Nonfiction | June 01, 1984

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Some time ago T.S. Eliot impatiently (and correctly) declared that “criticism is as inevitable as breathing.” Perhaps the contemporary equivalent would be the proclamation that theorizing is as inevitable as breathing.  Indeed, a quick glance at MLA job lists or ads for new books of literary criticism quickly convinces us that all “serious” English departments must have specialists in critical theory and that graduate students and literary scholars must have training in critical theory.  My intent is not to trace the rise of critical theory in current academic curricula, but to ask about a different relationship: what is, or what ought to be, the relationship between critical theory and contemporary American poetry?

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