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Criticism and Truth

On Method in Literary Studies

A defense and celebration of the discipline of literary studies and its most distinctive practice—close reading.

Does literary criticism offer truths about the world? In this book, Jonathan Kramnick explains literary criticism’s distinctive approach to knowledge and its disciplinary rationale by zeroing in on its singular method: close reading. Close reading is the field’s way of pursuing arguments and advancing knowledge—the crucial craft and skill that it imparts to students. For Kramnick, close reading is also a creative, transformative, and immersive writing practice that fosters a unique kind of ecologically-minded engagement with the world. Drawing on recent examples of literary criticism, Kramnick unpacks the art of in-text quotations and other reading methods, advocating for them as a valuable form of humanistic expertise worthy of a prominent place within a multi-disciplinary university.

As the humanities fight for survival in contemporary higher education, the study of literature doesn’t need more plans for reform. Rather, it needs a defense of the work already being done and an account of why it should flourish. This is what Criticism and Truth offers, in vivid and portable form.

144 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Thinking Literature

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Table of Contents


Introduction: Craft Knowledge

Chapter 1: Method Talk

Chapter 2: Close Reading

Chapter 3: Skilled Practice

Chapter 4: Interpretation and Creativity

Chapter 5: Verification

Coda: Public Criticism for a Public Humanities




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