William Faulkner, Cleanth Brooks, and the Living-Dead Reader of New Critical Theory

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3 Scopus citations


This article challenges the assumption that close reading is an apolitical and ahistorical practice by reading Cleanth Brooks' The Well Wrought Urn alongside his seminal work on William Faulkner. These texts expose the crucial role attention plays in the formation of close reading, and demonstrate that at the heart of American New Criticism there lies a notion of reading that assumes a unique capacity for animating otherness. Brooks labors to cultivate in his reader an attentiveness so profound as to lead to self-deadening. However, this self-erasure is not a solely negative process in his mind, since it allows the reader an intimate encounter with the literary text as alterity. This New Critical model of reading unexpectedly corresponds to Jacques Derrida's hauntological ethics. By bringing into dialogue Brooks, Faulkner, and Derrida, this essay offers a new view of the values that underlie close reading as a contemporary method of literary interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-83
Number of pages35
JournalArizona Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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