

Bruce Robbins, Politics & Criticism: A Polemical Introduction (Stanford UP, 2022)

Anna-Dorothea Schneider, Humanities at The Crossroads: The Chicago Neo-Aristotelian Critics & The University of Chicago 1930-1950 (Nomos, 2019)

Matt Seybold, “The End of Economics” Los Angeles Review of Books (July 3, 2017)

Matt Seybold, “The Chicago School of Economics” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Critical & Cultural Theory [Forthcoming]

Matt Seybold et al, “Hungover From The Bad Old Days of High Theory,” The American Vandal Podcast (August 14, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “The Racist Interpretation Complex” The American Vandal Podcast (August 28, 2023)

Quinn Slobodian, The Globalists: The End of Empire & The Birth of Neoliberalism (Harvard UP, 2018)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1884)

Adam Tooze, Crashed: How A Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (Penguin, 2019)

Alain Touraine, The Academic System in American Society (McGraw-Hill, 1974) [1997 Routledge Edition]

Thomas Daniel Young, Gentleman In A Dustcoat: A Biography of John Crowe Ransom (LSU Press, 1976)