This is a book about the power game currently being played out between two symbiotic cultural institutions: the university and the novel. As the number of hyper-knowledgeable literary fans grows, students and researchers in English departments waiver between dismissing and harnessing voices outside the academy. Meanwhile, the role that the university plays in contemporary literary fiction is becoming increasingly complex and metafictional, moving far beyond the ‘campus novel’ of the mid-twentieth century. Martin Paul Eve’s engaging and far-reaching study explores the novel's contribution to the ongoing displacement of cultural authority away from university English. Spanning the works of Jennifer Egan, Ishmael Reed, Tom McCarthy, Sarah Waters, Percival Everett, Roberto Bolaño and many others, Literature Against Criticism forces us to re-think our previous notions about the relationship between those who write literary fiction and those who critique it.
Martin Paul Eve is one of the most brilliant scholars of his generation. His ground-breaking Literature Against Criticism combines new and insightful readings of contemporary novelists (from Jennifer Egan to Tom McCarthy and from Sarah Waters to Percival Everett) who are in animated competition with university English. There are very few authors who can combine ethical, political and aesthetic readings of the contemporary novel with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the modern university. This is the first of a new kind of criticism that lets imaginative literature, rather than the academic scholar, have the last word.
Chair in Modern Literature, University of Reading
The upheavals in UK higher education of the last two decades have recently generated a number of important critical works [...]. Martin Paul Eve’s Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict is a very different project to these. Rather than inveighing against the neoliberal paradigm or championing the merits of the academy (although these are implicit), Eve is concerned with how the erosion of academic authority—and specifically literary studies’ authority—is reflected, expressed, or fuelled by contemporary literary fiction. [...] Eve’s assessment [...] is nothing short of brilliant.
"Martin Paul Eve, Literature Against Criticism". European Journal of American Studies (1991-9336), vol. Reviews 2017-4, 2018.
Part I: Introduction
1. Authors, Institutions, and Markets
2. What, Where?
Part II: Critique
3. Aesthetic Critique
4. Political Critique
Part III: Legitimation
5. Sincerity and Truth
6. Labour and Theory
Part IV: Discipline
7. Genre and Class
8. Discipline and Publish
Part V: The End