Hungover From The Bad Old Days of High Theory (Criticism LTD, Episode #2)

Apple Podcasts


Resonate Recordings

What is criticism? Why should it matter? Can it be saved from the gun-toting businessman? A crossover episode with the High Theory podcast connects internal and external crises (6:00), imagines confrontations with gun-toting businessmen (22:00) and sociopathic administrators (33:00), salutes the vanguard of academic labor (45:00), eulogizes the star system (59:00), demystifies the bad old days of high theory (1.13:00), and recommends “The Shush” (1.24:00).

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

Episode Cast:

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.

Sarah Brouillette is Professor of English at Carleton University and the author of Literature & The Creative Economy (Stanford UP, 2014), UNESCO & The Fate of The Literary (Stanford UP, 2019), and “Reading After the University.”

Michelle Chihara is Editor-In-Chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as Associate Professor & Director of the Whittier Scholars Program at Whittier College.

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

Katie Kadue is Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Binghamton and the author of “The End of The Star System.”

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).

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, and the author of Politics & Criticism (Stanford UP, 2022) 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.

Kyla Wazana Tompkins is Professor of English and Gender & Women’s Studies at Pomona College, as well as the author of “The Shush.”

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. He’s also the author of “Jason Wingard’s EdTech Griftopia.”


The American Vandal Podcast is delighted that Joe Locke and Circle 9 Records have given us permission to use Locke’s new album, Makram, as 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 “Makram,” “Shifting Moons,” and “Elegy For Us All.”

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

Episode Bibliography:

AAUP, “Data Snapshot: Contingent Faculty in US Higher Education” (October 11, 2018)

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

Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, & Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Routledge, 1983) [3rd Edition: Cambridge UP, 2009]

Lawrence Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis & Literary Imagination (Wiley, 2009)

Kim Adams & Saronik Bosu, “How Will Critique Save the World?: Popular Theory & Public Humanities” High Theory (March 19, 2023)

Sarah Brouillette, “Reading After The University” Public Books (November 23, 2022)

Nicholas Dames & John Guillory, On Professing Criticism, By The Book (May 19, 2023)

Giles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia (U Minnesota P, 1987)

Michelle Chihara, Matt Seybold, & Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “The Shush (& The Chair)” The American Vandal Podcast (September 1, 2021)

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

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

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

John Guillory, “We Cannot All Be Edward Said” Chronicle of Higher Education (February 13, 2023)

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

Katie Kadue, “The End of The Star System” Chronicle of Higher Education (January 3, 2023)

Anna Kornbluh, Christopher Newfield, & Matt Seybold, “Working Conditions” The American Vandal Podcast (January 4, 2023)

David Kurnick, “A Few Lies: Queer Theory & Our Method Melodramas” ELH 87.2 (Summer 2020) [Reprinted in Chronicle of Higher Education (2.16.2021)]

Paul Lieberstein & Aaron Zelman, Lucky Hank (AMC, 2023)

Sheila Liming, “Fighting Words” Los Angeles Review of Books (December 14, 2020)

A. V. Marraccini, “Twenty-Five Thoughts On The Method Wars” Avidly (September 8, 2021)

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

Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (Verso, 1993)

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

Bruce Robbins, “John Guillory’s Nonalignment Pact” Chronicle of Higher Education (February 3, 2023)

Matt Seybold, “Jason Wingard’s EdTech Griftopia” Los Angeles Review of Books (February 23, 2023)

David Shunway, “The Star System in Literary Studies” PMLA 112.1 (January 1997)

Jessica Swoboda, “Practicing Acknowledgment” The Point (February 9, 2021)

Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “The Shush” PMLA 136.3 (May 2021)

Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “We Aren’t Here To Learn What We Alrady Know” Avidly (September 13, 2016)

Oscar Wilde, “The Critic As Artist” in Intentions (J. Osgood, 1891)

David Winters, “Bye, Bye, Theory, Goodbye” Los Angeles Review of Books (January 16, 2014)

Annie Julia Wyman & Amanda Peet, The Chair (Netflix, 2021)