The Crisis In Criticism

John Guillory and Jessica Swoboda at The Point:

The only way to understand the “public sphere” today is by doing some historical reconstruction. Because what we’re really talking about with the history of literary criticism is an enormous shift between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries away from a media world at the center of which were the genres of periodical publication. The critics who wrote in that media sphere wrote about literature, but they were not professionalized in the way academics in the twentieth century became. This meant that they could write about pretty much anything, and they did. They won their audiences by the quality and force of their writing rather than by virtue of professional credentials. At the same time, these periodicals also published works of literature, serialized novels and other forms of literary writing, so people got a lot of exposure to literature through these periodicals, which had very large audiences. The connection between literature and public-sphere criticism was very close.

more here.