William Deresiewicz in The Nation:
Professing Literature, Gerald Graff’s history of American English departments, has just been reissued in a twentieth-anniversary edition (Chicago, $19). Published at the height of the culture wars–it came out a month before Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind–Graff’s book brought a cooling sense of historical perspective to the inflamed passions of the moment. We’d been having the same arguments, it turned out, since universities started teaching English literature in the middle of the nineteenth century. The positions may have changed, but the issues had not. Classicists had been deposed by humanists, humanists by historians, historians by critics and now critics by theorists, but across the barricades of each revolution, the same accusations were flung: obfuscation, esotericism and overspecialization; naïveté, dilettantism and reaction. Teaching versus research, humane values versus methodological rigor, “literature itself” versus historical context.
What’s happened since?