What does the ideal literary criticism look like?

—— Re -reading Jimson’s feelings

Frederick Jimson’s work seems to be rarely cited now. He has been squeezed into the “classical theory” in the theoretical iteration of the ever -changing theory and classicized. However, his true theoretical perspective and criticism methods were forgotten by the current literary research and criticism practice. Perhaps it was not really valued.

However, I think that the current criticism of China is the most time to need the Jimson method. Although many of his specific research conclusions and discussions can be discussed or even questioned.

However, what I said is Jimson, as the theorist, but as the critic, as the critic, Jimson. This aspect is also deliberately ignored by contemporary literary criticism. So, what are the methods of Jimson worthy of our face -to -face? I think the most important thing is three points: historical dialectics, intermediaries, and overallization.

Historical dialectics

Jimson said in “Single Modernity”, “We cannot continue to behave.” He dared to make a historical staging and dare to judge through the interrogation. This is impressive. The basis for supporting him to disconnect and below is the basic material change of society, the development of production relations, social structure and technology, and the knowledge type or thinking devices developed on the basis of this.

Material production is the ultimate cause of the text and absolute real world. This is the old saying, and social history criticism seems to be an outdated method. But Jimson’s criticism has proved that this criticism method still has strong vitality and explanation. If not, it is not good enough to do well.

Social history criticism is the most afraid of making a dead end of the mechanical decision, so it is necessary to introduce multiple decision theory and historical dialectics. I don’t want to say more about this, because I have said enough. I just want to emphasize that Jimson is particularly attractive to me. He is particularly good at criticizing the aesthetic experience of a class aesthetic experience. For example, analysis of the experience of capitalist culture or bourgeoisie aesthetics. With the changes in production methods, social relations have also undergone structural changes. The cognitive ability and self -awareness of this class subject are constantly evolving. This is also the real motivation of realism into modernism, and then evolved into postmodernism.

One thing is particularly important. Jimson reminds us that we must not only see the aesthetic practice of the successful bourgeoisie, but also see the aesthetic practice of their failure. See the unreliableness of this grasp. Jimson’s analysis of postmodern art is the analysis of the form of failure, the analysis of the impossibility of reproduction, and the analysis of a capitalist culture that cannot grasp its own history within aesthetic experience.

This Hegel -style historical dialectics is very charming. This should be learned from Lucacch, and we are all familiar with Lucacch’s famous distinction between narrative and description. Lucacch also tells the same story in “Destruction of Reason”. From the perspective of philosophy and sociological evolution, it tells the history of the German bourgeoisie’s rational collapse. The bourgeoisie starts from rationally grasping the world and finally transformed into the world and self. It became irrational mysterious, racism and fascism. This set of historical dialectics was spoken and fascinating by Jimson. Jimson said that theory is also a narrative, and good theory should also be a good narrative. Our contemporary literature theory and criticism are too much to tell stories, or the story is too poor, letting people see the story at a glance. This is the dramatic nature of not understanding historical dialectics, not understanding the history of history.

For me, this analysis of failure has inspired a lot. I have analyzed the evolution of contemporary literature from realism to pioneer literature. Perhaps I unconsciously learned Jimson and Lukacp. In fact, contemporary literature’s intention practice is also full of similar failures. Although it has not been completely broken into a chain of intention, it has also lost its finger -involved. Essence And mass culture is often in a schizophrenia. This is worth analyzing in similar methods. The failure of this aesthetics may also be a historical subject of failure.


Jimson has repeatedly emphasized that social and historical criticism must start in form. History arrives at the text, and the interval is separated by the intermediary. History is based on language structure and knowledge, and finally shows at the level of form and rhetoric. Jimson designed a complex interpretation model. This model is too cumbersome, and even suspected of stacking beds. I think his purpose is to try to avoid simplified historical decisions through procedural settings. He deliberately emphasized that the form is formed in a diverse decision. Therefore, the history is also form, the form is history, politics is aesthetic, and the aesthetics are also politically. According to psychoanalysis, the analysis of the text is the analysis of signs, and the secrets of signs or political unconsciousness are exactly in the form. The form is the content. I think it is to grasp the complex mechanism of this diverse decision that Jimson prefers the method of linguistic and psychoanalysis.

Between history and text, there is an ultimate reproduction relationship between the complex diverse decisions and the intermediary link.

In this sense, all texts are realistic. Text always responds to the deep dynamics of social history, and is a characteristic or symbol of social practice. Even for those extreme post -modern texts, such as text that can be dispersed or schizophrenic text, we can still read the peripheral ciphertext. In the final analysis, the form itself is always a reproduction of history, even if it seems that the form of pure energy refers to flow is the abstraction of historical specific content. Modernism and postmodernism are also an extreme realism. The same is true. Jimson said that realism is always modernism. It has always been a hidden device and carried out active form creation. Both realism and modernism are created by form, which are essentially expressive. The difference is that one is sneaky, and the other is bold.


It seems that “overallization” seems to have been talking more at the moment, but it is not enough. I want to use Jimson to play here.

In my opinion, overallization is a positive criticism strategy. In other words, the overall aesthetic interpretation includes not only interpretation of the secrets of the era of sedimentation, but also the keen identification of those revolutionary new cultural factors, those new feelings, and new political possibilities. This requires the discovery of critics with sociological imagination.

The overallization is two -way, not only to understand text through historical, but also to grasp history through text. Only by text can we grasp history. Although it may be in the sense of Lacan and temporarily, we are destined that we can only continue to open a moment to glimpse the truth of history. In this process, criticizing itself is a new parameter and energy -capable element that intervenes in history. It is an opportunity and active force within the overall internal internal. A good theory and criticism do not seek the subjectivity of their so -called semi -self -discipline, and it soberly aware of its historicity. Literary theory, don’t always think about creating a system, and criticize if you are criticized.

Based on these aspects, it constitutes a real overallization, that is, “cognitive surveying and mapping”. Cognitive surveying and mapping need to be drawn in it.

Therefore, as the overallization and cognitive surveying and mapping of the criticism strategy, criticism is required to stand above the contemporary culture and walk in front of it. By reinterptographic and mapping through the keen insights on complex intermediaries and diverse decisions. It must be drawn out in the modern urban space of the glass curtain wall, rising to the high altitude for observation, so as to diagnose and analyze the present.

Of course, it is difficult to do this now. This is indeed a brand new era. I think that the critics of any era should take their own era as the most special era, because he collides with his own era at the forefront, facing the chaos and complexity of the culture that cannot be grasped for the time being; At the same time, the current culture also shows a fierce vitality, a chaotic opportunity. This needs to be identified and found. This makes the critics in a state of continuous tension. He is difficult to see clearly, but he has to make judgments, because whether there is judgment and what kind of judgment will affect the future. “So far, we all know that in this post -modern space, we must re -define the positions of ourselves and collective subjects, and then re -restore the ability to actively strive.” Cultural logic “))

This is the overall criticism of true criticism. This is the real cognitive surveying and mapping. The real theory must be the theory of the meta -theory, the real criticism must be a Yuan criticism. It is awake to its own historic. It is part of the historical general. And the driving force of practical practice.

Jimson said that the culture of advanced capitalism is spatial, marking the victory of space -like to time. In other words, it is the end of history. Then, we might as well say that a good theory and criticism are to re -surpass the space and liberate time. The time mentioned here is not the time of historical purpose, but the possibility of history. Starting time is to make time move forward again and flow again, which means that the contradictions are explicit, and new opportunities are constantly generated to create new opportunities and time.

I think that as a critic, Jimson is consciously doing this. Of course I don’t think he has achieved such an ideal goal. But he admires this vision, ambition, ability, and skills. This is worth our learning.

in conclusion

Re -reading Jimson’s book should be said that the analysis and specific conclusions of the phenomenon are no longer important. What I am really interested in is his judgment of the general trend and the momentum that dares to judge and grasp history. Especially when he pointed out, in the face of complicated and overwhelmed cultural turningules, what kind of theoretical attitude and criticism should we take. This often resonates me deeply. His strategic and tactical ideas, including micro -words criticizing various cultural criticisms, gave me a strange feeling, as if he said to the current Chinese criticism community. Although the context of his article is the United States, many of the writing eras are in the 1980s.

This makes me can’t help but imagine the ideal criticism, or the rare criticism at the moment. I think that is the criticism of transcendence of formalism and traditional humanism. At the same time, it also goes beyond the model of general social and historical criticism. It is not proposed from the established social history, not using the simple thinking of decisive theory, directly to the judgment of the ideological content of the text, nor is it based on text as the material and entrance to demonstrate the conclusion of a sociology, confirm a certain history of a certain history Judgment of learning. In addition, it also needs to surpass the clear rules and politics of cultural research, because the new cultural situation has declared the failure of the old cultural resistance form and the cultural criticism model, and the heroic game or guerrilla warfare of omitting forms or aesthetic analysis often is often being being guilty or guerrilla. Re -absorbing and compiled.

The ideal criticism must grasp text and history at the same time in the entanglement of history and form. It is awake to its own historical and narrative functions, abandon the fantasy of establishing the theoretical system immediately, and constantly shifts from one language to another. In this sense, good criticism can only be a true social and historical criticism, a broad criticism, as Jimson said, social historical criticism or Marxist criticism, not a genre in other theoretical methods. It is a platform. Its advantage is that it is a dominant mediation role that mediates various theories, an intermediary and host.

The above concept may be just my borrowing, it may only represent my expectations for our own. Facing the culture of the new century, literary criticism must not only have a new field of vision and ambition, but also have new capabilities and skills. Critics should try to overcome the sense of weakness in the face of chaotic and complicated historical and cultural situations, and try to build a confidence in understanding text and grasping history.

I hope we can get rid of frustration, become more brave, more clever, and harder.

(Author Liu Fusheng is a professor at Hainan University)

Source: Literary Newspaper

What does the ideal literary criticism look like?