Abstract for an unpublishable theory

1. Literary criticism, by definition, is the discipline of texts.

2. But a discipline, by definition, is an inquiry into certain subject-matters.

3. Moreover, subject-matters, by definition, are just what texts yield.

4. And texts, by definition, are just what yield subject-matters.

5. Therefore, a discipline of texts (tout court) becomes a discipline of subject-matters (tout court).

6. This is incoherent.

7. Literary criticism—the discipline of texts—must first of all figure out what its own proper subject-matters are.

8. These must be just those subject-matters that are generated when text itself is treated as a subject-matter.

9. This dialectic cannot be managed a posteriori, on a basis of the work that critics do; but only a priori, on the basis of what it is to inquire into texts.

10. The set of literary subject-matters must be both rich enough, and restricted enough, to support normal disciplinarity.

11. The subject-matters of criticism are all the sub-functions of what makes text text: namely, the property of being-about subject-matters.

12. After analysis, the subject-matters of criticism are revealed to be: mimesis; decorum; nature; understanding; tradition; interpretation; dialogue; and love.

Author: JD Fleming

I am Professor of English Literature at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. My work is in intellectual history of the early-modern period (1500-1700), with a special interest in epistemic issues around the emergence of modern natural science (the "Scientific Revolution"). In 2012, I initiated the international conference series "Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World."

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