Passages from "Reading the World: Literary Studies in the Eighties" (1985), In Other Worlds (1987)

"Here I must stress that I am also not interested in answers to questions like 'What is the nature of the aesthetic?' or 'How are we to understand "life"?' My concern rather is that: 1) The formulation of such questions is itself a determined and determining gesture. 2) Very generally speaking, literary people are still caught within a position where they must say: Life is brute fact and outside art; the aesthetic is free and transcends life. 3) This declaration is the condition and effect of 'ideology.' 4) If 'literary studies' is to have any meaning in the coming decade, its ideology might have to be questioned." (95) 

The disciplinary situation of the teacher of literature is inscribed in that very text of the 'world' that the received dogma [ideology] refuses to allow us to read." (95) 

"The apparent lack of contact between rational expectations in the business world and freedom and disinterest in the humanist academy will support each other, as here, and to America's advantage. To call it 'cultural imperialism' is to pass the buck, in every sense. I am attempting to suggest our pedagogic responsibility in this situation: to ask not merely how literary studies, more correctly the universitarian discipline of English studies, can adjust to changing social demands, but also how we could, by changing some of our assumptions, contribute toward changing those demands in the long run." (100) 

"The point of these far-flung digressions has been, then, that a literary study that can graduate into the 80s might teach itself to attend to the dialectical and continuous crosshatching of ideology and literary language. Further, that such an activity, learned in the classroom, should slide without a sense of rupture into an active and involved reading of the social text within which the student and teacher of literature are caught." 

"The critical method I am describing would question the ethico-political strategic exclusions that would define a certain set of characteristics as an 'inside' at a certain time. 'The text itself,' 'the poem as such,' 'intrinsic criticism,' are such strategic definitions. I have spoken in support of a way of reading that would continue to break down these distinctions, never once and for all, and actively interpret 'inside' and 'outside' as texts for involvement as well as for change." (102)

These excerpts are part of the History of English Studies Page (Rita Raley).