The Empire of Criticism (Criticism LTD, Episodes #14-16)

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Resonate Recordings

Part One

The tripartite finale of “Criticism LTD” begins with a the feud between Matthew Arnold and Mark Twain, followed by “Bed Glee” [14:00], “Outing Criticism” [40:00], and “The Fate of Professional Reading” [59:00].

Part Two

In the second part of the finale of “Criticism LTD,” we hear about the origins of Jacque Derrida’s “Limited Inc.” from its editor, the fraught alliance between criticism and history [17:00], the Center For The Literary Arts at Washington University in St. Louis [33.00], the transition from creative writer to working critic [62:00], and critical vocationalism [72:00].

Part Three

“Criticism LTD” concludes its lengthy examination of the unanswerable questions about the state of literary studies with a lengthy consideration of “The Future of Decline” [8:00], the delusion of progress [16:00], the British model of declinist politics [22:00] and literary criticism [29:00], an insider’s account of the long tail of “The Chicago Fight” [45:00], the libertarian rejoinder [54:00], and the curriculum of cruelty [61:00].

For more information relevant to the podcast, including transcripts, please subscribe to Matt Seybold’s newsletter.


Kim Adams is the World Fellow at the Pennsylvania State University Humanities Institute and a co-founder of both the High Theory podcast and the Humanities Podcast Network.

Saronik Bosu is a PhD candidate in English at New York University, an NYU-Mellon Public Humanities Curatorial Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, and a co-founder of both the High Theory podcast and the Humanities Podcast Network.

Beci Carver is Lecturer in English at University of Exeter and the author of Granular Modernism (Oxford UP, 2014).

Danielle Dutton is Associate Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Co-Director of the Center For The Literary Arts and a founding editor of Dorothy Press.

Ainehi Edoro is Assistant Professor of African Cultural Studies and English at University of Wisconsin – Madison, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Brittle Paper.

Jed Esty is the Vartan Gregorian Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Future of Decline (Stanford UP, 2022).

Gerald Graff is Professor Emeritus of English at University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of Professing Literature (U Chicago, 1987), Clueless in Academe (Yale UP, 2003), and Literature Against Itself (U Chicago, 1979), among other things. And he is the editor of Limited Inc. (Northwestern UP, 1988) and the Case Study In Critical Controversy Edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Bedford, 2003)

Ignacio Infante is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature & Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Co-Director of the Center For The Literary Arts.

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera is Professor of the Humanities at University of Puerto Rico, as well as author of Decolonizing American Spanish (U Pittsburgh P, 2022), After American Studies (Routledge, 2018), “Where The Humanities Are Not In Crisis,” and “Clean, Well-Spoken: Hemingway’s Cuban Spanish.”

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)

Ryan Ruby is a freelance writer and member of the Berlin Writers’ Workshop, as well as winner of the 2023 Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism and author of “A Golden Age?”, a lecture hosted by Vinduet magazine in Oslo on March 7, 2023. His epic of the poet-critic, Context Collapse, is forthcoming from Seven Stories Press. His novel is The Zero & The One (Twelve, 2017).

Harilaos Stecopoulos is Professor of English at University of Iowa, author of Telling America’s Story To The World: Literature, Internationalism, Cultural Diplomacy (Oxford UP, 2022), and co-organizer of The Fate of Professional Reading Series.

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 Podcast


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 “Elegy For Us All,” “Song For Vic Juris,” “Tushkin,” “Interwoven Hues,” “Makram,” and “Raise Heaven (For Roy).”

And his arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale.”

Episode Bibliography:

Perry Anderson, English Questions (Verso, 1992)

Matthew Arnold, Civilization In The United States: First & Last Impressions of America (1888)

Matthew Arnold, Culture & Anarchy: An Essay in Political & Social Criticism (1869)

Timothy Bahti, Allegories of History: Literary Historiography After Hegel (John Hopkins UP, 1992)

Anthony Ballas, “Layoffs at West Virginia University Expose Right-Wing Trends Sweeping Higher Ed” truthout (October 10, 2023)

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes (1975)

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Production” (1935)

Judith Butler, “The Compass of Mourning” London Review of Books (October 2023)

T. J. Clark, Farewell To An Idea: Episodes From A History of Modernism (Yale UP, 1999)

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

Jacques Derrida, “But, beyond…” Critical Inquiry (Autumn 1986)

Jacques Derrida, “Racism’s Last Word” Critical Inquiry (Autumn 1985)

Ross Douthat, “Why Liberal Academia Needs Republican Friends” New York Times (November 4, 2023)

Terry Eagleton, Critical Revolutionaries (Yale UP, 2022)

T. S. Eliot, “Dryden, The Critic” (1931)

T. S. Eliot, “The Age of Dryden” (December 2, 1932)

William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930)

Merve Emre, Anna Kornbluh, & Matt Seybold, “Bootstrapping Across Dystopia: Autofiction, Autotheory, Autoeverything” The American Vandal Podcast (February 14, 2022)

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

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (U. Chicago, 2015)

Paul Friere, Pedagogy Of The Oppressed (1968)

Henry Giroux, Theory & Resistance in Education (Bergin & Garvey, 1983)

Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (U. Chicago, 1987)

Gerald Graff, Clueless In Academe: How Schooling Obscures The Life Of The Mind (Yale UP, 2003)

Gerald Graff, Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas In Modern Society (U Chicago, 1979)

Gerald Graff, Beyond The Culture Wars: How Teaching The Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (Norton, 1993)

Gerald Graff, “What We Say When We Don’t Talk About Creative Writing” College English (January 2009)

Gerald Graff & Paul Jay, “Fear of Being Useful” Inside Higher Ed (January 4, 2012)

Garth Greenwell & Lauren LeBlanc, “Garth Greenwell on Why Desire Is a Writer’s Greatest Plot Device” Observer (January 25, 2020)

Eric Griffiths, If Not Critical (Oxford UP, 2018)

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)

Stuart Hall, The Hard Road To Renewal: Thatcherism & The Crisis of The Left (Verso, 2021)

Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies & Its Theoretical Legacies” in Cultural Studies (Routledge, 1992)

Stuart Hall, “Authoritarian Populism: A Reply” New Left Review (May/June 1985)

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “Clean, Well-Spoken: Hemingway’s Cuban Spanish” Chronicle of Higher Education (July 1, 2018)

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, Decolonizing American Spanish: Eurocentrism & Foreignness in The Imperial Ecosystem (U. Pitt, 2022)

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

Vincente Huidoro, Sky-quake: Tremor of Heaven, Trans. Ignacio Infante & Michael Leong (Co•im•press, 2019)

Fredric Jameson, The Prison-House of Language (Princeton UP, 1976)

Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Duke UP, 1991)

Savannah Jones, “Eight Chambers College Faculty Non-Renewed Outside of Approved Reduction” Daily Athenaeum (September 26, 2023)

Anna Kornbluh, Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism (Verso, 2024)

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Macaulay’s Minute on Education” (February 2, 1835)

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It (U Chicago, 1976)

Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics For An Age of Commerce (U. Chicago, 2006)

Deidre N. McCloskey, “Measured, Unmeasured, Mismeasured, & Unjustified Pessimism: A Review Essay of Thomas Piketty’s Capital Erasmus Journal (Autumn 2014)

Philip Mirowski, Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived The Financial Meltdown (Verso, 2013)

Christopher Newfield, “Post-Automated Luxury Criticism” MLA Newsletter (Winter 2022)

Christopher Newfield, “Research For All” MLA Newsletter (Spring 2022)

Christopher Newfield, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities & How We Can Fix Them (Johns Hopkins UP, 2018)

Charles Newman, “The Post-Modern Aura: The Act of Fiction in an Age of Inflation” Salmagundi (Spring-Summer 1984)

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872)

Friedrich Nietzsche, “Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks” (1873)

Joseph North, Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History (Harvard UP, 2017)

George Orwell, “As I Please” Tribune (June 9, 1944)

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

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

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

I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgement (1956)

Ryan Ruby, “A Golden Age?” Vinduet (April 25, 2023)

Ryan Ruby, “Dig It Up Again” Poetry Foundation (December 12, 2022)

Ryan Ruby, “Context Collapse 1 & 2” The Oxonian Review (January 31, 2022)

Ryan Ruby, The Zero & The One (12 Books, 2017)

Ryan Ruby & Justin E. H. Smith, “What is Criticism?” What is X? (January 1, 2022)

Matt Seybold et al, “The Golden Age of The Working Critic,” The American Vandal Podcast (August 7, 2023)

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

Matt Seybold et al, “Ponzi Austerity in The Age of Cultural Abundance” The American Vandal Podcast (August 21, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Ponzi Austerity & The Monolingual University” The American Vandal Podcast (August 25, 2023)

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

Matt Seybold et al, “The Chicago Fight & ‘Criticism Inc.’” The American Vandal Podcast (September 5, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Politics & The Paracademy” The American Vandal Podcast (September 23, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Brittle Paper & The Blogossance” The American Vandal Podcast (October 2, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “BookTube, BookTok, Wattpad, & The Audible Creation Exchange” The American Vandal Podcast (October 12, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Criticism in The Conglomerate Era” The American Vandal Podcast (October 17, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Podcasting Criticism” The American Vandal Podcast (October 27, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Ed Tech, AI, & The Unbundling of Research & Teaching” The American Vandal Podcast (November 2, 2023)

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, “Confidence Tricks” Aeon (February 19, 2018)

Matt Seybold, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing? Maybe.” boundary 2 (November 2, 2017)

Matt Seybold, “The World-Empire” Quarry Farm Symposium (October 7, 2023)

Matt Seybold, “Destroyer of Confidence: James Gordon Bennett, Jacksonian Paranoia, & The Original Confidence Man” American Studies (Fall 2018)

Matt Seybold, “Astride The Dark Horse: T. S. Eliot & The Lloyds Bank Intelligence Department” T. S. Eliot Studies Annual (2017)

Matt Seybold, “Keynes & Keynesianism” in Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (2018)

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Edited by Gerald Graff & James Phelan (Bedford, 2000)

Dan Sinykin, Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed The Publishing Industry & American Literature (Columbia UP, 2023)

Adam Tooze, Shutdown: How Covid Shook The World’s Economy (Viking, 2021)

Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Edited by Gerald Graff & James Phelan (Bedford, 2004)

Mark Twain, “Mark Twain Accepts” Hartford Courant (June 29, 1888)

Mark Twain, Mark Twain Speaking, Edited by Paul Fatout (U. Iowa, 1976)

Mark Twain, “The Secret History of Eddypus, The World-Empire” in Fables of Man (U. California, 1972)