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Are the Humanities Inconsequent?

Interpreting Marx’s Riddle of the Dog

Adapting the discontinuous and multi-tonal critical procedures of works like Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Laura Riding’s Anarchism Is Not Enough, Jerome McGann subjects current literary studies to a patacritical investigation. The investigation centers in the interpretation of a notorious modern riddle: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Working by indirection and from multiple points of view, the book argues that aesthetics is always a science of exceptions, and that any given critical practice is also always an exception from itself. The book works from two assumptions: first, that the riddle of the dog conceals an allegory about book culture and is addressed to the academic custodians of book culture; and second, that any  explanation of the riddle is necessarily implicated in the problem posed by the riddle. It therefore remains to be seen—it is the reader’s part to decide—whether the book is a friend to man or—perhaps like the riddle of the dog—“too dark to read.”

113 pages | 4 1/2 x 7 | © 2009

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

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Table of Contents

The Argument
Part I: Pseudodoxia Academica
Part II: Pointed Instruments

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